The Importance of Loving Yourself
No matter where you turn — from authors like Brené Brown, Kris Carr, Gala Darling and the suite of Hay House authors, to spiritual leaders like Pema Chödrön, to publications like mindbodygreen, Well + Good and The Chalkboard — the lens is on self-love. You hear it everywhere, but for good reason. Slowly, but surely, turning my love inward is righting the path of my ship.
During the first two years of my daughter's life, I began to notice a correlation between really bad days and showering. Or not showering, as it was. But the connection between the two is not as straightforward and simple as it seems.
My really bad days in those early years stemmed from a number of root causes: my relationship, challenging days alone with my infant daughter, navigating the jungle of urban parenting in New York City, and my struggle to balance motherhood with some semblance of the career that I still desired.
Those root causes instigated stress-eating, which added self-loathing into an exhausted emotional mix. I already did not feel good enough in any facet of my life; believing that I fell short as a mother, as a partner, as a professional and as a woman. Sadly, the unkind words and actions of people closest to me often confirmed the negative swirl inside my head.
Emotionally, I felt worthless and physically, I was in pain, with adrenals that were constantly in a state of fight or flight, and a gut twisted in knots from all of the stress.
While a really bad day had many contributing factors, I began to realize that the worst ones — I'm talking ugly cry for no apparent reason kind of days — always had a common thread: every time I found myself face down in the ashes at the end of the day, I hadn't had a shower.
So, what? I hate being dirty? No. It wasn't about being clean or pretty. At the time, I wore a t-shirt and black leggings every day (remember this ode to black leggings?), so the shower itself was not about making any visible improvement to my appearance.
It was about a base level of caring for myself, and the fact that some days, a shower was the only way I could show myself any attention or love. To give up those five or ten minutes meant not acknowledging myself in any way throughout a day. Just existing. Surviving. But clearly not well, because not surprisingly, after a day of fully neglecting myself I always ended up deflated and depressed.
Fast forward to this year, and the intense amount of healing I have done. Through this hard emotional work, I've learned that the importance of self-love, self-care, self-compassion and presence cannot be underestimated. And that the practice is simultaneously hard to remember and easy to do.
It doesn't take much to fulfill me and restore my "me" tanks. Sure, a massage or a full yoga class (like, out of the house, in a studio with other women) are my ultimate forms of pampering. But any exercise, just moving my body in some way, and feeding myself whole, clean foods, or maybe some chocolate (like one of these completely satisfying indulgences that don't derail your clean eating tracks for the week) also does the trick. So does arranging and organizing my personal space, buying myself flowers and carving out ten minutes to sit in the sun on a nice breezy day.
Or yes, even just a damn shower. There are a myriad of small ways to love ourselves, and being able to claim just one of these things at the end of the day — something, anything — calms me.
The calmer version of myself is a much more patient mother and co-parent, a more considerate daughter, sister and friend, and a more fulfilled woman. Putting on my oxygen mask first allows me to set a better example for my daughter.
At three years old, she watches and copies every move I make and every word I say. I will be happy if we emerge on the other side of the toddler-through-teen years with a girl who can still confidently say, as she does now daily, "I am bootiful, mama!" I just want her to know that she is just as beautiful on the inside, that she is enough and has everything that she will ever need, and how to listen and respond to herself.
But she won't do any of the above if I don't. We must acknowledge and honor what we need every day, for ourselves and for our families. For my daughter, and for the love of a *mothersplashing* shower, I will practice loving myself as much as I love her every day, for all the rest of my days.