Learning to Love Yourself Again – A Personal Valentine’s Tribute
In full transparency, I have always been super hard on myself. From being a super shy young kid to an overly body conscious teen and adult, I have always struggled with how I see myself. I remember in college going on a cruise with my two roommates and feeling like I was this giant, out of shape person. I was so overly self-conscious. They kept telling me that I had body dysmorphia and as I have grown older and looked back at those photos, I can honestly say they were right. It is almost as if I have never been truly comfortable in my own skin.
I am a honestly a confident and outgoing person, but we all have our inner battles and sometimes it is hard to see what others see. When I lost my right leg to cancer, I completely lost my self identity. I became someone I no longer recognized. The once happy, confident, still self-critical but generally happy, outgoing, social, and engaging version of me became this anxiety ridden, depressed, lost, sad, lonely, reclusive, and antisocial version of myself. When I looked at myself, whether in a self-reflection or a physical mirror, I did not recognize the person staring back at me. I was looking at someone else. I never went to therapy; however, I did a LOT of self-reflection and work to get myself emotionally where I am today. I am not perfect, and I still have my days, but I can safely say that I found my way back to myself again and rediscovered my self worth.
Some things that helped me:
I read many motivational books. I never found a book that went through my exact trauma that resonated with me, but I found books that hit hard on the emotions I was feeling. It helped validate my emotional state at the time.
I found myself unrelatable to many of my friends, family, and network at the time. Not because they weren’t incredible (because they were beyond amazing and beyond supportive), but because nobody around me had experienced what I was experiencing. There wasn’t a “Yes, I know exactly how you feel.” Because quite frankly, nobody did. To be honest, I also am not a complainer, so it was hard for me to vent my feelings. I tend to internalize sometimes and it can be hard to process those emotions in a healthy way. I found that writing out everything I was feeling gave me an emotional release to let go of some of the burden I was carrying.
*Confiding in Others
There are a very few handful of people who experienced the real and raw emotions that came out of me during that dark time. Sometimes just talking it out and having someone give some encouraging words can be so helpful. Honestly, I am sure half the time these people did not know what to do with me or what to say. The main thing they did right? They were there. They allowed me to cry, vent, and let out my bottled-up emotions in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. They hugged me, encouraged me and were just there for me. I am forever grateful for these people because they truly helped get me through.
Truly, exercise is not just about burning calories. It is about physical health, but exercise and movement play a big role in mental health. Taking time for myself to move my body, be active, get fresh air and clear my head was essential. Regardless of what you are going through, I highly suggest taking at least 4 days a week to do something active for you, if not taking time daily. Take a walk. Go for a run. Ride your bike. Take a class. Go for a swim. Do something and MOVE because you can! Your mind and body will thank you!
While I did not go to therapy, I did a ton of self-reflection and self-work. I went to therapy after my first diagnosis with cancer but was paired with someone who was not relatable to me. I never felt a connection and never got anything out of the sessions. I have many friends who have been, and still go to therapy, and find SO much value in their time during their meetings. I recommend finding a therapist that you can really relate to.
*Make Yourself a Priority
You matter too! I know it is easy to put ourselves on the back burner, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. Do things for YOU! Maybe this means making time for your workouts. Maybe this means cooking your favorite meal. Maybe this means a date night with your significant other. Maybe this means a night out with your best friend. Regardless, finding activities that bring you joy during a trauma-full time is essential. You and your needs matter. Do things that are good for YOU!
*Learn How to Say No... Without an Explanation
I used to be awful at this and am still not the best. This will probably be something I have to work on forever. Learn how to say no and feel ok with it. Your time is valuable. Spend it surrounded by people who lift you up. Don’t overcommit yourself. Put your feelings and emotional state at the forefront like you would your best friend. When you are going through a hard time, it is important to guard your emotions and take care of yourself. If this means declining invitations and requests, then that is ok. Do I need to say it louder for those in the back? The people who truly matter will not be upset. The ones who are upset, well, they probably truly don’t matter as much. Learn to respect yourself and say no when you need to, without the guilt. Saying no is okay.
*Process Your Emotions
This one took some time for me, but I feel like now I have it down to a science. It is ok to be upset, sad, mad, frustrated, you name it. It is important to let out these emotions in some form or fashion. You must let it out! Write it, scream it, talk it out, run it out…whatever you need to do to feel that burden lift, you need to let it out. The key is to not let yourself sit in that negative space too long. Let it out, lift yourself back up and move forward. It is the only way to be.
*Take Control of Your Own Happiness
Yes, you read that right. YOU are the only one who can make YOU happy. You can’t rely on someone else for YOUR happiness. Sure, others can BRING you happiness, but being happy is something you have to do yourself. Figure out what is holding you back. Make changes when necessary. Maybe it is changes with your circumstances. Maybe it is changes in your circle. Maybe it is changes in your home. Maybe it is changes with your job. Maybe it is changes in your mindset. Regardless, recognize the change, make it and take control your own happiness. We only get one life and why should you spend it unhappy? You DESERVE happiness. Do I need to repeat that? Let’s say it again together. WE DESERVE HAPPINESS! We just have to find our way back to it sometimes when life gets hard. Sometimes we have to look harder and longer, but it is there waiting for us. Take control and grab it!
Isn’t it crazy how we can all experience different levels and types of trauma, but the emotional response is still the same? That is why, regardless, we are all still human. We are all relatable and can all find common ground. You’ve got this. We’ve got this. Just know regardless, you are never alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it and please remember that you are LOVED, cared for and needed in this world. Mental and emotional health is important. Keep your head up. Appreciate and love yourself! There is always a light to follow.<3