Loving Yourself and What That Means


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