Have you ever looked at a mirror but somehow avoided your reflection? I did that for a while. I would find myself making sure I looked presentable, but I avoided actually looking at myself in my bathroom mirror.
My body showed stretch marks and weight that just kept adding up. I could see my medication in the reflection and I did not want another reminder that I needed help to get through my days. My husband’s towel was just behind me, and it reminded me that I had avoided a good morning kiss by faking being asleep. I didn’t want to see the woman I had become because it was painful. What happened that I didn’t want to even smile at myself anymore? I had stopped loving myself.
I know “self-love” is such a common theme in today’s culture, but what does it mean, and what can we do about it when we sincerely can’t fathom loving who we have turned into over the last months or years? I don’t have the answers to that question (I’m sorry if I disappointed you), but here’s what helped me and what I hope can help you if you’re struggling to look in the mirror these days.
From the Outside In
One day I found myself struggling to fit into my leggings. My leggings, y’all. Who struggles to fit into a gift to women of all shapes and sizes? I reached for my phone and finally reached out to the new rowing studio 10 minutes from my house. It was the middle of a pandemic, but after hearing about their precautions, I was willing to try a class out. Rowing was out of my realm, but after that first class, I knew I found the right activity to begin moving again. It’s been four months, and I’ve hit two major milestones. The scale has barely budged, but my leggings fit, and my favorite jeans no longer give me a muffin top! My energy levels are up, and I’ve found the perfect workout for my competitive personality. I even started yoga again, and I feel more limber than any other time in the last six years. I found what worked for me and gave me a physical release for all the self-hate and tension I was storing in my body.
I am a firm believer in moving your body with intention. Whether it’s a short walk for fresh air (or a break from screaming children when your partner can hold down the fort without you) or calculated workouts of yoga or strength training, there is an activity that you can take up to help your body. When you begin moving your body and appreciating what it’s done for you (like lifting up children or simply breathing), you are on the way to loving yourself again.
Getting My Mind Right
I had to start therapy again. I thought I had it under control, but after one too many blow-ups in front of my daughters, I knew I needed to get back on a healthy regimen. I continued taking my medication, but now re-coupled it with therapy. I talked out my anxiety and issues I had been pushing back below the surface. I just needed to release what was in my mind without feeling judged. I cried a lot, and I even felt ashamed for having to “take a step back” after making so much progress just months before. You know what, though? I felt a new release and was able to begin pinpointing new triggers and reframing them to not place as much value on them.
Are you struggling with feeling overwhelmed? Do you need a break? Take a moment to do an inventory of what is truly going on in your mind. If it feels like therapy needs to be scheduled, do it. If it feels like you need a prescription for depression or anxiety, there is no shame in taking a pill to help ease your mind. If it feels like you need help, please never hesitate to let someone know that you’ve reached your limit.
I Love My Husband, But . . .
I was a terrible wife for a few months. I would pick fights or challenge him in the worst of ways. I even told him that I needed space – I mean, in the middle of a pandemic, space was just one flight of stairs away, but it is what it is. I was sabotaging my marriage because I was simply not happy with myself and didn’t feel worthy of it anymore.
I know I hurt him— a lot. It wasn’t until I finally reached out to an older couple that I was asked some hard questions which I wasn’t prepared to answer. They met with us monthly (outside and socially-distanced) during the worst of the pandemic. We learned that miscommunication and missed expectations were what challenged us the most, and we’ve found ways to manage both of those. After nine years together, five years of marriage, and two children, we are still nowhere near a perfect couple, but we are in love, and we choose to work for our marriage every single day.
There you have it – three practical ways I started to love myself again: moving my body with intention, unashamedly investing in my mental health, and learning how to stop self-sabotaging my marriage.
I still struggle some days. It’s not easy, but I have two daughters looking up to me and never want them to feel my same hate. When I pass by a mirror in public, I check myself out because why not? Oh, and I even invested in a full-length mirror for my master bedroom. When I look in a mirror, I no longer say, “This is as good as it’s going to get,” but instead, I smile (sometimes it’s forced) and throw out a “Hey, girl, hey!” It’s been a challenge to reframe my mind and go from hate to love, but I am worthy of it, and I hope you know that you are worthy of love, too.