Posts tagged self love
She is You

I love a woman who loves herself. A woman who knows she's not perfect and embraces that. A woman that not only loves herself, but FALLS in love with herself every single day. She knows that she doesn't always say the correct thing, but she is kind, humble, and oh so selfless. She understands that the world isn't always beautiful, but she does her best to add her own beauty to her life and to the ones closest to her heart. She hesitates when making decisions for her family, because she fears not making the right ones. There is fear in her heart, but you’d never know, because she is peace — the binding factor of why her world holds together, even if it’s not even close to perfect.

She has insecurities, like every other human being. But she isn't like everyone else. She makes a difference — even more than she could ever imagine. To her children especially — when they grow up and think of the person they want to be most like in their lives, it will always be her. The way she can whip up a dessert and have it taste like heaven, the way she drops everything without a blink to help someone in need, the way she seems to have all the answers when you don’t know where to turn. When she looks in the mirror, she only sees the wrinkles and the creases of her eyes and her mouth, and the growing grey intertwined in her blonde hair. But the world sees her contagious smile, her laughter and silliness that brightens up the darkest room, the joy they wish to see in every aspect of their own hearts and lives, and the patience she has for values not like her own. How is it that she helps others see who they truly are, more than their own souls do? She sees the curves of her body, more weight than she had years ago, and stripes on her tummy from when she once carried her own babies.

She doesn’t see herself as beautiful because society doesn’t deem her as so — she isn’t young or olive colored skin, or perfectly perky breasts, and her house isn’t clean and doesn’t look like an article right out of the magazines she loves to read. She doesn’t yet realize that beauty isn’t everything. She doesn’t see the power she possesses, because if she did, she would know that she can literally move mountains to create the life she dreams of. She is real in an increasingly false world. She flourishes in her existence, like a flower pushing through concrete. Her real self shows in every breath she takes. Her strength isn't always stronger than her softness, as much as she tries to make this so.


My sweet friend, she is you. Your greatest gift is the power you hold inside yourself, and being the truest soul you can ever imagine. Don’t you dare even deny it — the Earth thrives with you in it. Let us create beauty and love, my love.

JOURNALIST: Bethany Bourgoin

The Pain In The Feeling
What if pain—like love—is just a place brave people visit?
— Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior: A Memoir

The other day I spent the majority of the afternoon in bed. I wasn’t sick or physically tired but emotionally I was exhausted. The week had caught up with me and by the time Sunday was here, my heart and my head had enough. And so I let the pillows, blankets, and hum of traffic wrap me in their protective space, and for the first time all week I let myself feel. I cried out my worries, confusion, and pain. I cried myself to sleep and then cried some more, but by the time I left my bed I felt renewed. Those things that I cried over were no longer such a burden on my heart. 

There is a spectrum of thoughts (dare I say feelings?) out there about feelings: what you feel isn’t what you are, your feelings lie to you, don’t share your feelings, or get over your feelings and move on. I understand this because it’s how I’ve operated most of my life, but recently I’ve realized that none of these things are true for me anymore. How can I not be what I feel? I am my feelings. My feelings are me.

The feeling I struggle with the most is emotional pain. I’ve often been told I’m strong and people say things like they don’t know how I do it, or they wish they could be like me. In painful or sad situations I do tend to come off as “strong.” I’m calm and not overly emotional, but I’m not some superwoman fearlessly shouldering my pain and flinging out into the universe. The strong front is only a coping mechanism to deal with the pain, or more truthfully, to not deal with it.

Don’t avoid the pain. You need it. It’s meant for you. Be still with it, let it come, let it go, let it leave you with the fuel you’ll burn to get your work done on this earth.
— Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior: A Memoir

I have been an avoid-er. I’ve avoided feeling, accepting, and sharing pain my entire life. All this avoiding caught up with me when, a few years ago I almost lost my marriage to addiction, anxiety, and depression. The resulting pain was so strong that some flames broke through, but most of it I choked back, stamped out, and shoved down. I told myself I was strong and I just didn’t have time to deal with the pain. I was busy helping my husband recover, rebuilding a life, and taking care of a new one. But what I was really telling myself was I didn’t want to deal with it; instead of letting the fire out, I let it burn me up from the inside. Swallowing the pain, swallowing my feelings, did more damage than good.

Being a mother has taught me a few things about feelings. When my son cries it’s usually for a reason. He’s hurt, scared, unsure, angry, or a number of different emotions. As adults we’ve been conditioned to brush this off. “Oh you’re fine,” I find myself saying. “Stop crying,” I demand. But this is dismissive and tells him he’s not worthy of whatever he’s feeling in that moment. Why can’t I let him express and deal with his pain and fear? Why can’t I let myself? Slowly, I am. I’m starting to embrace the pain in the feeling. I have to be conscious about it, but now when pain flares, old or new, I recognize it, I welcome it, and I let it burn on the outside. I want to be a mother, wife, woman, and friend that loves fearlessly, hurts deeply, and celebrates wildly.

Today I invite you to join me. I invite you to feel whatever you’ve been avoiding. I invite you to find out what cracks your heart wide open, to breath out the fire, and let it burn until it’s created something beautiful. Today I invite you to feel.  

 JOURNALIST: Michelle Windsor

Rule Your Mind With Your Own Self-Love

Women, mothers, I ask you: what do you see when you look in the mirror? When you strip off your clothing, when you let your eyes fall upon your naked figure, what thoughts fill your mind? Do you scrutinize every dimple, every roll and every stripe with critical eyes, or do you marvel over each curve, each line, and each glowing inch?

It took me a long time and a lot of careful intention to get to the place I am today—to the place where I sit in wondrous awe of my body, and to lie in comfort with the driving passions that fill my mind. Even though I grew up under the wing of a strong and confident mother, and was taught by example to pay no mind to what others thought, societal norms and the mainstream media did not escape me; and as such, I fell into that deep chasm of self-criticism, -disdain and oftentimes pure loathing— particularly during my teenage years. We’ve all been there – we’ve all found ourselves at fourteen years old, wondering why our breasts are so small, our thighs so thick or our hair too this or too that—we think that if only we were six inches taller, that our weight would be more evenly distributed; or that if only we were six inches shorter, we’d not have to feel like we’re being gawked at everywhere we go. We conjure up just enough reasons as to why we’re not quite up to snuff, and soon we’ve descended into a mindset that envelops us in some true warped knowing that we come up short or that we’re not worthy of reverence.

Then enter motherhood: that season that throws at us a deluge of hormones, confusion abounding, a body perhaps sliced, ripped or torn to shreds, and a new little earthling to care for first and foremost. We see postpartum bodies being Photo shopped all over the media, judged left and right, and we can’t help but hold ourselves to the same unrealistic standards: why don’t our pre-pregnancy jeans fit yet? Will our breasts be this engorged forevermore? And in the years that follow, what we wouldn’t give to have those giant, leaky boobs back… because now they’re deflated and pulled down by gravity; and surely nobody finds these appealing, we think to ourselves. Not really, anyway.

I look myself up and down in the mirror and I like what I see—I need to make that abundantly clear. BUT: there’s a lot of fine print that accompanies that sentiment. I am not without doubt, hesitation or reservation. I wrestle with compartmentalizing the flaws in my body: sagging breasts are excused for having provided my daughter with life and comfort for three years. My soft stomach, though, does not get a pass. A pregnancy does not excuse me from looking exactly the way I do now, I think; that must be blamed on my occasionally poor eating habits, my regular consumption of alcohol and my lack of regular exercise. I allow only so much pregnancy-related fat before I put my foot down and blame the rest of it on myself. There’s no excuse for looking exactly like this, I tell myself. I am still beautiful, but I’m not treating my body the way I should. And that’s the truth.

The deluge of self-deprecating thoughts that fill my mind usually come around the time that I have my period, because I’m bloated and short-tempered; forgiveness is in high demand and in low supply.

I find myself swooped up by the hurricane of responsibilities and of day-to-day busyness; by the chaos of chasing after a three-year-old, and by being a partner to my husband. I feel regularly like I’m failing at both, even though the first thing I sacrifice in order to maintain order is myself—my desires, my priorities, my hopes and my joys. These things fall by the wayside and there I stand in the middle of a storm with nothing to show for it. And all the while, my hair just keeps getting longer, and my stomach softer.

These feelings wax and wane over the course of any given month, and before too long I find myself back to marveling over that naked body of mine in the mirror. I demand of myself to look at that work of art; to consider all that it has done—both for myself, and for my healthy and thriving child. This body of mine, I decide, is a temple, and my mind a raging fire.

Women, mothers, I ask you: how intentional are you in fostering a love for all that which propels you forward? To love others, we must first love ourselves; and that love is as physical as it is emotional. We need to nurture our desires, raise up our passions and hold tight our deepest desires. We must love our every curve, and eradicate the notion that we are to look a certain way in the days, weeks and years after having given birth. We must embrace all that we are, all that we have accomplished and all that we stand for.

Women, mothers, I implore you: give yourself every ounce of love that you pour into those around you. Allow it to multiply, and watch it flow freely from you once you’ve permitted it to pump fervently through your veins. You are worthy, you are powerful and you are a source of unremitting glory. You are everything, and you are so much more.

JOURNALIST: Sandy Jorgenson

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Blooming: one part crying, one part acknowledgement, two parts battle, and one part spreading your roots.

I am a firm believer in crying, full blown down on my knees silent sobbing in the shower, letting my tears blend with the scorching water, tricking me into thinking the day was fine and dandy. Then the saltiness of the last 24 hours hits my taste buds, cutting into the steam like the sharp ringing of an unwanted alarm.

My gift to myself is to cry. The release balances me, and allows me to center myself once again.

Part of the blooming process is acknowledgement. Acceptance of each experience, each battle waged. When I got divorced, many people around me questioned my resilience. As though they wanted me to break down. Expose my wounds to feed the curiosity of others. They couldn't hear me crying, though. My pain was raw, unrefined, and harsh enough to leave a weight on a listener’s heart. I didn't want to leave a trail of misery, so I did my best to tuck it back like a loose strand of hair that constantly falls in your face. The problem is it always manages to stray back in your way, waging a battle against your inner peace.

Whether you have traveled a similar path or not, you will wake up one day and realize you have everything you need, it's all just waiting to be unleashed.

When my nightmares poured over into daylight hours, the sacred hours reserved for loving my children, and I felt a shift in my soul, I needed to crush that lingering ugliness. His presence haunted my being; akin to Freddie Krueger, he gained strength from my weakness. I made the decision not to let him write my story anymore.

In the depth of Winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible Summer.
— Albert Camus

You have to lay the foundation for the future you wish to see. There's no chronological timeline to blooming. It happens over time, each phase integrated into another. Just as a flower blossoms out of a simple bud turning towards the sun’s rays, so is it with the growth of a woman.

We grow with hardship and learn to find our joy. I remember the freedom I felt from being able to pick out my own outfits. No dictator left standing to bark instructions to cover my curves to mask his own insecurities. And writing! Oh, the joys of letting my words touch paper instead of locking them safely away from criticism.

Once I allowed my joy to come to fruition, everything else slowly started to fall in place. A flower looks best surrounded by many more. You have to learn to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else.

I firmly believe women hold a special capacity to withstand life’s difficulties and grow out of whatever place they find themselves. There will be days where you are scrolling through Instagram and you feel your self doubt rise because every woman you come across is so perfectly put together. You have to stop and remember it's not the full truth; they too are painting a picture that masks the struggles they may be facing. It's what we do.

It's so important to be your own number one fan. Pat yourself on the back when you accomplish a goal. Utter words of wisdom to yourself in those dark moments. Believe in yourself!

As a single mum, I can’t allow myself to be complacent. I'm constantly striving to feed my passion so I can radiate joy for my children to mirror. Every action I take is setting an example for them. An example for other women who may one day find themselves cemented in a situation they only know of through news casts and blog posts. To those women I say: you are not stuck, you are invincible and worthy of everything you dream of. Even as a flower needs a gardener to tend to it, so does each of us need a friend to reach out to.

I do not know how to sit and be still, to watch a movie without brainstorming my next move. I am ever moving, stretching my branches out, and reaching for new soils. Just as a plant outgrows its pot and needs to be replanted into a spacious area, so does the woman bloom.

In the Spring of 2015 I learnt to walk with my head up. In the Summer of 2016 I began to shake the naysayers off like dust on an old winter coat, and by the Fall of 2016, I am beginning to put Me first.

Presently, I am ever blooming.

 

JOURNALIST: Natasha Badkoubei

IMAGE CREDIT: Aleah Clark

 

Your Unique Ingredients

Imagine you are making cookies to be displayed publicly. First, you combine the ingredients required to make it your own recipe. You are now presented with two options: you may place a blob of uneven cookie-dough onto your baking sheet as is and bake it, possibly resulting in a less-than-aesthetically-pleasing, oversized-but-still-delicious cookie. Or, you could roll out your dough, take your favorite cookie cutter, place it in the center, press, and there you have it – perfection. You’d likely choose the second option and prefer to keep cutting out the maximum amount of cookies possible. But what if I told you, you now have to throw away the remaining dough you prepared? What if I told you, you were only allowed to make one cookie and, because it was unable to fit into the cookie cutter, the rest of the dough you put the effort into making would be considered nothing more than scraps? You’d probably feel pretty disappointed. Some of you would mush your dough back up into the blob it was before you rolled it out, bake it, and own it for the wonderfully-delicious mess it is. While others would either reluctantly, or some even without hesitation, discard the remaining dough, and bake their single, perfectly-presentable cookie.

As a mother and a woman, like so many, I am guilty of comparing myself to others. I observe my ingredients – what has made me who I am, picking myself apart, focusing mostly on what I see as my flaws. I wish to be more like the people who have it all together – a better mother, wife and homemaker, to have a positive self esteem, to have a healthier, more active lifestyle, to be an organized person who thrives under pressure, and then to make all of those things seem effortless. These unrealistic expectations have me trying to fit into the outline of what I’ve been convinced a mother and a woman should be. I am often left with the same choice you were given with the cookie – do I conform? Roll out my individuality, take the cookie cutter, press, and take on the facade of perfection while leaving the rest behind? Or do I own my God-given individuality for all it is, flaws included, and boldly be?

Something I have learned about myself is I am unable to present just a portion of myself, because not a single part exists that has been left untouched or unaffected by each contributing factor of my journey. Therefore, I would be presenting merely a shell. Much like removing a key ingredient from a recipe, it would be an injustice to mask parts of my life that greatly contribute to who I am. My successes and shortcomings, my strengths and weaknesses, every obstacle I've overcome, both simple and complex, all enrich my story and individuality.

One cannot live an abundant life without acknowledging the life they lead in its entirety – to rejoice equally in both the differences and the similarities of motherhood and womanhood.

The trials I've faced thus far in my life have contributed greatly to my individuality. I reflect on times when a certain struggle I’ve faced consumed me to my core, rendering me utterly distraught and unaware of how or even if I possessed the strength required to maneuver through it. There was a weighted darkness over me in those times and whether or not this storm would make or break me brought anxiousness. How could I live up to the demands motherhood required of me if I didn't come out standing tall? Past traumatic experiences have created deeply-rooted afflictions, which in turn, brought a low sense of self-worth, and a great deal of doubt in my ability to succeed in any aspect of my life.

I feel myself suffocating under the pressure to be all society makes us mothers and woman feel we are expected to be. I struggle with my availability; pulled in so many directions with the children, their schooling and extra-curricular activities, work and keeping up a household for the people who depend on me. Sometimes everything else seems to be left hanging, as if waiting for me to notice. The pressure results in me missing potential daily moments of joy. But in the midst of it all, I'm challenged to step back and look from the outside, to observe how the ones I love most view me in my entirety – oh how their view of me differs from my own! At the moment when doubt overwhelms me and my shortcomings are all I see, they see every effort, all of my abilities, and love me for all that I am.

Every struggle I have journeyed through thus far has made its mark, but not in the way it once did. I'm learning to appreciate every part of who I am, including the parts of me unable to fit into the perfect outline of the cookie cutter. It’s in the ingredients I possess, like a dash of courage, mustered from the deepest parts of me. It’s the search of my soul for a teaspoon of strength to conquer this trying period. It's a cup of faith in believing I am capable when doubt attempts to derail me. It’s everything combined, and then surrendered to The One who is far.

JOURNALIST: Emily Earle

 

A Talent For Daydreams

Once there was a woman who breathed in the gleam of a girl’s eye. She sailed on fancy, and though her face was never entirely clear, the corridor towards her looked clear. She was a woman who glided from room to room effortlessly, her hair poured knot-free across her shoulders, and settled into one kind of curl. The woman had a voice like honey, which would not break when tested, remaining sound and solid. This woman had a figure which beckoned paramours to her gate, and she was the chatter of other fantasies who envied the ease of her being.

I have a talent for daydreams; the churning within me is silent, a revving motor propelling me forward, often opening doors to new realms of possibility and creation. And yet, this woman I sought was pure figment. I designed her to punish myself for some unknown deed, to silence the voice which said I might be enough. She was smooth and fine, not like my ragged, struggling self. Child, I chased her madly, recklessly, forsaking at times the woman I was naturally becoming. I was fixed on a faint target and absent in the moment. I desired to know her so I might rival her. As I chased her, she broke into a thousand pieces, and the world became littered with versions of who I ought to be. That wicked word, that minimizing beast, and this was my youth.

And so of course I never caught her. I longed for her always, and perhaps still, for there is a certain peace in naïveté which allows for the seeking of something outside yourself to replenish a well perceived as empty, and in need of filling. Oh, how I failed to see how full I was. How long it took to recognize the weight lying upon my heart, it was not emptiness but the heaviness of my worth. The woman of my dreams dripped in bits out my fingertips and toes, down my cheeks, and soaked pillowcases. She blew like dust between the cobblestones and grates, until the memory of her was pure whimsy. I am glad to have known her slightly, and proud to have let her go in the sunset of my youth.

I suppose I left the pieces of her in my wake, and in so doing I found myself, bit by miraculous bit. I cannot touch the moment I fell into myself fully. I have only the memories of who I longed to become, the burning pit of doubt, and flashes of authenticity.

And then there was you.

A jagged, fatal adventure towards a destiny called Mama. Pressed against you, the ghosts of the women I’ve released fall silent. In your eyes I see a reflection of immaculateness, and in the moment we were born I found a raging peace. I imagine we mothers are stars, and between us exists a string, which draws the constellations of our days, and stitches us together within the great fabric of the sky. But there is no shape without the lone star, and you have made the cloudy nights enchanted, for you are the moon that lights the darkness about us all.

It is imperative that you make space for this dispensable woman, for you will have one or five. She may be known to you, in boxes on a screen, or in the boxes of your mind. Let her haunt you, and dare you, and defy you. Feel betrayed by existence, and weep in the night as she dances off into the distance like a mirage. Someday, you will look up and find you are your wildest dream, for you became a most magnificent creation, and the drafts of your soul will shape your spirit into an inevitable magic. It is crucial you create her so you may know the truth: there is no aim so riotously exquisite as your purest self.

I have a flair for reveries, but your reality is beyond my imagination. Do not become the echo of a dream, child.

Burn matchless, you singular soul.

JOURNALIST: Adrienne Oliver

From Barren to Bikini Babe

I’ve never felt such a compelling energy of excitement and joy as when I knew I had babies on the way.  New life.  NEW LIFE! New life formed from a love and a lust that I was so lucky to have shared with my partner.  When you become a mother your heart opens to the purest form of love that exists in the universe.  However, at the same time, when you become a mother you become vulnerable, open to the possibility of the greatest pain imaginable and this is true far before your children are ever born. 

I have never cried so hard as when I lost my baby. So hard.  Guttural and raw and broken.  It’s an endless weeping that has echoed in every beat of my heart since that day 4 years ago.   I clutched my knees and laid barren in the darkest part of my life.  And when I dried my tears and finally came out into the light of the world, the darkness came along and followed me around as I recovered.   

Alone and lost and filled with anger; there is so much to be mad about in the days that follow any kind of loss, but a loss in which you feel your body is the one who failed, who do you have to hate but yourself? Again and again and again.  My body failed my babies. My body failed me.

“It wasn’t meant to be.  Move forward,” they said.  And I did my best to do so.  Again and again and again.

When you struggle to get pregnant, each cycle is a lifetime of emotion, too often ending in the familiar depths of disappointment and brokenness.   I was fortunate in that my reluctant journey with infertility lasted just over two years long which pales in comparison to the arduous bout that other families have endured.  In the end it was blocked fallopian tubes that had prevented fertilization.  Tubes likely blocked from the miscarriage itself—as if salt could ever sit more readily in a wound. 

But after all that, I was at last with child. 

The pregnancy was riddled with hyperemisis gravidarum and insulin dependent gestational diabetes.  But I didn’t care.  I learned to throw up in a cup while driving and overcame my fear of needles.  New life was gifted to me and I was extremely grateful.

And in the end, (or beginning), we were blessed with a beautiful and wild little boy.  Just like that it was over, and things were beginning anew. 

But I found that I still hated my body.  As much as I had the opportunity to be “over it,” I just wasn’t.  A deep resentment continued towards my physical form despite the happy outcome. 

When you hate your body, you don’t treat it very well.  You don’t nourish it or strengthen it or more importantly, send it positive messages.  It’s a pitiful place to be, really.  Add to that baby weight and it’s the suckiest thing ever.  There’s just no eloquent way to put it.

But I was trying. 

It’s funny how the promise of self-love is always just a few pounds away.  Along with that self-care we all very much need.  We tell ourselves that if we lose x-amount of weight, we will be deserving of a day at a hair salon or a flattering outfit.  And in the same breath, we punish ourselves, we withhold.  “No beach days until skinny!” was a big one for me. 

So my roots grew out, my clothes went rugged and my tan faded.  I further disliked what I saw in the mirror and in the process what I felt within myself.  Again and again and again.

But I discovered a little secret.

Without losing a single inch, a single pound, I grew to love myself immensely and was satisfied with what I witnessed in reflection... by simply deciding I’m worthy.  

Worthy of a fresh ‘do, a flattering bikini and a beach day, in the sun, with my beautiful blessings.  They deserved it, as did I.

Self love grows so readily from a planted seed.  Like a wild flower my happiness blossomed and caught on to all of my daily movements.  How I treated myself improved and in turn, my physical and emotional health increased.  Once I decided that I was worthy of being and feeling beautiful and sexy and comfortable in my own skin, I lost weight easier.  Once I saw myself as pretty-enough, I carried myself as such and others responded to me as more appealing.  Once people found me appealing, I felt more appealing. 

I've devoted many of my writings to this very subject.  And as the vines of growth stretch out in the sun I've become somewhat of a role model, having been featured for designer swimlines and various swimwear retailers and even a media outlet.  It's incredibly flattering and humbling at the same time.  People have reached out and thanked me for boldly sharing my body and my heart.  I've watched women step into the loving light of their own self-perception and embraced their bodies, finding a positive change in the process.  But possibly the most important individuals that I could inspire are my children, nieces and nephews.  They now see me love myself and hopefully they know it's okay to love themselves through all the physical changes they may encounter as they enter adolescence.  It isn’t boastful or conceited, because everyone is worthy of appreciating their self worth.

I look at the woman in the pictures and at times I feel disconnected from her.  She is beautiful and bold.  She is flawed but happy.  Sometimes I even think she's a total babe.  Yet the camera can't capture what the mirror often does: the darkness.  It’s still there.  Like the thread that runs through me; a permanent and essential stitch in my soul.  A part of me will always live in that space, and I’ve come to terms with that.  I’ve accepted that it was simply meant to be.  My baby was meant to come and meant to go.  Perhaps it was to launch myself and my family this new direction.  I will never know.  I do know that while my body may have failed me but my body did its best, as did I. 

And my body still deserves love. 

As do I.    

As do you. 

Written by Kelly Estrella