I love myself above all else in my life. As a mom, a wife, a sister, a daughter and an employee, the notion that I, as a woman, would love myself first probably sounds crazy. It might even sound selfish. But it’s not. In fact, loving myself first has made me a better mother, a better wife and a better human.
It’s not easy. After all, women are told every day in a million different ways how awful we are. We are told we need underwear that pinches in our bellies. We are told we need masks that correct our skin blemishes. We are told we need hair color to cover our unsightly grays. And that is to say nothing of the onslaught of information out there designed to make moms always feel like we are 10 steps behind and $100 short. Do you feed your child all organic? Help with homework every night? Stay calm even when you want to tear your hair out? No? Me neither. But then there are 75 products and classes and services we should be taking advantage of to make us better humans.
And the guilt. The guilt for a modern woman is overwhelming. Who would be insane enough to actually take time to yourself to do a yoga class or paint a pot or read a book or take a trip?
Our lives are busier than ever. Mine is too. I have three children and a writing job. I teach yoga eight times a week, prep for my classes and am also currently enrolled in a 16-hour training program to learn how to teach a new form of yoga. I wake up in the morning running through my to-do list in my head, and I go to sleep at night doing the same thing. I feel like a failure a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. My house is a mess. My kids eat pasta more nights than I care to admit. And I yell more than I want to. But I refuse to let those things make me stop loving myself.
So what does that mean? It doesn’t just mean taking time to myself. Because I do that. I take a yoga class almost every day. I run. I eat well and sleep well too. But it is more than that. It means getting to know yourself. It means spending time alone when you can. Not just time you spend pampering. Not just a pedicure or a massage or a facial, but genuine, free, open and thinking time. It seems impossible, I’m sure. And it is hard. But even five minutes of mindful eating or 10 minutes of meditation can clear the mind enough to think straight.
I used to battle myself constantly. I worried about my weight, my level of success compared to others. I looked at social media and wondered why everyone was doing so much better than me. I gave everything to my kids and was determined to be the “perfect mom” (as if that exists). But then I started a regular meditation practice. I started hiking alone with no music or distraction along for the ride. I started listening to myself and my body. In short, I started treating myself the same way I treated my children. With love. With compassion. With interest. I let myself be tired when I was tired and gave myself periods of rest as I needed them. I started exploring my creativity and the things that set me apart from others. And I spent less time on social media.
Loving myself doesn’t mean being selfish. But it does mean seeing myself as an important and valid person who also deserves a seat at the table. I am not just my relationship to other people. I am a full person with thoughts and feelings and highs and lows and creative energy and needs and desires. The same as all three of my children. The same as my husband. And the same as you.
Falling in love with myself has made it possible for me to see others so much more clearly. I can see inside my yoga students now and see the layers of armor we put around ourselves to protect our hearts and to protect ourselves from our vulnerability. The truth is, we can only fully love ourselves when we embrace that part. We have to fully embrace our flaws, our sensitivities, and our vulnerabilities and forgive the things in ourselves we would forgive easily in the people we love.
When I made myself one of those people, everything changed.
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