Friday, August 15, 2014

On self-love

"Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world." -Lucille Ball

In the midst of my early-twenties, I am finding a clarity that everyone tells you doesn't exist until you are "settled." Trying to define "settled" is just as hard as trying to define "success" or "happiness." The terms are ambiguous in nature because they leave ample room for interpretation. Am I right or am I right, here?

"You won't feel like you are on solid ground until your married, owning your own home, starting a family and really achieving financial security." That's what people tell you to qualm your "I don't have a clue what I am doing with my life" type of fears which seem to bubble up during that first post-grad summer. Well, I've got a bone to pick with the people who are spreading this message. 

There is one person who is responsible for your sense of solid ground: yourself. I didn't learn this overnight nor was it easy for me to accept that solidarity is my responsibility. We all find it in very different ways; some people achieve it through faith, some through financial security, some through their love for another person. I have found that my solidarity has come from a love for myself. 

For the longest time, I believed that loving yourself above others was vain and selfish. I spent the majority of my college years lost in whirlwind of putting my grades, my work and my volunteerism in front of my own needs. It left me feeling a constant sense of inadequacy. Never did I feel I was doing enough - even though people constantly questioned how I juggled all my obligations - I never felt fulfilled. 

So, what changed? It wasn't like one day I woke up and decided "I'm going to love and value myself for exactly who I am." My Mom got sick this winter and a lot of things changed for me during those months. I began to see an importance in physical and mental health that I had never placed value on before. The strength that she showed, physically and emotionally, inspired me to reevaluate how I was treating my body (and my spirit). In the blink of an eye, we can lose our health - a huge part of our solidarity - and that made me realize that loving and caring for myself is of the utmost importance. 

I spent the last fifteen years of my life battling my natural body shape. I'm a woman. I have hips and curves. I've been fat and I've been skinny. I've been blonde and I've been brunette. I've had long hair and I've had short. I've been mean and I've been too nice. I've been a lot things, y'all but the one thing I never was - satisfied. Watching my Mom love herself through surgeries and treatments, bad days and good, inspired me to take a look at how I was treating myself. I spent the year before she got sick battling my weight to the point where I was undeniably ill. Spiritually and physically - I wasn't giving myself a chance to experience solidarity because I didn't trust and believe in my abilities. 

I didn't learn to love myself alone. I didn't find solidarity alone, either. What I did do was give myself the gift of trust - the gift to trust myself enough to fall in love with my life, my body and my spirit. Both on my own behalf and that of others. I learned to trust that when someone tells me I am smart to believe them. I learned to trust in the sincerity of other's hearts (thanks to a very special person in my life). I learned to give my full heart to other people. I learned to trust my decision to celebrate my successes just as highly as my failures. Because, at the end of the day - they both lead me to solidarity.
When I graduated college, in the top 5% of my class, as a person who never believed she would step foot in a higher education institution, I looked to my Mom, who was healthy and unbelievably happy. Since then, I decided to take back my life and trust myself in finding my own solid ground.

Love and trust go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other. When you make the decision to trust yourself, you find that you can truly love the person who you are becoming. I've got miles to go in what I want to achieve but it feels good to know that no matter where I am, I am traveling on my own solid ground.