practicing & mastering the art of self-love

“Loving you was like going to war. I never came back the same.” – Warsan Shire

When you start to  love someone more than you love yourself, you don’t realize it until it’s too late, and if you don’t love yourself first, you become a hard person to love, and gradually stop being the person your partner fell in love with in the first place.

For the past few months I’ve noticed myself turning into the kind of woman I never wanted to be.  I carried so much pain and trauma with me to the point where it created a weight in my chest and the love I was giving felt heavy. I thought that because I have a big heart and always love so hard, that I would be okay. I thought that if I just took all the pain I was feeling, I could distract myself and put off dealing with my issues by loving someone else. And because of that I contributed to the downfall of one of the most important things in my life. As much as  I tried to keep my pain separate from my relationship, it eventually overlapped. I stopped taking care of myself, I put off getting the help and care I needed for too long. Sure, I was going to school and going to work, and seeing friends occasionally, but I wasn’t healthy. The only thing I had to look forward to was another person, and I couldn’t believe I was so bad that I had let it get to that point.

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Last summer when things in my life were changing rapidly and I just had to throw myself into making big decisions, I wasn’t affected until much later on. I transferred and enrolled in school right away and applied for a job close to my new home because I had to. But while it was happening, he didn’t run. He stayed, and then he went back to school, and we saw each other during breaks and long weekends and always had a wonderful time together. But I stopped giving him the space he needed to do the things he wanted. I was always impatient.

And I’m sure many other women (and men) have done the same thing as me – loving someone with everything they have, always putting others first. But when you always put someone else first, it gives them a reason for you to come second. The people who love the hardest are often the ones who hurt the most – a lesson that I have learned time after time. And despite everything I’ve been through, I’m not a cynic, I don’t think love is a “neurochemical conjob.” I’m still soft, and to continue to be soft when the world has been unkind to you in so many ways is strength – and never let someone tell you otherwise. Even when your heart is broken, continue to be soft. Don’t give up. Love is a beautiful thing. And when it’s real, it’s hard but when you share so much of your life with another person, it’s hard to imagine your life without them. But if you can love someone else that much, imagine how much you can love yourself.

It’s been hard for me to love myself in the past few months. I’ve talked so much about growing but in these past few months I’ve only felt myself getting smaller. For those of you who read my blog posts regularly, it’s probably hard for you to see that, because I seem so confident in my writing. And that’s exactly the kind of person I want to be – I want the confidence I exude with my writing to be present in all the other parts of my life. And I know that I have to spend this time getting the help I need to be that person. I’m going to be okay, and I will rise, but it’s going to take time.

Self-love is not always about treating yourself – it’s  not always buying bath bombs from Lush or getting a new haircut or buying a sweater on impulse that you’re probably going to wear once or twice (although I did go to Target last week and felt like Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford were there with me the whole time…sorry, checking account). Self-love is putting your emotional, mental, and physical health first. Eating better, getting enough sleep, getting exercise, controlling your negative emotions. Self-love is putting an end to behavior that is bad for you. It’s listening to what your body is telling you, it’s about doing things that make you happy. And sometimes you get different results. Sometimes it’s trial and error. But self-love is, ultimately, learning – learning what you’re capable of. And I’m capable of being a happier, healthier, successful person – someone who will be much easier  for other people to love, and maybe someone who is capable of having a chance to prove herself.

2017 is going to be much more different than I expected, but I guess that’s the beauty of it.

Stay strong everyone, and if you’re in school and started a new semester this week like me, best of luck. May this be a time of growth and accomplishment for all of you.

Lots of love,

Grace

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