It seems like everywhere I turn on social media and in-person these days, I keep seeing examples of how our pain, challenges, and life’s adversity can change us at the very root of who we are.
“We grow through, what we go through.” (unknown)
These words, these seven everyday words, said in such a way means so very much, and hold such a strong message. They are a simple truth.
When I look back over the last few years, I realize more and more it was those hardships, the times of struggle, pain, and difficulty that pushed me to my limits and beyond. That is where growth happens. It was during those times where I experienced the biggest changes or shifts in perspective and my outlook on what it is to live this thing call life.
I don’t know about you, but my new year begins in September. Maybe it’s from the conditioning of growing up and starting a new school year in September. As I write this and look back to September 2014 to September 2015, I’m not the same person. I was angry, in pain and exhausted both physically and emotionally. Looking in the mirror hurt as much as the tear in my hip and bulged disc in my back. My acne covered face, left me feeling ashamed and embarrassed to the point I didn’t want to leave my house. I felt like a freak of nature. I was depressed, and hurting in every way possible. I wasn’t sleeping. I was cranky and sad all the time, and really, just completely worn out. I hated myself. I was no fun.
Those 12 months were, without a doubt, the toughest time of my life. I was looking everywhere externally for relief from the pain in my hip and back and the pain I felt when I looked in the mirror. I went from doctor to doctor, looking for remedies while I threw handfuls of Advil in my mouth. I was trying everything to “fix” my skin from diet changes to Chinese acupuncture and herbal remedies to strong antibiotics. What I wasn’t doing was listening to my body, and I wasn’t paying attention to myself talk. I just kept beating myself up time and time again. Of course, it was my fault for having OA, my fault for the torn hip and sore back. I was ugly and hated myself more and more with every new outbreak of acne.
Nearly eight months had passed; I had spent that time spiraling deeper into a state of self-hate. It was around this time I stumbled across the body image movement; this was the wake-up call I needed. Ever so slowly I began to grasp the connection between our self-image, self-talk and self-esteem and our overall health. How we think, feel and talk to ourselves directly affects how our bodies and mind thrive, or how they wither and decay. More and more pictures were popping up on social media about self-love. You know pictures like the one below, they were everywhere in my news feeds. I had even come across an article posted by Eat To Perform, were Paul Nobles Jr. said, “You have to strip down in front of a mirror and have a good cry if necessary…You can’t hate yourself thin.” Hmm, you can’t hate yourself thin? You can’t hate yourself happy, pretty, skinny? Well, Paul was right. I know, I tried that approach for 30 years! You can’t hate yourself and expect to have success, whatever success means to you. What you can do, is hate yourself into a broken, depressed and unhappy state of mind and body.
I starting paying more attention to how I talked to myself and that was when things began to click. That emotional pain I’d been caring around was the source of so much physical pain. You may recall, that little self-loathing body-hating monkey on my back? That monkey was a weight on my shoulders, constantly reaffirming the self-hatred, shame, and worthlessness I felt and he had to go! The only way to get him off my back was through the pain. I couldn’t hate him away; I had to look within and understand why he had been hanging around all these years. I had to learn to love myself as I am right now, not conditionally when I lost x number of pounds or was size x, and not when the acne went away. It was only then when I was able to begin love myself, would his grip loosen enough to let go.
The monkey still hangs around my ankles these days, but I don’t feel his weight on my back anymore and that, is a relief. Eventually, he’ll be gone for good.
So I wonder, how has the last year changed you? What are those things you say to yourself? Is there love and compassion when looking in the mirror or when you make a mistake? I hope so, but if there isn’t, know you aren’t alone, but you can start to change the conversation with time and practice.