There were many days as a young teen I remember staring into the mirror, wishing and hoping I could be different.
If only I wasn’t so tall.
If only my shoulders weren’t so broad.
If only I could lose the extra weight and erase any trace of the stretch marks lining my belly and thighs.
I would sometimes spend hours in front of the mirror sucking in my belly, trying on outfit after outfit in the hopes that the image looking back at me would change into something that was beautiful and desirable.
I spent so much time trying to fit my image to the standard of other people’s beautiful I couldn’t see myself clearly.
All I could see were the glaring imperfections that were sure to proclaim how unworthy of love I was.
I ache for that young girl who spent so much time trying to find things to hate about herself.
What she didn’t realize at the time was that all that internalized shame, self-hate, criticism, and grief were more toxic than any food or calories she could eat.
She didn’t yet know how to have compassion for the parts of herself she had deemed unlovable.
She didn’t know how to slow down with herself and feel the truth of her feelings without stuffing them down or shutting herself off.
Learning to love herself took time.
It took many years of learning to turn towards the pain and allowing herself to feel.
She had to discover how to honor her rage and grief and lean into the support that would allow safe outlets for her expression.
She had to become practiced in discerning when she had taken on the weight of other people’s expectations and projections that were not hers to carry.
She had to let go of the idea that she needed to fix or change herself in order to be loved and accepted.
She had to learn how to listen on a deeper level and trust in her body’s innate wisdom to guide her.
Over time, I was able to attune to the language of my own nourishment, love, and care.
I learned what truly showing up for myself meant for me and how to become my own fierce protector and beloved.
I discovered that I didn’t have to sacrifice my well-being in order to secure other’s love and affection.
With great devotion, we can learn to love ourselves back into wholeness layer by layer.
To the one who still doesn’t know if it’s possible to truly love yourself, my heart is with you, and you are not alone.
I want to remind you that you are wholly lovable, just as you are right now.
If that feels hard to receive, what would it be like to take in even just a millimeter of that love and appreciation of yourself right now?
Photo by: Sophia Billikop