Self-Love Is Perfectly Imperfect
I was inspired to write a post about self-love, as Valentine’s Day was this week. Often the focus of this “Hallmark Holiday” is about loving others. But in order to love others, you must first be able to love yourself.
Loving yourself is not about perfection. It’s about doing what is best for you in every moment without judging yourself for the decision you have made. This has not been an easy journey for me. For most of my life I have been self-critical about the times I tried to do things just for myself. Saying “No” to something I knew would overexert me is just one example. I used to feel it was selfish to do these things and let others convince me of the same. So I caved to the pressures. It built up a lot of resentment and anger. The more I gave the more that was expected. So I gave and gave and gave. Nothing felt like it was ever given in return. I was an angry and resentful woman.
Then one day when I was 34, things started to shift. A woman, who was also my supervising physician and colleague at the time, looked at me and said: “Kristen, I see your potential. You have amazing gifts and ways to help others.” It was a tipping point for me. Shortly thereafter she recommended I read a book called “Drama of the Gifted Child: Search for the True Self” by Alice Miller to help a patient; smart woman. There wasn’t any other way I would have read the book.
In that book I saw the struggles I’d had within myself as an empath. It wasn’t long after that I booked a 4-day retreat at a yoga retreat center, known as Kripalu, in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. The center is nestled within a valley with picturesque views of the mountains, fresh air and lots of nature. The focus of the retreat I attended was grief. I had always considered grief as a form of loss that extended beyond losing a person. On this retreat I learned how grief was also neglecting myself. When you neglect yourself you are not in love with yourself. Period. This impacts your ability to support and be present for others; if you can’t be fully present for yourself, how can you be for others? The answer is, you can’t.
From that moment forward, things started to change. I had learned various meditation techniques, the most important of which was learning to breathe properly. I bought a soothing CD that I could practice my breathing to as I drove back and forth to work each day; about a 25-minute commute each way. Within 6 weeks I noticed a shift. I was able to center myself and respond instead of react to situations. I had started down the path to loving myself. The ability to respond came from my ability to be present with myself first; to remove my reactions from the situation and be fully present for others. Was it perfect? I don’t know. Is it perfect now? I still don’t know. What I do know is that perfect is what is best for me, however that shows up in my life. I also know the word “no” has become very important to me. If it doesn’t feel like an act of self-love to me, then it’s a clear No or No thank you. Every time. I am my most powerful lover of myself.