I have a confession to make. Do you know what I really want for Christmas? I mean, besides the obvious *cough* baby *cough*… hmmm no, not an iPhone, nope not the new Polaroid camera…
For Christmas I’d like to love myself more completely. Yup! That’s it! It’s small and it doesn’t cost much but it’s incredibly powerful. If I could wake up Christmas morning and be filled with self-love just IMAGINE how fulfilling 2015 would be! Self-love and self-care are incredibly important for everyone to do. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, loving yourself is important and transformative. The thing is, it’s not always easy. Sometimes, things in life have a way of making it really, really challenging. I have had ups and downs with my self-esteem forever, I think probably most people have. You feel awesome for a while but then you get a bad grade or your boyfriend dumps you or you don’t have money to make rent or…or…or… I feel like I am great at putting on my bravado of awesomeness when sometimes inside I feel the opposite. It can be hard in life to really feel in-love with who you are all the time. Lately, I have really been struggling… probably more than I have in a long time.
I know it’s a medical condition. I know it’s not MY FAULT that my eggs are itty- bitty and don’t seem to want to make a baby. But it still feels like a dirty word. It still impacts the way I see myself. The awesome-sauce shrink I’m seeing says this feeling, of self-loathing, is very common in patients battling infertility. I’m sure she’s right! It’s so hard not to feel like it’s your body failing you or betraying you and causing you pain month after month. While I’m sure that it’s common to feel hatred at yourself during infertility, I don’t think it’s good.
Most of you are probably nodding your heads, or maybe even shedding a tear over how much anger you are holding onto in this journey, but it’s just not that easy is it? Knowing you should be better to yourself is fine and dandy but it’s difficult to put into practice. I, for one, have been letting my negative self-talk get the better of me for a long while.
I would like to admit to you some of the things I have done that are self-harming and that I want to leave behind this new year. I do this because I am hoping it will keep me accountable and show you that you are not alone. Infertility is isolating and it really hurts deeply. When we are in pain and feel alone it is hard to remember that others understand. I want you to know that I understand. I want you to know that I am walking this with you.
-I stopped exercising. For a lot of the two and a half year journey I have stopped taking care of the physical machine that gets me through this life. Unconsciously I felt like my body was broken. I’d been diagnosed as infertile and just felt defeated. Why bother training for a marathon when I’d already given up the race? This was a way of harming my relationship with myself further by not treating my body with the respect I deserve.
-I ate very bad things. I basically went on a few month tear where I shoveled all sorts of bad foods into my mouth. Because I was hurting. Often times in our culture we try to fix unhappiness with food. Well, I tried. It didn’t work. But to be honest that wasn’t the only reason I ate all that crap… I knew that I would have better odds at getting pregnant if I took care of myself and ate well. And I was angry at my body for not working. So, in retaliation, I ate whatever the hell I wanted. I was trying to hurt myself by filling my body with junk. I was trying to injure myself out of anger and pain. I’m just thankful I’m not a drug or alcohol person or this could have easily spiraled out of control into something more dangerous than a few extra pounds.
-I said very hateful things to myself. In my head, out loud at the mirror, screamed into my pillow. Horrible negative self-talk that is damaging to my soul. Things I’d hesitate to say to my worst enemies because they were so hurtful. Like most hurtful things we say in anger these things were not truths about myself but my deepest darkest fears. Fears about why we aren’t having a baby. About how much I hated myself for struggling to achieve something that seems so easy for others. I made myself cry often. It was horrendous, I’d never treat a treasured friend this way.
And that’s it, isn’t it? I should be my most loved and treasured friend. There is no one in the world that gets me better than me! There is no better shopping partner, or movie buddy or loving hug than me. I’m a pretty cool lady! It’s really time I start living THAT truth!!
So, as we enter into the holiday season, it is my goal to focus on loving myself and respecting myself from this point on. I know it will be difficult. I have many years of negative self-talk to undo and bad habits to break. But difficult is not the same as impossible. Nor does it mean that it’s not worth it! Usually things that are the most worth it can be the most challenging to achieve. Like having a baby!
I want to re-frame a few things in order to start into the holiday season properly. I want to re-affirm some positive, life-giving shit and push out some bad, toxic happiness-stealing shit! Here’s what I am going to do. Feel free to do it with me! We all want happier holidays and this seems like a good place to start. It sure as hell can’t hurt!
Step One: Gratitude Jar
This is something that my awesome-sauce shrink suggested. Get a jar, and some strips of paper. Every day write down own thing you love about yourself or that you are grateful about in your life. Since infertility doesn’t only effect you this is a good one to involve your partner in as well! Use it as a bonding moment. Each day you put a positive affirmation or happy gratitude into the jar. When it reaches a per-determined amount of strips take them out and read them aloud to each other. Then tack them up somewhere where you can see them and reward your selves for all the positive growth you’re doing! See a movie, grab an ice cream, take a bubble bath. Be proud of all the work you are doing to love yourselves better!
Step Two: Be Your Own Best Friend
So often we unconsciously mutter horrid things to ourselves. Or let others say things to us that cut us down. It’s time to treat yourself with the respect you would give a treasured friend. Love yourself! Be your own best advocate. If someone says something cutting to you don’t accept it! Feel free to tell them that their words are powerful and hurtful and that you disagree with their statement. Or when you are getting ready for a holiday party and you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror smile like you would at a friend who is looking fine and compliment yourself! Even if it’s not the first thing that comes to mind. Even if you have to think for a second about why you are fabulous and fine that night. Remember, you’re learning… find that something then pause, take a breath, smile and say the compliment out loud. Because damn it you ARE pretty fine tonight!
Step Three: Practice Self-Care
It is important to feed your body good nourishing foods every day and work out at least four times a week. That’s what shrink says will set you up for an endorphin releasing bliss-space for the whole week. Over the holidays it’s OK to indulge: have that hot chocolate with whipped cream, nom like four or five holiday cookies that your aunt lovingly baked, go ahead and pour gravy over your whole plate at dinner. Just remember that these things are fun indulgences and make sure to eat an apple, too. Allow yourself to really savour the experience of indulging and then move on knowing that you’re a bad ass and those cookies were worth it! Even on days when you’re busy find time to go for a walk. Throw a dog a ball. Enjoy moving your body! When you take care of yourself physically it’s a lot easier to feel positive about who you are. You are showing through your actions that you really think you’re worth it.
Step Four: Practice Loving Patience
While you work to love yourself more every day be patient with the process! Even though you’ve taken the commitment to practice self-love there will be times when you feel yourself slipping into old ways. You may catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror and cringe. You may suck in and pull way when your partner caresses your stomach. You may believe a nasty comment you hear about yourself and let it get you down. It’s OK… Rome wasn’t built in a day! When you notice this happening relax, don’t let it turn into a self-loathing spiral about how you’re not loving yourself right. Instead pause, smile and think a positive gratitude to counterbalance the yucky feeling. Remember that you’re imperfect and that’s great! Meet yourself where you’re at.
I could go on and on about this… there are obviously more things you could do to practice loving self-acceptance over the holidays to start 2015 off with a bang. Take these suggestions and run with them! It will be an ongoing process. Try to enjoy it. Here’s hoping this holiday season is the start of a new mindset that lets me appreciate the fierce and incredible woman I am.
P.S. For people looking for some more Radical Self Love check out Kelsey Grant‘s awesomeness for inspiration and coursework if you are up for it!