When I went through my divorce and, heck, even while I was navigating the separation I quickly found myself on a journey of self-searching. Not necessarily because I didn’t know who I was but because I’d be entering a whole new season that would identify with a whole new woman, in the evolving sense. I’d been with him since I was 16 years old so he was all I knew for years. So you bet there was a process of healing, uprooting and rebuilding, but in all the best ways. I went from being with someone for years to being on my own and starting a new life.
A lot of women have asked me, “How did you learn to be so strong” or “How are you still so confident?” And my honest confession is that I’m incredibly weak and emotional but I’ve learned to ride the waves of the hurts I can’t avoid, become the biggest student of my own life and trust that these moments don’t define me. God still has a plan with the events of our life in mind.
That being said, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is self-love. Many times we’re aware that God loves us and that even maybe a few of our family and friends love us, but do we love us? Do we love what we see in the mirror, do we love who we are without anyone having to affirm us all the time; with or without a mate, do we love our being. Because that will play a huge role into our identity, our perspectives, our health, our relationships and our calling to this Earth. It’s revolutionizing. Here are some of the things I learned:
- Self-love is not vain, it’s necessary.
And this one was a hard one for me to grasp. I’m the type of person that likes to stay as far away as possible from blurring the lines of vanity and pride. I would fall into a sense of “false humility” before I’d think anything of myself. Many times that looked like neglecting my well-being in the name of being sacrificial. And sometimes as Christians, like me, we can fall into the unbalanced thinking of worthlessness. We should understand that, yes, we are nothing without the God who purposed us and called us into being and, yes, we are unworthy of His grace on us, but that He also chose to make us specifically in His image to reflect Him so that doesn’t make us nothing. Christ’s love for us is the very reflection of how much of a something we mean to Him. He calls us His children. That’s nothing to be puffed up about but it’s worth drawing the balanced understanding that we have value; in God’s eyes and we need to see it through our own.
I always talk about having a love and faith that’s upward, inward and outward. First you receive it from God, then you receive it for yourself, which gives you the genuine ability to share it with others. By taking care of yourself you’re better able to care for others because you are grounded and stable; mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Having self-love is necessary because it equips you with the confidence and authenticity to meet the needs of your loved one, your children, your family, your friends and the rest of the world. You know how to give it because you have it.
- Self-love means loving your body.
When you have a healthy view of love and care for yourself, you’re keeping your overall well-being in mind. You have goals and dreams of a long-lasting and enjoyable future to age in good health just like you would want for anyone else you love. Many times we can want things for others that we neglect for ourselves. The young me loves to care for the older me by doing a service to my body now.
Those who are close to me know that I love working out. I grew up with asthma and that gave me such a hard time in PE as a grade student that I began to detest it; but pacing and challenging myself through the years evolutionarily kicked asthma’s butt! It’s definitely an illness preventative. I always like to quote my personal mantra when it comes to fitness, “We exercise because we love our bodies not because we hate them”. We don’t workout to be skinny, we exercise to be fit! It’s not a shape thing, it’s a health thing. Even if it’s just a little something throughout the week. The goal is always to be the best you. You are your own motivation; not some magazine cover. It’s never the goal to look like someone else; and most importantly to love yourself right where you are along the journey. Our bodies are the vehicle God’s gifted us with to drive His mission here on Earth so that’s a pretty big deal! This equally means being aware of the things going in that are harming your body and simple habits like drinking plenty of water through the day so your nutrients are flowing properly, getting enough sleep and eating the right amount of meals.
- Self-love means being accepting of you what you see in the mirror.
It’s so crazy because we’ve mirrored ourselves all our lives to the point that all we can see is our flaws. For years we’ve been measuring our faces and bodies up to what’s projected around us. Many times all we can see is what’s not right with us; and it gives us a misconstrued perspective that’s become a reality in our heads. Ever taken a picture with your friend that you think is hideous but they think is such a beautiful photo of you? Many people don’t see the flaws that you see and certainly not as deeply as you see them because of the angle you’ve been studying your face in the mirror and the thoughts that accompany them.
Self-love understands that your features and qualities are unique to you and that’s what makes you beautiful [Click to Tweet]. No one can reflect the individual type of beauty that you have. Only you carry it. And the person destined to love and commit to you is wholeheartedly called to your beauty alone. Much of the time when we look at ourselves in the mirror we’re comparing ourselves to some standard in our head based on images of other people; but beauty is measured in differences and in individuality not in standards.
- Self-love means having your back.
Now I don’t mean this in some “me against the world” defense mechanism, because I’ve seen people like this and it tends to be from a resentful place of fear and hurt. But something I use to struggle with was finding the balance between “people-pleasing” and saying “no” or genuinely giving of myself without being run-over because I didn’t love myself enough to stand up for me. As I began to see that change I then found myself in the battle of picking and choosing my fights, to the extent of when to say something that’s effecting me and when to let it go “in the name of peace and harmony”. So I think that these are some cases where something should be said because it’s an honest part of being fair to yourself. And being fair to yourself is a part of loving yourself.
- Clarifying an inaccurate assumption that has been made of you
- Being falsely accused of things out of your control
- Clarifying a miscommunication
- Clarifying when you’re being misunderstood
- Asking when you need clarity on something you don’t understand
- Sharing your untold side of the story that’s being unfairly judged
- And in many cases being addressed with disrespect. (That can include a simple “It’s not okay for you to talk to me this way.” or drawing healthy distance from toxic/divisive people.)
That even means having your back against yourself! Stop allowing yourself to be bullied by your own thoughts about yourself. Some of us dont realize we mentally tear ourselves down in ways we’d never let someone tear another person down outloud. Have the same self care. Be mindful of the way you treat yourself.
- Self-love means giving yourself the grace to grow.
I’ll be honest, some days I’m great as a mother; some days I feel I’ve failed as a mother. Some days I’m great as a friend; some days I fail as a friend. Some days I’m great as a leader; other days I’ve failed to be a leader. As the list goes on I can’t escape the fact that on my own I can’t reach perfection. I can’t be everything to everybody. I can’t completely escape making mistakes or my human nature. Perfection is an illusion in my head. And yet we all chase it and beat ourselves up when we can’t attain it. This self-inflicted beat down is usually accompanied by insecurity, failure, shame, self-doubt and disappointment into a downward spiral of self-pity.
Yet this is where our faith really kicks in. I had to come to the constant realization that through Christ we’ve been accepted by God and counted righteous which has given us the grace and patience to grow in despite of ourselves. Progression not perfection. God has given you the grace to grow; now give yourself the grace to grow and trust that along the way He will meet your flaws [Click to Tweet]. You and I were always created to be completed by Him. If you keep falling into the self-sufficiency of relying on yourself to get everything right, that will be one disappointing emotional roller-coaster, but if you draw near to Him and focus on His progressing work inside of you (Philippians 1:6), you WILL step by step, learning from failure to failure grow more and more into who He’s destined you to be. Stop letting perfection trip you up and love yourself the way God loves you; allowing yourself the grace to get up when you fail and grow from your mistakes.
The day I stopped comparing myself, neglecting myself, shaming myself and finding things to dislike about myself by refusing to embrace such thoughts in my head was the day I was able to fully love myself for the person I was created to be. Not only was it a revolutionary, freeing and life-changing journey but a growing one; inwardly and outwardly. When I can focus on loving and being the best woman God called me to be, I’m a better steward of the purpose and mission He’s given me. Never underestimate the importance of self-love and know that you can embrace it the moment you choose to.