How I Learnt to Love Myself
Inhale, Exhale & Repeat…
First, this is not intended as a sob story, but it is a personal one. Like most teenagers, I struggled with life. I had extreme highs and extreme lows. Even from a very early age, I remember having the lows… Simply writing this down is making my heart pound in my chest, sending shivers right through to my fingertips. I never truly realised how much the past had affected me until I started talking about it, writing about it. And then it shows – as clear as day. I feel anxious putting myself in that little girl’s body again – and in her mind. We all know people can be cruel, but what we forget is that we are a lot worse to ourselves.
By the time I was 14, I was staying out late, drinking with friends, smoking drugs – trying to have a good time. And I really did enjoy myself a lot of the time but there were also many times when everything felt forced; the smile on my face felt painful; the conversations that came from my lips felt uniform; I felt completely numb. I stopped having ups and downs.
And that’s when I started to hurt myself. I’m still not sure why to this day. Does anyone truly understand why? Perhaps it was to feel. Perhaps my inner soul was screaming for help. Or perhaps it was because I had never learnt to love myself.
I have come to a realisation: we are never really taught to love ourselves – quite the opposite. Being happy about the way you look can be considered “self obsession.” Being good at something may be seen as “showing off.” I had a natural gift for sports and I put my soul into it. It made me feel good. I especially loved gymnastics! I would help out at my club, teach the younger girls, and then practice myself. I would often hear others my age saying, “She’s just showing off now…” And I couldn’t understand why. I was just practicing gymnastics at my gymnastics club… Nevertheless, I began to feel ashamed of myself for being good at something. It’s no surprise then, that I eventually started to dislike myself – and I am not alone. Self-dislike may not be purposely taught, but it is what we learn – and there is not always enough to counter it.
One week before my 17th birthday, I tried to kill myself.
I clearly remember the feeling of shame. I was so embarrassed about letting my parents see me like that. The journey to the hospital in the ambulance is all a blur, but I do remember thinking: I want to live! From that night, I never hurt myself again physically. But mentally I still had a lot to do.
Five years of college passed by; moving out, relationships, work – they all happened. But I still had to work on myself, but I didn’t really know how. At the time, I was just happy to be (somewhat) stable!
My discovery of YOGA was just around the corner.
At 22 years old, I had two jobs – and I lost both in the space of a week. Thankfully, I wasn’t screwed; my partner (now husband and father to my beautiful son) was able to support us both until I found something new. A couple of months passed by, and I started to feel an overwhelming darkness creeping its way in. I was bored (I had worked full-time since leaving college) and I felt completely useless. I also got frightened – scared that my 14-year-old mind was gaining ground. I had to do something. I WANT TO LIVE!
So I started simple. I reminded myself of how much I loved gymnastics as a child. I
wasn’t in a position to go to a club (I wasn't even sure if there was one for adults). Instead, I started to stretch from memory. And I discovered how good it felt to move my body again. I started searching for “stretches” online, and that's where I found yoga! I’d never paid yoga much attention before – it was just an unfamiliar word from a foreign land. In any case, I began watching YouTube clips and copying the moves. I didn’t even have a mat at that point. And that’s the amazing thing about yoga; you don’t really need anything apart from your body. But I did buy my first yoga mat after a while, as a treat. And I got on that mat every day. I followed all the yogis on Instagram. I downloaded an app on my phone (a vinyasa flow app – not that I knew it back then). And I was hooked! It gave me purpose.
I felt strong!
If you’re feeling lost, which we all do at times, just bring your focus back to you. Ask yourself, “How do I feel today? Who am I? What do I love? What makes me feel good?” Really get into that thought process – no bullshit, no ego, just true self.
Every morning, before you start your day, ask yourself, “How do I feel today?” And, however you feel, allow yourself to go with, knowing that it’s okay. Then ask yourself, “What will make me feel good today?”
My husband bought me a yoga book and – wow – I realised there was so much more to yoga than just moving my body! I learnt about the yoga “way of life,” and that is when I began to fall in love with me.
The book taught me that my body is beautiful the way it is, and that my mind is amazing the way it is – whether I’m happy, sad or angry; it showed me that it’s okay to feel those things – because I am human! I no longer beat myself up for being me. Acceptance and forgiveness was a huge deal for me – and the most important lesson I learnt.
Seven-years strong with the practice, I am even more in love with yoga and myself. I am so blessed to be able to share the practice with others – and I only want to dive deeper into the practice and learn more. Forever a student of this beautiful thing: YOGA!
I accept the things I cannot control, I forgive myself, I love myself, I respect myself.
Inhale, Exhale & Repeat…
Yoga May <3