If you had asked me ten years ago if I loved myself, I would have said "Of course," and not given it much thought. Yet I have come to realize how little that was true.
Over the years, I have slowly noticed the many not-loving things I do and say to myself on a regular basis. Tracing back their origins, I see that these actions and thoughts were born from my upbringing, the culture I was raised in. Like most Americans, I was raised in a competitive environment. "Achieve, Succeed" was the mantra, and I was taught to push myself harder and farther, to excel, because nothing less was acceptable. Being okay was always another achievement away, tantalizingly close but forever out of reach. Accepting oneself in the moment seemed akin to failure - not only failing yourself, your family, your school, your community, but also God.
I took the mantra to heart and beat myself relentlessly. Years later, having left the religion of my birth, finished school, moved across the country, gone to hours of therapy, and adopted a new value system, the attitude remains. I am still learning how to quiet the incessant overseer of my mind, and listen to my higher self instead:
I am enough.
Exactly as I am today, with all my gifts and flaws, I am enough.
It has taken me a long time to realize embracing this attitude won't lead to atrophy. Quite the opposite. This change has redirected the energy I used to spend on anxiety and self-hate into the more pleasurable and productive activities of growing and learning, taking on new challenges and being ambitious.
And yet now and again I catch myself taking something as Truth that is not. "My work is not good enough," I might think, or "I don't measure up to so-and-so." I am grateful when I catch myself, because then I have the opportunity to correct the situation, amend it with love. "This work is excellent," "so-and-so has beautiful gifts to bring to the world and so do you."
Learning to love myself is a process that I will take the rest of my lifetime. And I am so glad to be doing it.
As far as my background with pelvic pain goes, experiencing illness as someone who hates herself is much more difficult than experiencing illness as someone who loves herself.
It is easier to look for help when you love yourself. It is easier to find and be a part of a community. It is easier to speak up for yourself at the doctor's office, to do your physical therapy exercises, to ice diligently when you love yourself. The whole process of healing becomes easier, more gentle through self-love.
Think of this post the next time you blame yourself for being sick, or beat yourself up for not getting better faster, or decide that you must be a loser because your illness prevents you from doing X. Take all of that frustrated energy and transform it, re-direct it with love.
We cannot change the facts of our illness, but we can endlessly transmute our response to it. That is where our power lies, our character lies; that is where we become who we want to be, regardless of the circumstances of our bodies.
When I look at who I have become through pelvic pain, I am very proud of myself. I have chosen to be tough, to be gentle, to never give up; I have chosen to be compassionate, to understand, to nurture.
I chose love.
What do you choose?