People everywhere are constantly telling us to Love ourselves. Especially now that body positivity is a “trending” topic. I really dislike the word and concept behind the term trend…. It often feels hard and challenging to love ourselves and I’ve written a little bit about that reality in my experience with that here. How do you start to love yourself?! A question not easily answered. So I decided to briefly share how I have come to the place where I am starting to love myself. I’ve talked a little bit about how being visible helped me to actually see myself and start to accept myself. At the core of my self-love and acceptance journey is the understanding that the opposite of Love is not hate but Fear.
I have been pushing my boundaries with fear as of late. Once upon a time I thought my “pride” and fragile ego, was my biggest curse. But now I think it was my fear or even terror of being hurt and humiliated that drove me to inaction in any and every part of my life for a very long time. It was really the fear of being seen, the fear of being judged, the fear of being maligned and most of all the fear of feeling that I deserved those things that stopped me dead in my tracks. My fears of being hurt were realized early on and often. Those hurts stripped me down over the years.
I remember the highlight reel of pain well. When I was 6 and in first grade, my classmate called me the n-word on the first day of school and I hurt purely. When I hit puberty and my father shamed me for ‘showing’ my body with what I was wearing my hurt, stung. When I was a teenager my predominantly white affluent high school classmates started arguing that the holocaust was “worse” than slavery my hurt erupted into anger. When I was harassed at work for two years and I went to my union, my office manager, my co-workers who had witnessed it all, and no one stood up for me – my hurt bore rage. I became afraid to authentically engage altogether.What was the point? I wouldn’t be seen anyway. I was afraid to try altogether and putting myself in pain’s way was counterintuitive.
After years of existing, I eventually started to remember the things, I loved to do just for myself. I started making. I started sewing. I started making precious headpieces and sharing them with the people around me and then opened up an Etsy shop. And then I started selling my wares in person and meeting other creatives. I took a patternmaking course and met more creative women and started to seek out other communities where I could celebrate the things that gave me pleasure with people who accepted me and authentically saw me.
Eventually, I stopped focusing on others who did not see me, recognize, support or value me. And as I let go of those hurts and actively sought out my joy, I started to recognize my own value. That took years….
And one day I decided that I was of value and stopped looking for others to recognize it. In a fairly short time that recognition of my own worth led me to share more of my authentic self, and slowly but surely move past my fears and try new things. I started yoga and sharing images of myself doing so. Facing my fears and then embracing my fear has become lifesaving. Exposing myself to scrutiny, opening myself up to judgment, and most importantly revealing myself and being vulnerable has attracted kind, genuine like-minded folk into my life. This is key, being vulnerable to attract the presence of supportive people reinforcing that positive self-image and radical self-love is key. I am growing my community and getting the support to shine. Soulshine.
I recently heard an amazing analogy: Confidence is a like a muscle that if it’s being exercised will continue to grow. So these days I practice building my confidence by overcoming my fear. Whether it’s a fear of not getting the job, having an unfinished project or a fear of someone seeing my body as it is.
To be brave is to be afraid and proceed anyway. I got brave and posted my nude yoga pictures in a recent Yoga Instagram challenge. Letting go of what might happen if I posted them was the thing. Letting go is the thing. I believe that my hurts have gifted me compassion and empathy. My not having felt seen in the world gives me an ability to genuinely see other people around me for who they are. I have realized that for all of the growing pains I experience, once I let go of the pain, growth is, was and always will be left behind.
Pushing past my fear of being vulnerable is the thing that propels me forward. I understand this now and am on a mission to continue to let go and get free, overcoming one fear at a time. Oh, and #EffYourBodyStandards