Self love…hmm…loving myself? For What? Why? Most importantly….How?
When you hear self love, what comes up for you? If you’re anything like me, you may find it challenging to even consider loving yourself, it might be impossible to envision and perhaps it is a concept you never even considered…well that’s where I was in 2015. I had just endured the most challenging two years of my life, recently separated from my husband whom I had been dating since the age of 19. I was alone, confused, and my heart was empty. I had poured all of my love into a relationship that no longer existed and I was left with emotional wounds that felt fresh, raw, and impossible to heal. I was unsure of who I was without that man to love, without that relationship to work so hard for, my identity had been tied to him. Loving myself seemed like a far off land and I had no idea how to get there.
When I sit back and think about learning to love myself, I realize, of course it was a far off land. We aren’t really taught to love ourselves. In our society we learn to judge ourselves at such a young age, with constant comparison to the “perfection” we see in magazines, television, and now on social media. Even closer to home, my amazing mother was a hardworking woman, dedicated to raising her three children, almost on her own. She earned her master’s degree while raising us three young girls and running a household, self love…she didn’t have time for it. As a compassionate, caring person she gave 110% of herself to everyone around her. I don’t recall seeing my wonderful mother loving herself…ever, not even one small act comes to mind. So no wonder loving myself was almost like a foreign country or a foreign language. I had never really seen it. From my view point, giving all of yourself to others was the key to being a “good” person and in comparison…acts of self-love…they were just selfish.
But there I was in January 2015, I had given 110% of myself to others and was left without an identity, my self-worth was at an all time low, and self-love wasn’t an option. That was the beginning of my journey to realizing that self-love is the most important gift you can give yourself and everyone else in your life. The past three years have been a journey of finding myself, discovering parts of me that were always there but had been hiding in the shadows, and to loving myself for all that I am. Now I can’t say this has been easy, it’s like climbing a mountain, with each turn you think you’re almost to the peak, but then you realize you still have farther to climb, more work to put in. But I ask you this, why are we so willing to love others unconditionally and put ourselves last? If you think about it, does it really make any sense? We’re given one body, one life and we give to others until we’re empty.
This is where my dog Chewston comes in, he’s my almost 12 year old english springer spaniel. If you don’t know him, he’s the best dog in the world. I know everyone says that, but literally Chewston is amazing. He is smart, caring, human-esque, and loves me with his entire being. Let me paint the picture for you, when I walk in the door Chewston is always there to greet me, with a smile (remember he’s human-esque). He sleeps by my side, sits on my lap, and follows me everywhere I go. He has an awe-inspired look on his furry face whenever he’s with me, it’s as if his heart is at peace when we’re together. It’s an unconditional love that knows no bounds and isn’t necessarily earned, but is authentic and pure.
As I was thinking about self-love and writing this blog, I looked over and Chewston was staring at me with his awe-inspired, smile and it dawned on me…what if I loved myself like he loves me? What if every morning I was excited to see myself in the mirror and instead of seeing flaws, I smiled that pure, loving smile. What if every day I showered myself with loving gestures, just like Chewston does when he curls up next to me or follows my every step? What if I loved myself unconditionally, no matter what, just like Chewston loves me, for all that I am? So, I challenge you, how can you love yourself like your dog loves you?