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Rock Bottom Self-Love

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to realize that you need to start being good to yourself. There’s nothing bad about this. It simply is how it works.

Sometimes we have to see proof that it’s not working. For me, the proof was that I was sobbing on the couch in the dark, trying to eat Goldfish crackers while snot was running into my mouth. My boyfriend and I had broken up (yet again) and I didn’t know how to function without him. Life had no meaning. The future was a giant black hole. I felt like I NEEDED him in order to live.

I thought that break-ups were simply just this dark and painful and life-ruining; that there was no way around it when you’re losing someone you loved with your entire soul and being.

But this time I realized something underneath my desperate needing of him: I also wished that I didn’t need him.

Because so much of the pain was clarity. Clarity about how much I revolved my entire life around him. How much I did in the name of being good for him. How much time I spent being jealous of other women I thought were more his type, more his speed, more of what he wanted — and then trying so hard to figure out how to be more of that.

I realized that the more I tried to control things, the more out-of-control I became. I was behaving in ways that I was ashamed of. I felt crazy, completely ungrounded. The more I tried to “improve” myself (in the name of improving our relationship) the worse I was becoming.

And now it all felt so stupid. So pointless. If he wasn’t here, none of that made any sense. Why was I basing my entire existence upon this one person?

And in this dark snot-and-crumb-covered state, I thought: “Oh. This is why they talk about self-love.”

“Maybe there are people out there who still have a sense of love for themselves, even when they’re losing someone they love. Maybe there’s people who still have a full and meaningful life, no matter what is going on with their partner — if they even have one or not.”

Self-love was so far away from who I was that it sounded gross. Cheesy. Weak. Stupid, even.

It made me think of overly-positive hippy types, beauty bloggers doing expensive facial masks, fringe folks who tell everyone about how they married themselves.

I don’t want to become (more of) a weirdo. I’ve spent my adult life trying to finally fit in, be cool, be normal enough to be wanted around. And at the same time I wanted a life that felt different, special. I wanted to feel seen, buck the norm, exist in a way that made sense to me.

And I depended on whomever I was with romantically at the time to give me that feeling of fitting in while also being special and standing out.

I didn’t know how to do it myself.

Maybe if I felt like I fit in with my own life, and was special and standing out to myself — then I wouldn’t be so unstable and needy.

So I first had to realize that this wasn’t “normal”. This wasn’t healthy love.

My desperation and preoccupation weren’t signs of how much I loved him.

They were signs of how much I was out of love with myself.

Secondly, I had to realize that I couldn’t wrap my mind around idea of loving myself if I had no identity to love. It’d be like expecting myself to be in love with a mystery person I knew nothing about. It’s impossible to truly love myself if I don’t even know who I’m trying to love.

Thirdly, I recognized that I’d spent so much of my life trying to adjust myself to other people’s expectations in the hopes that I’d be more worthy in their eyes… that I never had a chance to ever conceive of and create my own identity. I knew the basics of myself, of course, but everything else was now a huge confused jumble.

Identity-love is the prerequisite and path to self-love. In order to truly start being good to myself, I’d have to start with owning and knowing my own identity.

Who is there when he's not there? Who is this person I’m spending my whole life with? What does she actually want, apart from him? What does she, alone, actually like? What truly lights up her soul, regardless of who she’s with?

Instead of constantly being distracted by trying to figure out how to be more of what someone else wanted, I began to get curious about ME. Instead of journaling about, thinking about, analyzing about, caring about him — I began to journal, think, analyze, care about me.

We — myself and I — became a team. We woke up together and talked to each other like encouraging friends. “Ok, good morning! Let’s get you up out of bed and get dressed. No, don’t think about that unsettling dream, that’s not helpful right now! Let’s get dressed. Ok, up! Don’t think, let’s go! Great! We’re dressed and standing in the kitchen now, good job.”

We began noticing what actually felt good and preferable to our souls. “If it’s only about what feels cozy to us, let’s get the white bedsheets instead of the red.”

Instead of being all up in someone else’s world and perceptions of me, I started dedicating my daily life to being curious, fascinated, and engaged with my own (slowly but surely expanding) little world and my own experience. I let myself be light-hearted and amused with myself, as if I were a wide-eyed child: “Ooh you like that shiny pouch? Why that one in particular? Ohh because it changes color when you move it? That IS cool, isn’t it??”

I didn’t have to get a manicure or buy myself flowers (although I know of many people who found this truly loving and healing for their self-relationship). I had to find my own brand of self-befriending. My own journey of learning to love and discover my own identity.

I have to unlearn many old, heavy mental habits. Habits of automatically gravitating to someone else’s preferences. Habits of judging myself from someone else’s eyes. Habits of always checking with others to see if I was allowed to be more of myself with them or not.

And I have to practice and relearn new, iridescent mental habits. Habits of getting lost in my own little world again, like how I did as a kid/teen (but now with the growth and depth of an adult). Habits of honing an outfit to my own pleasure and liking and loving the grounded but glowing feeing of looking my best. Habits of allowing myself the joy and freedom of being a little more of myself regardless of who is around (and reminding myself that there are so many obnoxious weirdos out there, that there’s no way I’m actually being all that grating or discomforting).

And to see the value of a more grounded, “boring” life — that actually isn’t all that boring, it’s just that my system has been so used to being on a constant over-hyped state that it needs to learn to relax back into itself.

And to realize that how I feel about myself will ALWAYS ultimately come from ME. That it’s ass-backwards to try to perform for anyone but myself. And to allow myself the patience of being in disbelief about this for a bit while I prove it to myself.

To know that being good to myself is a practice. It is a lifestyle that gets easier and more rewarding over time. That it will feel awkward at first because it’s so opposite from my norm, and that’s a good thing.

To be good to myself often feels like jumping off a cliff and trusting that the wind will carry me. It feels like flying by the seat of my pants. It feels like being irrational, irresponsible, like I’m dropping all the balls and going through life as a lunatic.

But I’ve only become more sane. More grounded. More alive. More free. More centered. More happy with who I am.

My relationships have only gotten better. I feel more love than fear. If something happens between my current boyfriend and I, I will be devastated because of how much we’ve shared together — but I won’t fall into the old pit of darkness in the same way as before. I’ll know that I’ll be okay. I’ll still have my full self, my full life. I won’t be confused as to who I am. I’ll still have a future to look forward to. I’ll still have a strong and loving relationship with myself.

And this is how I know that the journey has been worth it.

And I’m excited to have more to go, more to explore, more to enjoy within being myself.

Loving my identity. Loving who I am.

This is the purpose of life.

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