Starting next month at Libero Network we will be talking about Self-Harm; so I thought I'd kick-start things with a post on the opposite: Self-love. This post was originally published as a guest post on my friend's blog: crsawka.blogspot.com back in April 2011. Now that I have this personal blog, I decided to re-publish it here.
“To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don’t wait until you die. If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now.” ~Alan Cohen
We’ve all heard it; it’s the Golden Rule: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” What we seem to forget is that the ‘love your neighbour’ part is really only half of it. If nothing else mattered, then the rule would have ended at just that. So why the ‘as yourself’? St. Augustine says, “When it is said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ at the same time, it is clear that love for yourself is not omitted.” Obviously the second half of this Golden Rule holds some importance.
In the early stages of my eating disorder I had no desire to change. I didn’t care that I was harming myself; I didn’t care that I was killing myself slowly. I simply didn’t care. And the problem is, when you don’t care, there is no drive to change.
Why didn’t I care? Because I didn’t have any self-respect, any self-value, and I didn’t yet realize that I deserved better. Bottom line: I didn’t love myself.
The sicker I got, the more enslaved I became. When I was over-exercising, starving, cutting, I felt like I was treating myself the way I deserved to be treated. To stop made no sense.
I didn’t feel like I was missing out on life because I didn’t think a good life was something I deserved. So my eating disorder behaviours continued and the worse they got, the more guilt I felt for abusing my body, and that guilt further fueled my self-hatred. It was a vicious cycle.
I was led to a place where I had to make a choice: change or die. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to live, but I knew that I didn’t want to die.
So I decided to enter into recovery.
In recovery I learnt that my eating disorder behaviours (as is the case with the behaviours of any addiction) were not the problem, they were the symptom. In order for me to remove the symptom, I had to deal with the root issue: I had to learn to love myself.
See, the thing about recovery is that you will not want to change unless you feel you deserve to change. You have to know that you deserve a better life, a good life. You have to believe that you are worth it.
I will tell you straight up that this is not easy. Learning to love yourself requires reaching in and pulling out all the things holding you back – guilt, shame, insecurity – and then rejecting each one. You have to tell yourself you are beautiful, and you have to forgive yourself. And then, you have to fill yourself up with the truth. If you don’t, then you will be left with a void that will only leave room for more lies to enter in and root themselves again.
It can be difficult at first to believe the good about yourself, so start by surrounding yourself with people who love you, who believe you can change, and who tell you you’re worth it, and over time, these things will start to sink in and will fill you up, leaving no room for the lies.
And as you do this, as you weed out the old – the lies, the guilt, the hate – and you replace it with the new – self-acceptance, forgiveness, truth – you will begin to love yourself. And then, once you begin loving yourself, you will begin to see that not only do you want a better life, but you deserve one. No longer will you choose to stay alive because you don’t want death; you will choose to stay alive because you want to be alive. And you will begin building for yourself the type of life you know you deserve – the type of life that in the past you’d only wished for your neighbour – a life of happiness, health, and, most importantly, love. Suddenly the problem will begin healing and the symptoms – the depression, the addictions – they will begin to disappear.
You’ve been loving your neighbour, now it’s time to start loving yourself. I can’t stress enough how important this is.
Give yourself heaven. Choose to love yourself today and you will live now.