Written by Lissa-Marie for YettiSays Self-Love Month | “To The Girl” post series
To The Girl Who Learned To Love Everyone Else Before She Learned To Love Herself,
In my early twenties, I was a conference junkie. I absolutely loved being in the room with notable women who were thriving in their careers, fashionable and had exciting lives. I soaked it up. It was at one of those conferences that a speaker said “if you want love, you have to give love. If you want great friends you have to be a great friend,” and out of all the things that were said that day, that was the one thing that hit me in my core and I began to carry it around and eventually exude it. Honestly, my mom, my family, and friends they rave about how compassionate, considerate and supportive I am. It is in my nature to be nurturing and always wanting to be sure that everyone is “ok.” When they are not ok, I instantly feel like it is my responsibility to help. I like that the people around me that I love associate me with the word dependable. The only problem is I never learned how to give myself this same love, support, and compassion.
Years ago “self-love” didn’t have the entire buzz it does now. Yes, we knew we had to be healthy and take care of ourselves, but that was typically referring to our physical health. The truth is I was running behind everyone trying to make sure they were good because it was hard to admit that deep down that I wasn’t ok. From the outside looking in my life has been pretty standard in the “haves” department. I had an ok job, was pursuing my degree, have family and friends to boot, a healthy social life and was known for my bubbly outgoing personality that can befriend just about any stranger, but I knew something was missing. I could never really put my finger on exactly what it was until I was asked, “do you love yourself?”
I immediately answered, “Of course I do,” in a façade of confidence. Much like the statement the speaker made at the conference years earlier, this question penetrated deep. It began to pick me apart and make me step out of the shallow self-love that only considers trivial things like looks and what I contribute to other people. I knew it was time to get down to the core of what loving myself really looked like and if I actually had the capacity to do it. A huge part of me always felt like I was responsible for everything that had happened to me up until that point and instead of using the mistakes as lessons I used them as whipping marks often chastising myself with a “you know better!” What I didn’t know was I was creating an unhealthy emotional relationship with me, often times feeling like I was my biggest critic.
My breakthrough came on a phone call with a good friend, “Lissa, you have baggage and then you in the name of being supportive and caring allow others to come and drop their baggage off on you too. Now you just buried in it. You have to forgive yourself and then create boundaries. You can still love and support people with boundaries.” She also suggested I write a letter to myself forgiving me for all of the things that I had experienced in the last thirty years, but especially in the last ten. It took months to write the letter. When I was ready, I printed out a picture of me when I was about four and wrote the letter on the back of the picture. I chose that picture because I seemed to be genuinely happy. There is still innocence in joy in that child and I know that she still lives inside of me. That letter was a starting point.
Me loving me is every day work. Me forgiving me is everyday work. That is the thing about self-love, real self-love, it makes you dig deep; it forces you to remember that some days it is ok not to be ok. It reminds me to check on me first and then once I am confident in my wellbeing to then go ahead and give that energy to others. When they say you can’t pour from an empty cup, that’s not true, but just know you will be dehydrated and exhausted when the pour is complete.
I still carry around what the woman at the conference said those many years ago because I believe it’s true, you have to be what you want, I think she just forgot to mention, that you have to give yourself love too, you have to be a good friend to yourself too.