Learning To Love Myself

If you were given the opportunity to redo parts of your life, would you? Would you go back to your teens? Or would you go back to your 20’s? I’ve caught myself thinking about my life before I met my wonderful husband and before I had my girls. I would find myself asking, would I ever do it again?

The answer might seem like an easy one for so many. One of the biggest promises I made for myself was to always live my life without regrets. This was so important to me for so many reasons. I remember that first feeling of regret and how it made me feel, and that’s where I started to do some internal, emotional digging, and learned the tools I needed to cope and learn from each experience.

Growing up, I have had my fair share of being in the wrong places at the wrong time and making friends who made questionable decisions. Everyone around me saw me as crazy, reckless and wild. I was the “problem” child. I was labelled as defiant, and rebellious. These were the constant labels that I would often hear. But, was I actually rebellious, or was I seeking independence? No matter what outcome this had brought me, I learned from each mistake and learned things about myself that others around me wouldn’t have learned

Some of the best choices I have made and lessons I have learned were from pushing back, and making my own choices. Despite what others would think, I did choose my friends carefully. Despite what others thought, my friends were my village. I surrounded myself, and spent most of my time with my friends than I had with most of my family. I chose friends who allowed me to be who I wanted to be, without judgement. I surrounded myself with friends who not only chose their own decisions and their own path in life, but would never question my decisions or my paths. My friends, for the most part, were always there for me, when I needed someone the most. Early on, I knew how to look past questionable differences, because the choices that someone makes, doesn’t always translate to the choices I make. Everyday, we are making choices for ourself, consciously and subconsciously. Even though we can’t always control all circumstances, we always have the choice on how we act and react. This was something I remember that was not always trusted of me. From early on, it was easier for my parents to guard me instead of allowing me to experience and learn from them. When people hurt us, whether its from their choices, the choice is still ours even if we let it consume us, or if we choose to move on, and forgive. The choice to find something to numb the pain, run away from the pain, or choosing relationships with people who were wrong for you, are all choices we make.

I knew this all too well. Some of these choices I have experienced first hand, and others I have witnessed. I became very aware of my wrong doings and in so many cases I have allowed them to linger or have chosen not to correct them. I was not very good at navigating through challenging situations. I avoided shit outcomes of my poor choices.

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So, if I could redo parts of my life, would I? I would! But… The part that I would change would be to have learned how to love myself in its entirety. For most of my life, I have put others first before myself. I have learned early on, how to love others, but I was not very good at knowing how to love myself. From a young age, I was not very comfortable in my own skin. I struggled with appearance issues which led to unhealthy habits. I have found relationships in unhealthy ways. I grew up not feeling confident. Self-esteem was something that would drift in and out of my life. I never felt 100% comfortable in my own skin. I found ways to dodge pictures, even though I was outgoing and wanted to participate. I found excuses to not attend gatherings that involved swimming, where you had to wear a bathing suit. In the summer time I mostly wore pants and ignored the idea of wearing shorts, no matter how hot it was outside. There is no doubt that some of these issues stemmed from my upbringing. I would watch different family members express discomfort with wearing certain clothes and expressing vocally their discomfort with their own body. When they say that kids are like sponges, this is so true.

It wasn’t until I became a mother where I felt the most comfortable at being myself. I found comfort in my life with how my body is, now. I remember struggling with my weight a lot growing up, and what my weight was, consumed me. Now, that I am a mother, I have realized that weight should not consume your thoughts day in and day out. I have made a promise to myself that I would focus on “living in the moment.” Not just some, but all of it!

I am raising two young girls and the last thing I wan’t to display to them is how uncomfortable our body can be. By shifting the mindset from “I feel fat,” to the mindset of “I need to exercise more to keep my body healthy,” shifts the body image mindset. If I start to openly complain about how I dislike myself, my body and mind, this will translate to my young girls faster then I can predict. Part of my journey to loving myself begins with ACCEPTANCE. Accepting that I’m not like everyone else. Learning to love yourself begins with baby steps. Begins with ACCEPTING, RECOGNIZING, and GROWING with yourself. This will never be something that happens over night. I have to acknowledge and understand that this journey will be lifelong, and there will always be moments where there is doubt. So, one of my reminders is that my body carried and delivered 2 beautiful girls, and this is, and will be the new Me.

I have to remind myself that it’s OK to age, and that we all get older, despite what the media will show us. We are meant to age. It’s natural, and it’s ok for our weight to fluctuate. Staying healthy doesn’t always equal weight loss. There is no such thing as “perfect.” The word “PERFECT,” is so subjective, it should be removed from how we identify each other. What is perfect? What’s perfect to one person, is and will always be different to another person. We should look at people the same way we look at clothes. There are a million different styles, not one style is the same, and that’s ok.

I am here to set an example to my girls, that we need to embrace imperfections and remove the word “PERFECT.” I need to continue to love myself, and model that love to my girls. We only have 1 life to live, and we should be fulfilling our life with things that truly matter in life. I will never be like everyone else. There is only 1 of Me, in this world, and I am here to make the best of it. There is only 1 of YOU in the world, and that’s damn special!

I Can Do It

While I watch my 3 year old get ready for preschool, I’m watching her struggle putting on her boots. I offer to help her, when she interrupts me saying “no mommy, I can do it myself.” As I grit my teeth, anxiously waiting for her to get it right, I realize this is typical behaviour for any preschooler. Preschoolers are learning how to do so many new tasks, and as a parent I often forget that we should let them figure it out. As I watch my daughter figuring out how to do most tasks, and insisting on doing it herself, all of this has me thinking. I’ve come to the realization that I rely on doing so many tasks independently. All most, too independently.

For years, I have been overly independent. Dating back to when I was in my late teens, I made it a priority to move out on my own without help. I would work two jobs to make sure I was able to pay rent comfortably, and figuring out my post secondary school courses. When I was 19 years old, I spontaneously responded to a job ad in a local newspaper, to apply as an AuPair in the United States. Within a few months I was on a flight to New Jersey to move in with a family I had only met over the phone, coordinated by an organization I had only read about through a newspaper ad, ready to take on this year long adventure. When my time in New jersey was finished, I moved back home temporarily before moving again, working a few more jobs and relocating out of city to settle down and attend college.

It wasn’t until I was watching my daughter learn new tasks or go about her daily routine before I started realizing that not only does she have some very similar character traits as I do, it really had me thinking about myself, and why did I move around alot? Why was I so persistent to do things by myself? Why would I turn down help when circumstances would be so tough for me to manage by myself? Was it because I was too proud? Or was it because I didn’t want to burden a friend or loved one?

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To ask for help felt too gut wrenching. I had a hard time finding the courage or finding comfort asking. I remember when I was in college and my college money was delayed and I couldn’t pay my rent on time. Even under these circumstances I reached out to no one. I found myself skipping 3 days of college classes to work enough hours to cover my rent. When I had a college roommate who decided to move out while I wasn’t home and wrote me a faulty cheque for his last months rent, I reached out for no one. Whether it was money, help moving, or balancing various work and home life responsibilities, I find myself in various circumstances where I would tackle these tasks, and run myself so thin that I begin to feel like I’m a 10 year old laptop riddled with viruses trying to run windows. For some reason, I still find enough bandwidth to push through, no matter what it took to get there. Why was I doing this to myself? Why would I endure all of this pressure? It goes beyond a sense of pride. It was a way to hide that I was different from others. A way to hide that I carry a past.

What I was really doing was running myself too thin. I would refuse help, but internally stress myself out for taking on too much. I remember sitting down with an old therapist, when it was discussed that I suffered from Hyper-Independence. I know what you must be thinking, “is this a real thing?” It is. Hyper-Indepence is a real condition. It is a condition that develops when someone has experienced a form of severe trauma or chronic illness. For years, I have created this false notion that I had to prove I was capable, and to prove my value and self worth through all that I was capable of doing independently, instead of who I am as a person. This would caused me so much harm, than it was good for me. I would over do myself on many tasks, I refused to ask for help when times felt impossible, and when I would find the courage to ask for help, I would feel even worse about it. I would begin to feel worthless.

The road to recovery is slow, but constantly moving. My self worth is not measured by the amount of tasks I take on alone. I am learning to not fall into the mind trap that when I do eventually ask for help, it may not be accomplished in the same manner I have set out in my head, but rather it was done differently, and that’s ok! I was reminded to give others the opportunity to help me. I don’t have to do everything myself, and that it’s ok to rest. To be strong goes beyond how much you do. If you ask for help it doesn’t mean that you’re weak. In fact, this is far from the truth. Recognizing when I need help shows incredible strength. Strength and courage to ask. I would be lying if I said I followed these suggestions perfectly. What I can say, is that each day is a new day. The more I practise, and allow myself to accept help, with time I will be able to find a healthy balance of independence.

For anyone who is struggling whether its with Hyper-Independence, or various forms of anxiety, remember that you aren’t alone. Find someone you trust. Someone that you can lean on to ask for help. Let them know how they can help. Remind yourself that this journey is slow. It will take time for your trust, strength and courage to come. Give yourself patience. Once you get there, you will find that this will be the most mentally and emotional thing you have done.

Getting Through It

Sometimes I need to be heard. Sometimes I need to feel that my feelings matter and by feeling this way, it’s OK. Often times when I express various emotions to someone, my feelings often get lost along the way. Either the person I am expressing them to is perhaps going through something of their own. Perhaps the other person isn’t able to connect with me emotionally because they simply don’t understand it for themself. No matter the reason, I find myself going down a very dark and grim path. It comes with no surprise that last year, 2020 hit most of us hard with a worldwide pandemic. This really wasn’t something we were eased into. This came in full force, providing us with very little information and a lack of understanding. While it was expected to be a short term effect, it became over a long term effect. This is where I found myself struggling. Struggling to find balance. Struggling with change. I was feeling as though my strength to keeping it all together was being tested to its full limit.

I have learned a lot about myself. This pandemic has taught me so much. Even though I am feeling the struggles of finding peace with this year long change, I have gained STRENGTH, and WEAKNESS, and I’m proud of that. I know what you’re thinking, how could I have gained both and feel proud of that? Well, let me explain! I have, with all of you, had to adjust my routines and my lifestyle right down to the basics. This was something that felt incredibly foreign to me. What do you mean I am no longer able to see my family? What do you mean I can’t just hop in my car and browse a store? Wait, you’re telling me I have to wear a mask when I go out? No, you can’t possibly expect me to keep my preschooler home with me all day, everyday while we are also not able to go places. I had to learn the basics of teaching my preschooler and adjusting our daily routines while school was closed. This came with so many uncertainties while I was trying cope emotionally, struggling and waiting until I can see my family again. When can my daughter see her grandparents. Let me assure you, we did eventually adjust. I won’t sugar coat it, my days felt long, and my nights felt short, but I was able to get to know my daughter so much more than I did before. We took long walks each day. We played in our backyard daily, read endless amounts of books, made blanket forts, played games. I would be lying if I told you we didn’t watch Peppa Pig so many times that now I find myself questioning why Peppa and her family always seem to roll on to their backs when they laugh. I would be lying if I told you I haven’t seen Disney Frozen 1 & 2 600,000 times and no matter how hard I try, I still find myself humming “Let It Go.” Despite our abundance of TV watching, we did also learn so much. My daughter knows that birds eat worms, and whales eat fish. My daughter has also learned that she should never eat sticks, as our bodies cannot digest wood the same way beavers do.

As we approach the second year of this pandemic, I have realized that my strength comes from overcoming my own unknowns and fears. It wasn’t until June, 2020 where I finally felt comfortable with mine and my daughters daily routine. For once, I felt comfortable and confident with how I was managing with minimal reliance of my daughters school. I was able to force myself outside my own comfort zone for the sake of co- existing in this pandemic. That is where I have gained my STRENGTH. Strength, comes in all forms, and it varies for each person. Some of you might be balancing work and having a child home. Some of you might be adjusting school and work life balance or changing career paths, or adjusting to working from home, instead of in an office. Some of you might be homeschooling, while attending Zoom call meetings, all while trying to stop your toddler from putting their fingers in your office printer, pulling endless amounts of paper off your desk, or running around pantless in the background because today was the day they decided it was a no pants day. Whatever it is you might be facing, remember that even completing the day took STRENGTH.

Now, you might be wondering why I mentioned WEAKNESS? I will openly admit where I have fallen short is my patience. No matter how hard I try to always keep a positive composure, and my emotions in check, I have and still have a hard time with patience. My patience is running thin on how long it is taking for our family, for you, for society to get back to where we were at in 2019. My patience is running thin on having to explain to my preschooler the importance of using the toilet 100 times a day, so she doesn’t have an accident. My patience is running thin to watch Frozen 1 & 2 because its Tuesday, and I have yet to have “Let It Go” stuck in my head, today. I know I will get there. The process takes time. I have to remind myself that my daughter is happy, and, I am doing the best I can, with the STRENGTH I’ve got.

So for all of you all of you experiencing the heightened struggles that this pandemic has given you, please know that when you are faced with a negative impact or your emotions are feeling strong, know that there is something positive waiting for you. You can have STRENGTH while still figuring out your WEAKNESS. Use the power and energy from what is making you feel good, to move forward in baby steps. It’s ok to take that personal day from work. It’s ok to order take out because you know you can’t bare to cook another meal. You know your limits better than anyone else and you certainly don’t need to defend them to anyone. Parents; it’s ok that your child has watched enormous amounts of TV so you can take a break, or finish that work meeting. It’s ok that lunch meals have moved to the couch because a toddler meltdown is not what you’re capable of handling today. Accept the little changes that get you through your day because at the end of the day, you completed the day in one piece. Always find time to reward yourself. Adjusting your lifestyle is not an easy task, and you need to credit yourself for getting through it!