I value loyalty probably above any other trait. When it comes to my family and friends, I am not only their biggest support, but their fiercest defender.
However, the same was not true when it came to myself. It dawned on me that I had a very unhealthy relationship with myself. There were moments when I would get inside my own head and just berate myself, moments when I would tell myself, I was not good enough in some way or too much of something else. Due to this relationship, my personal growth and evolution was stunted.
I began to reevaluate my life and the way I look at myself, thought to myself and talked to myself. I realized I was not the only who did it, but this negative habit was also present amongst members of my family and friends. It was a behavior that I did not want my 7-year-old niece to grow up having.
I needed to become emotionally healthy and to give myself the same fiercely loyal version of me that I was giving to my friends and family. Why is it they could have the me who loved them unconditionally, and yet I could not love myself in the same way?
I needed to change that and start to heal.
I began with forgiveness. I have made many personal and professional mistakes in the past, as we all have. I would catch myself, beating myself up over something that happened anytime from a month ago to three years ago. The self-criticism was fruitless and only made me feel worse. So, yes, I have made mistakes, but if there is a lesson to be learned from them, then I need to learn it and move forward. I must let go and stop clinging to my failures. I have to understand there will be more mistakes ahead of me both big and small, and when I make them, I should forgive myself. Otherwise I will never stop contentiously reprimanding myself over events that are done and gone. I can not change what happened but I can change my attitude towards it.
The next step is a more challenging one. It starts with understanding there will be expectations put on me. Society has its own idea of what sort of person I should be. I have friends and family who, despite their love for me, also have expectations that range from my career goals to my love life.
I lost both my parents in my teen years and I spent those really formative years – as well as most of my 20s – wanting to be this perfect daughter for them. I wanted to live up to whatever they would have wanted for me and from me. Naturally, we want people to be proud of us; however, it is impossible to meet everyone’s expectations – even if those expectations coincide with our own. It is impossible for me to be the person everyone else wants me to be. How can I be myself when I am trying to be so many things for so many people? Although it might disappoint them, I need to start being true to myself, live up to my own expectations and primarily be accountable to me. I have to accept a version of myself that might be slightly different from what my parents, friends and society may have wanted.
Finally, the most difficult step is love. How ironic we are filled with such unconditional love for our family, friends, significant others and pets, but have little for ourselves? Maybe it is more challenging to love ourselves, because no one knows us better than we do. We know every little secret, every thought and every fake smile. Of course, there are parts of me that are easy to love – that is true for all of us. The issue is with the not-so-easy parts. Therefore, through continued forgiveness and acceptance, I work towards falling in love with those not-so-loveable parts.
Once I do, then I will honestly be the best version of myself, which would make me a better friend, sister, aunt… me.
Featured image by the_progressive on Flickr