The term self-love is rife nowadays. We place so much importance on it but what does it really mean to love yourself? I suppose it’s going to look different for everyone because we’re all struggling with our own demons; battling hateful thoughts that spring up out of the shadows of our minds and self-depreciating meaningless words of our psyche. Sometimes it’s hard work being in our own head, amiright?
I’ve become a huge fan of Podcasts lately (I’m always late to the party…) and, whilst listening to The Psychology of Eating, they made an excellent point regarding self-love vs. self-hate stating how, very rarely, we are motivated to make positive changes to our lives or ourselves beginning with a foundation of self-hate. In fact, if we really want to see long-lasting results in our lives, we need to start with loving ourselves first.
This really struck a chord with me and has completely changed the way I view things in relation to exercise. I am a fucking Cardio Queen. I love it. Running is my fucking thing…and, often, it’s the best therapy I know. On many occasions I’ve left the house in a shit mood and, seven miles later, I’ve come back a changed woman. Endorphines, eh?
However, even though I love the crap out of running, after listening to this podcast, I realised that sometimes my running is less about actually exercising to feel good but exercising as a form of punishment. In relation to the self-love vs self-hate debate, it definitely, at times, has had the basis of self-hate.
Back track to 2011 – the beginning of my University years –
I had always wanted to start running but I never really had the confidence to start. The thought of (trying) to run around my local town where – heaven forbid! – people could see me struggling was just too much for me to bear. In the end, I parked the idea and promised myself that, come University, I would start. Besides, the first term of University was a blur of shit food and cheap booze nearly every night. When you have a lifestyle that revolves around socialising via food or alcohol, you’re gonna add a few pounds and, naturally, I gained weight. Starting to feel a little uncomfortable in my body, and realising my lack of exercise wasn’t healthy for me, ya girl started running. (I was so fucking terrible. I thought running in converse trainers was OK.)
Thankfully, I’ve learned that Asics are better than Converse for running and my breathing has sorted itself out so I don’t sound like an asthmatic whale dying on a beach.
However, what about my mindset?
Well, that hadn’t been so easy to shift and I still found myself using running as a means of sweating off excess calories and reducing my guilt in – GASP! – enjoying a fucking dessert…
Surprise surprise, like most women, I have struggled with body image for as long as I can remember but, hearing that Podcast and being told how constantly berating yourself isn’t the best way to motivate yourself, I realised how much I was missing out on simply enjoying exercise as a means of celebrating my body. It was too easy to slip into the mindset of being unhappy with my body image and rejecting myself, instead of praising the fact that I have the liberty and privelege of running freely whenever I want and however far I please. In such a negative, hate-filled frame of mind, I had to run because I needed to burn off those extra calories. When I was forcing myself to do something that I didn’t feel like doing and constantly punished myself the entire time, mile by mile and minute by minute, it became something I would fucking dread after a long day in work.
So, my little epiphany came after listening to this wonderfully fucking liberating podcast. I was out for a run and I had decided to push myself that day; let me tell you, I really wasn’t feeling it. I was so tired, my legs were heavy, and it was as though I was running through mud. I just wanted this run over and done with as soon as possible because I was so fucking done with the voice in my head that was reminding me of all the shit food I ate the night before. My run was being shadowed by this feeling of dissatisfaction with myself and it was horrible…
So I slowed down my run and cut through the bullshit thoughts. I’d had enough. I thought: “Fuck this. Just stop! Stop chasing results. Stop hating yourself. Appreciate how your body moves. Feel how powerful your legs are in this moment. Enjoy the feeling of your heart beating with such strength and the cold air rushing in and out of your lungs. Be here now, in this moment, with yourself, and enjoy it.”
That moment was so powerful. My god I can’t even describe the feeling but it was like someone had cut some chains loose. There is something about self-love that just re-centres us. There is this element to it that is so mindful, immediate, and beautifully compassionate, about self-love. You see, hate operates in fear – it worries itself with what yet hasn’t happened or concerns itself with false perceptions. It operates in the mind and not necessarily in reality. It works with ‘What If’s which are not always accurate.
Love, however…love sees things for what they are, in the immediate moment, and meets them with compassion. When you choose self-love, you choose now, you choose compassion, you choose patience, and you choose awe and respect. You choose yourself, as you are, as a divine and beautiful human being who is still learning but, in this moment, is doing their very best. There is something so wonderfully liberating about this process that it brings such an overwhelming sense of relief and joy.
Back to that moment during my running…From the moment I chose that level of self-love, of positivity, and of just being with myself in that moment, I moved from the chaos of my mind and started to flow with the stream of Well-Being that is available to me at all times. I had one of the most satisfying and longest runs I have had in such a long time! All because the pressure was off and I was able to just enjoy me. I was able to feel the power of my body moving, the breeze on my skin, look at the world around me rushing by, and all the while I was just enjoying my body moving so freely.
Since that day, I have fallen back in love with running. Like, so fucking much. I love to feel my body move and, when those negative thoughts come creeping back in, threatning to make me feel like shit, I always bring myself back into my body, back into the present moment, back into the flow of just enjoying myself. Now, I want to explore more exercises for the first time in my life. I want to try Yoga to see how that feels, I want to do more weights to feel my body strengthened, and I went swimming the other week just to feel my body move in the water. Before, I didn’t want to try new exercises because it was just another means of punishing myself but…now…well, I want to try them all because they’re another means of honouring myself.
This can be translated to anything we try in life. Sometimes we push and push ourselves for the wrong reasons and it’s just another form of self-punishment. It looks different for everyone because we’re all living very different lives. Maybe there’s something you need to slow down, recognise, and choose to love yourself. Maybe it’s stopping working those late hours, or maybe quitting your shitty job altogether and doing something you’ve always wanted to do. Maybe it’s simply carving out some time for yourself and leaving the housework for another day. Just cut through the bullshit mental coach yelling internally telling you how much you suck and have to prove yourself. You don’t have to prove shit. You are divine as you are.
So, in essence, I am a convert. I want to make self-love the basis of what I do and, if I don’t enjoy something, then I allow myself to not enjoy it and move on to something I do love. No more punishment. No more rules. Just love.