I invariably mull over the perception of full circle self-love. Do we perpetually self-sabotage and find flaws? It’s a general question for everyone, not exclusive to medical trauma survivors. It’s not a narcissistic self-love but being comfortable in your own skin and feeling content. I have been searching my whole life; however, it really didn’t carry much weight. In my non-expert opinion, I think that you must experience the dark to fully understand self-love. If you haven’t, your perception of self-love might not be actualized and appreciated to an extent.
I am despondent and disapproving of myself. I admit it. If I do one good thing, I will twist into a negative thought because I refuse to give myself kudos. I defend this logic because it’s a driving motivator for me. It keeps me humble and pushes me to do better. Although this logic is obscure, deep down I admit, I still searched for a better way. You see, for me, life is black and white with no gray. I don’t like the gray, it’s too consuming. I also grapple with a compliment because I feel guilty acknowledging said compliment. It’s bleak and unhealthy. Many people have approached me that I need to learn self-love. I rebuffed the thought because I wasn’t worthy. I prefer to compliment others and their achievements, because my joy is the joy on their face.
After my stroke, the meaning of life began to marinate. I knew that I was happy to be alive. I felt fortunate with my outcome and ecstatic that I had time to heal. With all this happiness, I was motivated to start the journey of self-love. I had to start slowly, because it’s not an accelerated process. So, I began to look around the room and take deep breaths. I let my mind sink into another place. It was blank. I cipher this was a sign of a clean slate. Little by little I start wiggling my fingers, moving my arms and legs. I then reached for a mirror to look at myself. I gasped. I couldn’t handle it. An alarm went off in my head, that my physical appearance is not what I’m seeking. I had to refocus.
In the hospital, at the hand of dreadful surgeries, tests, lack of sleep and misery, I knew that I had go back to remember my first baby step of being happy with how lucky I was to be alive from a ruptured aneurysm. I complimented myself for knowing that I needed medical attention. I gave myself a pat on the back that even with all the things going on, I had a positive attitude with everyone. I did go stagnant with those thoughts with the remaining 19 days in the hospital and the 4 days during the second operation. Self-love didn't have my full attention until I was finally home and was able to rest.
I began to journal different things. One, how I felt day to day and the second, goals of self-love. At the very top of my self-love section, I wrote in bold that I loved myself which was evident by the drive to fight and make sure I lived. I tapped my pin on the paper trying to think of more items to list but I was drawing a blank. I went on the web and stumbled on Wanderlust and found 10 steps for self-love. These steps are:
Identify Your Why: “If you want to make the shift from desiring self-love to embodying self-love, you must be emotionally connected to that journey.”
Commit: “Be 150 percent committed to your journey to self-love. No excuses.”
Forgive: How can you expect to move forward in your life if you’re being weighed down by anger and resentment? It’s simple. You can’t. It’s time to forgive.”
Take Back Your Power: “Drop the victim mentality and take ownership of your life.”
Let go: “Let go of anything that is not serving you in the highest good. This includes relationships, friendships, habits… Get rid of all that is holding you back.”
Surround Yourself With Good: “Immerse yourself within the company of uplifting people; people who serve you in the highest good. Surround yourself with people who truly love you, support you, and respect you.”
Practice Self-Compassion: “Go easy on yourself.”
Take Care of Your Needs: “Do what you need to do to take care of your needs yourself.”
Set Healthy Boundaries: “Boundaries are incredibly good for you. They protect your needs and honor your worth.”
Commit to Daily “LoveHabits”: “Daily acts of self-love (“LoveHabits”) are a beautiful way to show yourself the love, respect, and level of care that you truly desire.”
I surmised these goals were straightforward. I placed a check mark next to the first step, because I admitted that I needed self-love. As the days passed, I was able to give myself credit by placing bits and pieces under each category. It became easy as I focused on myself more. I hit a wall, however. I struggled with “self-compassion”. The old and new me, still couldn’t go easy on myself. I looked at milestones and got angry if I wasn’t reaching it. I began to compare my journey to others and felt inept. So, I had to chip away many layers that was holding me back. I thought about the “Go easy on yourself”. Then it dawned on me. This isn’t a business assignment that needs to be turned in on a certain date. I needed to press the brakes and say to myself, go at your own pace. It worked. I slowly began to have self-compassion for myself. I knew that this is my body, my mind and I control it. I need forgive and go easy on it. My life was almost taken away from me and I will not be a victim. The more I thought about it, the more I began to appreciate my self-worth. I know that it’s cliché to say, “you only have one life to live”, but it’s true. Why waste it by not loving myself. All the progress I have made before and after my stroke needed to be acknowledged. I also kept in mind that there will be moments where I won’t feel that way because that’s human nature. Yet, it’s a moment, and it will pass. You get to reset your mindset and move along.
Overall, I learned that self-love wasn’t lost due to my stroke. I never had it to begin with. My energy was dispersed in other areas by pleasing others by hard work and making sure other people were happy. My stroke that nearly took my life, really saved me.
For once, every ounce of my energy is focused on myself. Slowly that self-love is building. I acknowledge this will ALWAYS be a work in-progress. It’s a task I’m willing to take on.
So, for those who struggle with self-love, or maybe some component of it, give yourself some grace that it’s slow, and you don’t owe anyone a deadline. Life is precious and a gift. Yes, there are some awful things we encounter or go through that make you want to throw in the towel and sometimes hate yourself or hate where you at in life. Yet, there are many things that are positive that should be acknowledged and if you struggle with that positive affirmation, find something simple. Cheer for your victories and be excited for what’s to come.