My Self-Love Journey
a vulnerable share about my own self-love journey, the signs of low self-worth that showed up for me, and my first steps towards turning this trauma into triumph.
TRIGGER WARNING: Domestic Abuse
As a survivor of domestic abuse, my self-love journey has been a struggle to say the least.
I was abused in all the ways possible – physically, sexually, emotionally, psychologically, mentally, and financially.
For years, I was told, day after day, that I was ugly, fat, stupid, worthless, and worse. I was controlled, manipulated, gaslighted, and violated.
Each insult, each trauma, heaping more and more sh*t on top of the mountain of pain and self-loathing I would one day have to face.
Immediately after leaving my abusive relationship, I didn’t notice that mountain (probably because it was so high I couldn’t see it!). At first, I was so grateful to be out and to have my freedom back, I failed to see the underlying and permanent damage it had caused.
The Signs of Low Self-Worth
It was over the next few years that life gradually began to highlight my self-worth issues…
I had become a people-pleaser and had an inability to say ‘no’. I wanted so desperately to be loved and accepted that I would do whatever it took, even if it violated my own boundaries or went against my own needs.
I was a chronic over-sharer and often made people very uncomfortable. I had no concept of what was acceptable to share in given situations. I would blurt out my traumatic experiences in inappropriate places, giving explicit details, and then laughing about it.
I was forever seeking other peoples’ permission and approval. I was so used to living under someone else’s rules, being told what I was, and was not, allowed to do, that I lost all ability to make decisions for myself. Even when I knew I wanted to do something, I would look externally for the go-ahead from those around me.
I never celebrated myself, or even acknowledged, when I had achieved something. Milestones went by unnoticed as I was constantly trying to achieve the next big thing in order to ‘prove myself’ worthy.
I was consumed with overwhelming negative thoughts that I was hideous, useless, pathetic, stupid, and a waste of space. My inner critic held me hostage, constantly belittling me and putting me down. It was as if the verbal abuse never stopped, but I became the abuser to myself.
I thought I was too much yet not enough at the same time. It sounds contradictory, but I was scared of taking up too much space so I would constantly try to tone myself down and make myself small so as not to annoy people or be a burden. All while desperately trying to prove myself capable and worthy of love, then burning myself out in the process.
These were the basic building blocks for that mountain of sh*t I now had to face.
Moulding the Mountain
I have since spent the last decade climbing that mountain and chipping away at parts of it, bit by bit. And as a result, I have replaced that mountain with a pile of practices, techniques, beliefs, and strategies to build up, and solidify, my sense of self-love and self-worth.
I have now flattened and moulded this mountain into more of a supportive foundation that is working with me and not against me.
The first step towards my Self-Love Journey, towards moulding the mountain, was to get to know it. But the mountain was me, so what I mean is that I had to get to know myself.
You see, before we dive into the love part of this Self-Love Journey, we must first discover the self part.
After years of being controlled and manipulated, I completely forgot who I was. I sometimes describe it like how I imagine it would feel to be released from prison.
I had little sense of my lifestyle choices, my natural behaviours, or even my simple likes and dislikes, such as music, movies, foods, and clothing.
I had totally and completely forgotten who I was, so it made sense that my first quest was to discover exactly this – who am I?
This led me onto a path of intense self-discovery. Turning over every stone on my path to see what I could find out about myself and the world around me.
Once I knew who I was, I found myself more easefully moving into a place of acceptance of myself – wonders, weirdness, warts, and all. There was no escaping me, so I might as well learn to love me!
After all, you can’t love what you don’t accept, and you can’t accept what you don’t know.
A Continuous Journey
It might be hard to hear, and it might make some of you feel exhausted before you’ve already begun, but self-love is a continuous journey.
There is no magic wand solution where you suddenly love yourself wholeheartedly and stay like that forever. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.
And as a Self-Love Coach I am no exception. I have to work at this self-love thing every single day. And while some days are easy, there are other days, darker days, where I struggle to show up for myself.
The difference is that I now know that that’s OK. And instead of beating myself up for having a ‘dark’ day, I don’t judge myself for not being 100% perfectly healed of all my pain and suffering (because, let’s face it, that’s totally unrealistic for most human beings!).
This is quite normal for someone with mental health challenges and traumatic experiences – some days I celebrate setting a boundary, calming my inner critic, and acing another coaching session. While other days, I’m celebrating myself for simply getting out of bed and putting on underwear!
Self-Love is a muscle
I share this story because I want you to know that I see you, I hear you, I feel you, because I was you.
Self-love is not something you can fix overnight (sorry there’s no magic wand with this one).
But the good news is, self-love is a muscle, and with regular exercise and practice, you can grow this muscle so that it’s strong enough to hold you through life the way you deserve.
I now invite you to consider your own self-love journey. Reflect on your life until now, where has self-love shown up for you, consciously and subconsciously. Where could you welcome some more self-love into your life?
What is your relationship like with your SELF – could you explore this relationship a little deeper? Do you identify with any of my signs of low worth? How much mountain moulding have you done, or could you do?
If you are interested in strengthening your self-love muscle, then take your first brave step, and join my RADICAL Self-Love Programme where I will share with you my formula for self-love.