My journey to self-love started when I began counseling in July of 2017. I had reached a point where I realized I could go no further on my own, and was able to put aside my pride and seek help. It was a huge step for me, deciding to bare my soul and spew my demons in the hope that maybe, just maybe, I could at least learn to manage the despair, rage, and derision that was taking over my life once more.
I lucked out with my therapist. I wanted to psychoanalyze every little thing, obsess over possible reasons for why I was the way I was, and rant about how I was never able to live up to my own expectations. She didn’t allow that.
Slowly, consistently, she taught me how to let go and move forward. Somehow she knew that knowing the ‘why’ was not what I needed; trying to figure out the ‘why’ is what kept me stuck for so many years.
“I want to understand!” I would say to myself. “If I can just understand what’s going on, I can fix it.”
But I couldn’t. The more I tried to understand, the more I tried to pick myself apart, the worse I got. I guess that’s what happens when all you begin to see are your faults.
She also helped me tackle some core beliefs that I had managed to gloss over for the last several years of my life. I refused to acknowledge them, but they still informed my everyday decisions. Shall we see what they looked like?
- If I feel good about myself, I’m not looking hard enough. I am deluding myself and/or letting Satan delude me and lead me to hell.
- Women are lesser. They are more weak-minded than men.
- I am worthless. I was born worthless, I will die worthless, and the only thing that makes me worth anything is being a “Believer” (my church’s term for a true born-again christian, who follows their doctorine).
- A man is the head of the house.
And one of my personal favorites,
- Christians are either hypocrites or they are blind sheep being led by blind sheep being led by wolves.
Whoah. That last one still rocks me. I didn’t even realize I held that belief until I wrote it down. But once I did, a whole lot of things started making sense.
The bitterness I carried in my heart was eating away at my ability to love not only myself, but those around me.
The church that I was raised in shaped me more than I wanted to admit. Intellectually, I knew every single one of these beliefs was formed by my experiences in the church. Intellectually, I knew they held no water outside of the church’s paradigm. So why did my heart still hold them close? Especially so long after I had given up church for good?
It turns out that the ‘why’ doesn’t matter. I didn’t need to go digging through my soul trying to find the traitorous part of me that held onto those beliefs. I didn’t need to prove to myself that I was ‘clean’ of the church’s influence. So long as I made the commitment to address them as I noticed them pop up, I didn’t need to go to war with my psyche.
This didn’t make any sense to me at first. Not at war with myself? Impossible. I’ve always been at war, ready to beat my faults into a bloody pulp just as soon as I could ferret them out… and that’s when I realized-
I went looking for them!
This entire time, I went looking for reasons not to love myself! I went looking for reasons to be dissatisfied with myself, and thus my life. Those beliefs kept me trapped in a self-hating, self-berating, self-loathing mentality that was beginning to extend beyond myself; I felt those emotions toward people I sincerely loved, and I hated myself for it. Vicious cycles inside vicious cycles inside vicious cycles.
It took a lot (read: another year+) of work to wrap my head around this concept. Restructuring my core beliefs is an on-going process, and likely will be for the rest of my life.
As it should be.
We’re here to grow, and growth requires restructuring old beliefs and habits as new experiences come in. Examining myself is no longer a battle for me, it’s a way to fall back in love with myself, with my curiosity, and with my never-ending desire to know “Why?”.