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

Things that can happen when you’re doing what you love

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Dear Friend,

I’ve had such a great experience this past month. So great it didn’t even feel like a month while I was in it. I realised that it was because I was doing what I love. Even in the stressful moments, I knew I would not rather do anything else. This letter is more fun than anything, but it’s worth thinking about. Do you experience any of the things I do? Are you doing what you love?

So here’s what happens to me when I’m doing what I love:

1. I forget what day of the week it is and don’t even mind “working” on the weekend.

2. I want to do it more.

3. I want to learn all there is to know about how to do it better.

4. I almost don’t even care if others think it’s a good choice or not (you know I seek external advice a lot when I’m uncertain).

5. I’m doing what I love, so I love what I do. It’s hard not to be content and satisfied.

6. At the same time, I’m never fully satisfied, which pushes me forward. You’re either going forward or backward. I choose forward.

7. I am able to RELEASE past hurt. Rejection, dismissal, harsh words… the memories of those were weighing on me REALLY HEAVILY. Knowing that I am following the path I love allows me to say a healthy and forgiving and definite goodbye to all of them. I swear I feel 10 lbs lighter.

8. I lose track of time. Hours will pass before I know it. I can spend 10 hours rehearsing and not feel drained (not every day, mind you, but still).

9. At the same time, I find time also slows right down in the best way. When I’m stressed and rushing to do something or go somewhere that doesn’t serve my spirit, it’s like there’s never enough time. When I’m living according to my purpose and passion, it feels like I have all the time in the world and everything gets done.

What things happen to you when you’re doing what you love? I’d love to hear from you! If you’re a wordpress member, share in the comments! If not, feel free to message me wherever you connect with me and I’ll share them in the comments for you.

All my love,
Angel xo

 

seanwes.com

seanwes.com

You are Extraordinary

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Dear Friend,

There is no one in the world who is exactly like you. You have so much beauty and purpose to bring to the world. Don’t ever let yourself feel like you’re insignificant or expendable because of someone else’s actions. Easy words to say, perhaps (maybe they aren’t easy for some of us to say about ourselves). You know what’s really tricky? Not letting yourself feel insignificant because of your own thoughts and actions.

It’s funny, I started writing this letter a couple weeks ago and meant to post it last Sunday, but forgot (sorry about that! My first missed Sunday). As it turns out, though, this letter I write to you is the lesson (I only realised yesterday) that I needed for myself. So I say these words to you, and hope that they sink into my subconscious.

I feel a little like Viola Davis’ character in The Help when she talks to the little girl. But you are special, you are smart, and you are important and I want you to always remember that. When people compliment you, what do you do? Do you say thank you but? “Aww thanks, but it’s only because…” If yes, stop doing that. Aim to only say “Thank you” (with a smile would be even better). For me, I’d mastered that phase, but the back talk was still going on in my head. I would smile and say a big thank you and then in my head doubt whether or not they meant it, or question why they said it, or wonder if they’d have said it if some other thing was true (there was always something).

Are you anything like me? Let’s try replacing our back chatter, or our “little hater” as Jay Smooth says (he even made a song about it, which I love, check it out), with things like “Damn right” or “I’m so glad you notice.”

That’s my goal from here on out and my challenge to you, because you deserve to feel as extraordinary as you already are!

 

All my love,

Angel xo

 

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You Might As Well Go For It -or- Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

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Dear Friend,

I wonder, have you ever opted out of something for fear of failure or embarrassment? Have you ever chosen to take no action on something you love/want to try/believe in because you don’t believe it will make a difference? I know I have, several times. I have had a HUGE fear of failure. Mostly because, for me, failure is embarrassing. And I hate to be embarrassed. Being embarrassed means being vulnerable and, at the centre of it all, this is what I hate the most -being vulnerable.

Anyway, I wanted to ask, because if you’re anything like me (at least in this regard) then it’s something you struggle with or are working on. Going for it even through the fear isn’t easy, but what’s the alternative? Playing it safe by doing something you don’t want to do?

You’ve seen the clip floating around of Jim Carrey giving a speech at a graduation ceremony. He talked about how his dad wanted to be Comedian, but played it safe to provide for his family. He ended up being laid off and struggling to find new work. Jim said in his speech his lesson from that was “you can fail at what you DON’T want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love!” (check out the clip here)

That has stuck with me better than anything else when it comes to my fear of failure. I’d thought that if I played it safe, then I wouldn’t be doing what I loved, but at least I’d be able to pay the rent. Haha not so! When you see that failure may come regardless of what you choose to do, it becomes much more obvious what choices to make.

I hope that made sense. But if we reframe our fears of failure and see that we can “fail” at anything, but we can also succeed immensely, then it’s easier to make the choice to do what we love.

Here’s hoping that you go forward and do what you love. Give it your best effort, even through the fear.

All my love,
Angel xo

 

If this is your work, please contact me so I can credit you!

If this is your work, please contact me so I can credit you!

Everything is Working Out for Your Highest Good

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Dear Friend,

Today marks the 3-month anniversary of me writing letters to you! Isn’t that great?! Last week I talked about looking back to recognise how far you’ve come. Today I’m going to talk about myself a lot (sorry in advance!). I’ve been doing a lot of looking back lately. And I know I have to be careful not to miss what’s ahead of me and where I am right now. But I spent all night last night remembering, specifically the year I spent in South Korea. I was there from August 2010 until August 2011 and I had a blog that I posted in periodically about what was happening to me there. I re-read that blog, reliving some of the experiences I wrote about. I also looked at my FB status updates during that time. I can honestly say I have changed a lot since then. Wow.

I am more comfortable expressing my love for others, like friends and family. I am more cognisant now of when people are being genuinely friendly and helpful. It’s easier for me to pause in the moment and reflect rather than exploding and regretting it after. On the flip side, I’m better at grabbing opportunities and asking questions when they come to me rather than hesitating and regretting THAT later. I don’t get as easily frustrated and when I do get frustrated, I handle it so much better than I used to. I contemplate more. I consciously engage in being positive and uplifting. I’m better at validating myself, without needing others to do it for me (and then being upset when they don’t). I’m better at giving without needing reciprocation (better but not great).

It sounds like I’m doing pretty amazingly, and I am proud of myself. However, I honestly believe I would not have gotten here if it hadn’t been for that year in Korea. It was a very difficult time for me, in many ways that I found it difficult to explain to others. Even when my parents visited me, my attitude didn’t change. I was expecting them to come cheer me up and they were expecting me to host them and be cheerful all on my own. Naturally, the ensuing result was a disaster, but we got some good pictures out of it and I’m still glad they made the trip. I just wish I’d been in a better frame of mind. Even so, all those difficult experiences, all the frustration and depression, led me to make a change in myself. My attitude and outlook, I now know, are the only things I can change 100% of the time. When I did make that change, my experience in Korea changed. And now, I feel like a better person.

As difficult as all those experiences were, they made me better. So I’m not grateful in spite of the challenges I faced. I’m grateful for those challenges. How else do we grow?

I hope, that as you go through your days, weeks, months, and years, that you are able to find ways to be grateful for it all, rather than in spite of it all. I hope you can affirm for yourself that everything happens for your highest good. To make you your own version of better.

 

All my love,

Angel xo

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September 2010. My first month in South Korea.

Take a Look Back Today

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Dear Friend,

You know that feeling you get when you aren’t sure of what you’re doing… Or you feel you aren’t doing anything useful with your life?

Take a look back. Look at how far you’ve already come. YOU did that! You may have gotten help, but help is nothing if you don’t use it.

Today let’s just pause and take a look back. Look at what we’ve accomplished. Look at all the damaging behaviours, people, and self talk we’ve left behind. Look at the wonderful connections we’ve made. Look at what we’ve learned and how we’ve improved.

You’re doing fine. No, better than fine. You’re doing great! Take a moment to just revel in that before you go back to thinking about today and tomorrow. Celebrate who you are and what you’ve done and where you’ve been and how you’ve grown.

It’s all amazing. And so are you.

All my love,
Angel xo

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Forgive everyone, including yourself

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Dear Friend,

How are you? I hope you are well. I’d love to hear how things are going with you. As for me, I’m pleased to say I’m really working on experiencing life as a joyous dance. And because of this, my low days don’t seem so low. It puts everything into a more peaceful perspective. Something else that’s really cool is when I see that I have a chance to really put one of my affirmations into practice. Sometimes these chances come and go without me realising it. The one I got to consciously put into practice recently was, “I forgive everyone, including myself.”

For some time now I’ve agreed with the adage that forgiving is more for you than the other person. That it releases you from whatever hurt and hate you may be holding on to, and that it isn’t about absolving the other person of whatever they may have done that hurt you. But the concept of forgiving everyone was a little crazy to me when I first read it. Everyone?! But again, if forgiveness is more for me than the other person, then yes. Everyone. It makes sense.

The really revolutionary part of it for me, however, was the idea of forgiving myself. Whoa. I’d been so used to judging myself harshly that even with the other affirmations I’d been working on, this didn’t click intuitively. I had to read it to really see how necessary it is. And if I’m forgiving everyone then that should include me, right? Right.

So for you, as you work on being your highest self, realise that sometimes you will act less than satisfactorily by your own standards. And in those moments (if you catch yourself), or after those moments (if you don’t), forgive yourself. Know that change is a process and it isn’t always easy and that’s perfectly fine. Forgive yourself. Release your disappointment in yourself. And keep dancing.

 

All my love,

Angel xo

 

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