Loving Yourself and What That Means

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Dear Friend,

It’s been quite some time, hasn’t it? I’d run out of things to say to you. And then when I had things to say, I couldn’t quite get them right in my head to put them down into words. But I’ve decided to just throw them out there anyway. The month leading into this new year held several revelations for me. And they’ve continued up until today. And I think that’s worth sharing (it’s long, so if you plan to skim, just look for the parts in bold).

I’d been thinking about this letter for a week or so now. What does it mean to love yourself? If you’ve been following me, you’ll know I’m a fan of Louise Hay. Big time. Everything she says makes sense to me. To use a silly meme phrase I’ve heard I’d say she’s my spirit animal. =) She’s been a huge influence on my learning how to love myself.

So, how can we love ourselves? We talk about that a lot and read it a lot. No one will love you until you love yourself (lie). You’ll never love someone else until you can love yourself (lie, IMO). How can you expect someone else to love you if you don’t love yourself? Now this one hits home for me. Having that expectation of being loved by others without holding yourself to that same expectation… how does that work?

There’s another woman whose work is pretty interesting to me. Her name is Jena la Flamme. She talks about pleasurable weight loss. No, I’m not going to talk about how to lose weight. But she has this method of viewing our bodies as separate animals from our minds. So emotionally you may want one thing, but your body wants another. And if we ask our bodies what they want, they’ll tell us. This made me think of the idea of viewing ourselves as another person.

Do you treat yourself better or worse than you treat other people? What if you started viewing yourself as you did other people? Would you be more – or less – compassionate? Would you encourage or criticise? It’s a really fascinating thing to think about. And I think that ties in with the mirror work that Louise Hay talks about a lot. Talking to yourself in the mirror is a lot more powerful than you may think. You’re looking into your own eyes, and whatever words come out of your mouth, that’s the message your ears and eyes receive. So imagine how awesome if the message was a positive one!

I’m rambling a bit, but this is all how I’ve come to write this letter. All of these tiny insights that build on each other to form one pretty big transformation in how I view myself.

My Story

As a young child I was skinny. I was also fast. I loved to run (not jog) and I was pretty good at it. I remember a photo of me sitting on our couch with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place ribbons all over my shirt after a sports day at my school (most of the activities involved running). I can’t find the picture now but the image is stuck in my head. Fast forward to age 7 when we lived in Canada for a year. I don’t know what it was. The hormones in the milk, the food, the new lifestyle, the stress of moving and culture shock, I don’t know. But I gained a lot of weight, and started growing breasts. At age 7. Brutal really. I couldn’t run any more, and I didn’t understand why. Fast forward a few more years, back in Jamaica, to my dad physically dragging me out of the house to run on the track with him. I always resented it, but now I think he was very worried because I’d gained so much weight and he couldn’t figure out why (none of us could, really, though my mum theorised that it was just my body type from my paternal grandmother.  maybe.). The joke is that looking back on those pictures, I used to wish I could be that small again! Perspective is everything. 

As the years passed, I gained more weight. Not as drastically, but looking at old photos was always a source of regret and nostalgia for me because I always noticed how much smaller I used to be. At age 17, by this time living in Canada again, I tried my first diet. South Beach. It worked for the purpose of getting me into my dress for prom. Then I stopped. Diets are no fun. There was one dessert I liked though. Ricotta cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract. That’s it. Weird consistency but I’m going off on a tangent so let’s get back on track.

In 2010 I decided to try Kickboxing. My brother had always said he thought I’d be good at it. 5 classes later I stopped. Then I tried running again. It had been in my mind for some time at that point that I wanted to be able to run again. So I joined a running clinic with The Running Room here in Toronto. 9 weeks of running and walking intervals. I was always one of the slowest, if not THE slowest, in the group. That part was discouraging, but I had a great instructor who was really all about doing what you could and being happy with that. We’re still friends (hi Carole!). At the end of the clinic I’d lost 26 pounds or something like that. It occurs to me now (but did not then) that losing weight was not the reason I joined the clinic. I started learning to run for its own sake. (It’s in bold so that part is obviously important). I still wasn’t happy with my running abilities, though, so I did the clinic again. Again! 9 more weeks! Why? Because I just wanted to run. By the end of that, I don’t know if I had lost any more weight, but one of the assistant instructors who had been telling me in the first clinic that I  “wasn’t even running” was now saying, “NOW you’re running!” So that felt good, because running was the goal. I was still the slowest though. In retrospect, I probably could have done one more round of that same clinic, but instead I decided to try and move up to the next clinic as one of the assistants. That lasted all of one session. I was discouraged and then I went to Korea where running outside (especially where I lived) wasn’t feasible. I did get a gym membership, though, because there was one very close to my apartment. So I would run on the treadmill. But I don’t think I kept that up for very long. I did lose weight in Korea, though. And for the first time, looking back on old photos was a source of embarrassment. I was now smaller than I had been. But I’ll tell you: Embarrassment about your body is no better than regret about your body. Hating the way I used to look was not loving myself. On top of that, I still wasn’t happy. I still didn’t love myself. Having lost weight, it became my goal again and for the next 3 years after returning from Korea I steadily gained weight. I tried Muay Thai again in 2012, because I thought it would be fun since it was back in 2010 (though I didn’t stick with it). I got a membership at an MMA gym that I still love because there’s definitely a sense of community there. However, the 8 months that I stuck with it were all very difficult. I was afraid, ashamed, embarrassed about being so unfit, and literally had to drag myself to classes (look! being dragged again!). I didn’t lose any weight but I got better at skipping and the technique came relatively easily to me. I had to stop for financial reasons, but I went on to try Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day shred. Got bored after day 24. Then Shaun T’s Insanity. Hurt myself. Then I stopped to heal and by that point was no longer motivated. I enjoyed that I was getting stronger, but that was a by-product of my goal to lose weight. Not sustainable.

I started doing Muay Thai again in September 2014. I was less consistent with it, but I was going more because I wanted to be active. Nowadays I dance in my apartment and do little things here and there when the mood strikes.

ANYWAY, here’s what I’ve realised:

1) I resented exercise, because to me it only meant that I had to not be fat any more, that there was something wrong with my body, and this was the only way to fix it.

2) As long as “weight loss/getting fit/ getting healthy/ whatever catch phrase” remains my goal, I will never get there. Because all those terms mean the same thing to me, I need to let them all go. I need to look in the mirror and love what I see. I need to eat, read, and do things that make me feel good. And I do still want to be active. I feel better when I’m being active, but I can’t do an activity that’s not fun in and of itself just because I feel better having done it. Whatever physical activity I do, I must do it for its own sake.

As for how to love yourself, I’m afraid I don’t have any lists for you. But I know there’s a lot to be said for understanding yourself, being honest with yourself, and accepting wherever you are without criticism. I’ve been listening to this every night as I go to bed: Louise Hay Self Love Guided Meditation. Check it out and see how it makes you feel.

I hope this very long letter has helped at least a little.

All my love,

Angel xo

Your Life is Divinely Guided

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Dear Friend,

Do you ever have those moments of intense confusion? You don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing with your life and the fact that you don’t know drives you crazy. I can’t be the only one… I hope! Sometimes they cause me to panic. As if I have to have it all figured out by now and if I don’t then my whole life moving forward will be a failure. A really helpful affirmation I say in times like that is, “My life is divinely guided and I am always going in the right direction.”

Now, I recognise this may not be your cup of tea (not everyone believes in a higher power). But I believe that we are all guided by a higher power (of many names) and an inner power and that both of these powers are divine. Yes, you and your intuition are an element of The Divine. Your ‘knowing’ (remember my last letter?) is every bit as deep and powerful as any external power, because really everything is connected. Everything. The trick is to pay attention and have faith in that guidance.

It always comes back to faith, doesn’t it?

 

All my love,

Angel xo

Allow yourself to be who you are

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Dear Friend,

I’ve had an interesting week and I want to share it with you. It’s a bit of a long story, but I hope you’ll bear with me. I’d always envied those who knew exactly what they wanted. The people who were clear and confident about their goals; their burning desires. And I’d always imagined that kind of clarity came like a thunderclap or the first loud beat of a bass drum. For whatever reason, that’s what I imagined it was like.

So naturally, I felt like there was something wrong with me, because I’ve never felt that way… about anything. But the other morning I had the thought that even though I’ve never felt the thunderclap, I have still had moments when I knew the outcome of some situation. When I felt sure about something without any external evidence.

So, I thought about those times. The first that came to mind was when my parents were applying for us to move to Canada. Even before I could reasonably assume we were going, I knew we were. I told everyone that we were moving to Canada and my parents got upset with me for going around and claiming something that wasn’t certain. But, in my mind, it was. And I was right.

The second instance that came to mind was 3.5 years ago, when I had the LASEK procedure done on my eyes in South Korea. I’d been warned that it might take as long as 3 months for my vision to get up to perfect. They had even warned me that my vision would be blurry right after the procedure and that I’d need a friend to help me get home.

But I knew, going into the procedure, that it would completely and quickly correct my vision. I won’t go into the details, but as I lay there on the procedure table, the surgeon told me to focus on the green lights that were about a foot above my face. I remember thinking, “Lights? I just see one big green light.” When they were finished with each eye, I saw nine distinct points of light.

My vision was already so much better than before the procedure that I didn’t even need my friend to get home, and made the trip by myself. When I went in for the 2-week check up, the technician told me my vision was already better than perfect. “This must be some kind of record,” he said. But I wasn’t surprised by my quick response to the surgery. Thrilled, but not surprised, because I’d known all along my eyes would heal quickly.

So when I thought of these two cases, I thought about how that “knowing” felt. It hadn’t felt like a thunderclap. It was very quiet. And still. It was the kind of assurance that crept up on me, but then once it was there, it wasn’t going anywhere.

Then I remembered something I hadn’t thought about in years. My favourite camp counsellor once described me as having a “quiet confidence,” back when I was authentically myself – for better or for worse. Before I learned how to “get along.” Others have made similar observations about me since then.

Then everything started to fit. I live in the quiet spaces. I prefer to spend my mornings in silence (or as close to it as I can get living downtown) and most evenings too. When I’m not in “teacher mode,” I don’t operate as a big ball of energy. In fact, at the end of a work day, I need time to not speak so I can recharge.

So, why was I waiting around for lightning and thunder, bass drums, and fireworks? And feeling inadequate and incomplete not having experienced it? I am quiet and so are my moments of “knowing.” What a relief!

I’m sure you’re wondering what the point of my story is. I wanted to share it with you as an example of how just allowing yourself to be authentically you can feel better than trying to appropriate a personality that just isn’t you. Regardless of what kind of personality you see out there in society most often, we’re all different and it’s our differences that make this place so fascinating to be in. Have faith that who you are is what the world needs. Because it is.

 

All my love,

Angel xo

There is More than Enough to Go Around

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Dear Friend,

The other day I found myself being envious of a co-worker of mine. I’d felt like she was falling into fortune that should have been mine. The way I saw it, if we were being logical, I’d worked there longer, so I should have… Well, anyway you get the picture. After about 20 minutes of quiet brooding (while pretending everything was great, of course), I remembered something I was told once, and I wanna share it with you: There is more than enough to go around.

Let’s think about it a bit: Is life a competition? Against whom? How would you know who won? How would you even get everyone to agree on what constituted “winning”? Seems to me, the problem with comparing myself with others is that I’m the only one who know the parameters. If we’re the ones setting the standard and then coming up wanting… then aren’t we just making ourselves miserable? Just something to consider.

My co-worker’s success has no bearing on my ability to be equally successful and I really believe this is true of everyone. Other’s successes take nothing away from our own. I was taught once to observe how abundant nature is. If nature can thrive and flourish then so can we. In the same way that plants and vines grow up through the cracks in the side-walk, we can always find a way to progress and grow. So now, we just need to decide if we’re going to keep looking.

 

All my love,

Angel xo

You Deserve It!

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Dear Friend,

I’m hoping you remember what I told you last week: you are good enough for whatever you desire. And you know what else? You deserve it, too. I’m serious. For real.

I know, from personal experience upon personal experience, how easy it is to come up with reasons why I won’t get that job I want or the pay I want or whatever. I know it’s easy to look at others and say, “Yeah but SHE’s always helping people” or “Yeah, but HE does more work than I do.” As if their accomplishments mean you’re not worthy. It just isn’t true. Just like there are those who seem to do more and have more than you, there are others who seem to do less, and have more. So, what does that even mean?

It means other people have no bearing on your worthiness or what you deserve. They’re only responsible for their lives, not yours. That’s on you. And a big part of our experiences here (on earth I mean) have to do with what we feel we deserve. You may have heard the expression, “We accept what we think we deserve.” If you hadn’t, now you have, and it rings true. If you don’t feel you deserve a raise, chances are you won’t try very hard to get it. If there’s any kind of setback or obstacle, I’m willing to wager that you’re likely to take it as a sign that it wasn’t meant for you.

While there are things that just aren’t meant for you, I’m sure you know the difference between accepting a result after having done all you can, and affecting the result because you chose to let it go. And either way is perfectly fine, really, it’s your life.

But you are worthy and deserving. I just really wanted to let you know.

 

All my love,

Angel xo

You Are Good Enough

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Dear Friend,

I may not know you, but I feel like I know your soul. Maybe because it calls so loudly that I have no choice but to listen – and to learn. Maybe because our souls are so kindred that they call to each other. No matter. I’m here now, talking to you in this letter, because I want to tell you something you may never have heard before. Or maybe you have heard it, but not often. Or maybe you’ve heard it but don’t believe it. It’s something you need to know and remember about yourself always: You ARE good enough.

I mean, the word ‘good’ is totally subjective, so let’s say good means valuable, important, worthwhile. Given this, you are more than good enough. Believe me. Everything starts with belief, so why not start with the belief that you, yes you, are valuable, important, and worthwhile – in short, GOOD – enough?

Enough for what? What are you good enough for, you ask? What aren’tyou good enough for? Nothing, that’s what. You are good enough for anything you desire. Please remember that.

 

All my love,

Angel xo