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When I was a little girl, I didn’t obsess about my thighs.
I didn’t worry about what people thought of me.
Nor did I wonder if I was pretty or smart enough.
And, my thoughts about self-love…
I don’t think I thought about myself much at all.
I was too busy loving life…. and living it!
Running. Playing. Laughing. Enjoying.
But then, something happened.
Suddenly, my conversations with friends that used to always center around our excitement about our life and future were replaced with what diet we were trying next, the latest exercise to tighten our thighs, and how we loathed our cellulite.
And then something horrible happened:
Instead of celebrating each other…..
We began to feel immense envy towards each other.
Our once free-spirited and life loving radiant beings faded into sad beings.
We began to drown in the sea of unworthiness.
And this wasn’t just within my group of girlfriends – it’s an epidemic that has gripped most of Western society.
Now here we are:
Women who have lost their joie de vivre.
Because love is what we all desire, we often find ourselves attempting to get love through our actions.
By trying so hard to be good enough.
By trying so hard to be impressive enough.
By trying so hard to be beautiful enough.
And the result?
The more we chase it, the harder it seems to find.
We desperately try to get it from others. But that’s just impossible. Your husband, children, parents, sister, best friends, they cannot give you love. In fact, no one can give you love.
Love is an emotion, and the only person that can create your emotions is you.
What a hot mess this has become for us modern day women!
Of course, we can blame the media, our childhood, our ex-husbands or whoever else for why this has happened. But blame doesn’t get us anywhere. This blame simply keeps us stuck in the cycle.
You are always the source of and the barrier to love. Love is a feeling, one that you’re always creating or resisting. This includes the love you have for yourself.
How does a woman love herself?
Well, this is the million dollar question.
Something that should be so simple has become extremely complicated from years of running the “I’m not enough” tape in our heads.
And, we believe that we must fix it in order to heal it (or at least I did).
However, when you’ve spent years, maybe even decades, being your own worst enemy, it’s not the easiest thing to fix, right?
I knew something was wrong with the relationship I had with myself. So, like many women, I read books and more books on the topic and immersed myself in all things that I was told were in the name of “self-love.”
Being the good student that I am, I did what I was told to do.
I stared in the mirror and chanted mantras:
I love you, beautiful!
You’re amazing, darling!
You are fabulous, sweetie pie!
Then, immediately, I’d roll my eyes and think:
You’re such a liar.
This is silly.
Who are you kidding?
But, I was committed to figuring out this whole self-love thing.
So I did more of what they said:
I scheduled pedicures and massages….. because that’s what I was told a woman who loves herself does. Plus, I like pretty toes, so this seemed like a no-brainer.
What happened next was fascinating.
As I was sitting at my local “Love My Nails” salon, I began to notice “the voice.”
The woman sitting beside me was decked to the nines and looked so important. I instantly thought, “I’m such a loser.” Yes, I had fabulous red toes and was wearing my stylish yoga clothes, but it looked like my plan to immerse myself in self-love had escaped me once again.
During my massage, “the voice” showed up again. All I could think about what the therapist must be thinking when she was fumbling along the back of my legs pressing around my cellulite. The hour passed and I realized that I’d been so in my head that I didn’t even enjoy this self-love assignment. And this uncomfortable feeling reminded me of the $150 I had just wasted at the spa!
I noticed “the voice” again a few weeks later when my friend sent me a deck of self-love cards. Following her recommendation, I pulled a card each morning. As I read the lovely quotes about a woman’s beauty, strength and what’s possible, I realized that the creator of this deck clearly did not have me in mind when she made them.
I kept searching for more and more self-love:
I went to therapy.
I worked out.
I was so far from that little girl I once was — the one who loved to have fun, enjoyed people and was SO curious about the world.
Self-Obsession is the antithesis of Self-Love
Years ago, I was having lunch with my friend, Janet. She’s an elegant and passionate woman. To me, she is the epitome of a woman who loves herself. So, I thought I’d dig into her head to see how she figured out the whole self-love thing.
I asked her, “Janet, how did you learn to love yourself?”
Her reply was the surprising secret I’d been looking for.
“Um, I don’t know. I don’t really think about it.”
I’ve always believed that if you want something, you need to learn from those who already have it, so I wondered:
What? Could it be that simple?
Did I simply need to stop focusing on it?
Self-obsession had created my lack of self-love and trying to love myself was keeping me there.
How do I look?
Am I smart enough?
Do they like me?
Am I thin enough?
Why do I keep failing?
What do they think of me?
A life of “me” and “I” is a pretty lonely life.
It left me feeling disconnected from not only myself, but life.
My company isn’t called French Kiss Yourself.
(that would be a little weird, don’t you think?)
It’s called French Kiss Life.
That’s on purpose.
What if you stopped trying to love yourself?
I know that this may seem like a crazy idea, especially considering that we are told that it’s the holy grail of an amazing life. And, I’m a huge advocate for self-love. I want every woman reading this to love herself.
But, I want you to consider that the way we’ve been going about it may be more damaging than supportive.
First of all, let’s first look at what Self-love really is.
It is described as, “regard for one’s own well-being and happiness.”
Does putting life on hold until one day when you feel good enough seem good for your well-being?
Does trying to fix yourself make you happy?
Does staying stuck in toxic patterns feel like self-love?
Ironically, the way I went about “loving myself” did the opposite for me.
By focusing on trying to love myself, I was constantly reminded of the fact that I didn’t.
Finally, I realized…
The most loving thing I could do for myself was to stop trying to love myself.
It’s ironic, I know.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my approach to self-love was causing me to constantly focus on my lack of it. And what you focus on, grows.
It’s like the person who can’t become rich because they are constantly feeling poor.
Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.”
He’s a smart fella, so I figured that I needed to heed his advice.
My mind had clearly created this, so I needed another approach to this whole self-love thing.
I’ve come to understand something really important in life, and it’s this:
The best way to create anything is to act as if you already have it.
During that conversation with my friend, Janet, after she revealed that she didn’t really think about self-love, she told me something else.
“I’m happiest when I’m not thinking about me, but thinking about how to enjoy my life.”
I started to think about the other women in my life that didn’t seem to struggle with themselves as I did. Every single woman of them had full lives — hobbies they enjoyed, causes they were passionate about, things outside of themselves to focus on.
Janet didn’t realize it, but she’d handed me the secret to self-love, which ironically was to stop focusing on it.
Instead of self-love, I focused on loving LIFE.
In thinking of Einstein’s quote, I realized I needed to create a new mind to get me out of this mess.
I needed to think from the place of already loving myself, and that woman is loving life.
I needed new experiences to help me see myself and the world differently.
I needed to start living — insecurities, faults and all.
I wanted to find things that filled my heart, interesting people to converse with, things to learn.
And, I definitely needed to stop chanting mantras and reading books to remind me of how broken I felt.
I needed to love LIFE.
So, that’s what I started doing.
I went to back to school to get my Liberal Arts degree because I’d always wanted to learn about philosophy, religion, film and the arts in general. I hosted 6-course dinner parties where I’d spend weeks planning all the details, right down to the perfect playlist. I played tennis in the afternoons after I got off work. I volunteered at my daughter’s school. I took cooking classes because deep down, I wanted to be the next Julia Child.
I also hired my very first coach who didn’t ask me to do more of the same. We didn’t spend hours on the phone talking about why I was the way I was. We did explore the beliefs holding back, but in the end, she challenged me to do things that pushed me out of my comfort zone. New experiences created ways of thinking.
I accepted life’s grand invitation to step out into life and fall in love.
Every day, we’re given so many opportunities to love our lives.
Just this morning, I woke up and felt SO much love for the smell of coffee that Glenn was brewing for me. I loved the puppy kisses that wake me up each morning. I looked over and saw a text from my daughter that made my heart swoon. Then, I turned on Rhye on Pandora and there was that feeling of love again.
Not once did I think of loving myself. Instead, I found myself enraptured with actually feeling love.
You see, when I made loving my life my daily focus, I felt a deep inner reawakening.
I started to come alive because I no longer felt separate living in the dark crevices of my own mind. I stopped the self-obsession that was driving me mad.
It’s from this place where I started to feel connected to everyone and everything.
Need a guide? Your Inner Best Friend has a Love for Life
Now, up until this point, you may be thinking, “Well, Tonya, this sounds great. Is it that easy?”
The answer is no.
Change is hard, which is why a lot of people never do change.
To be clear, for me, this transformation was not an overnight epiphany where I woke up one day and said, “Yes, today I am going to LOVE my life.” The end. This is my lifelong practice. There have been many days of thinking I’m broken and wanting to retreat from my life. Of course, they are far and few in between now, because I’ve become a completely new woman. But, it still happens.
This is why I’m such a huge advocate of learning how to be our own best friends.
I don’t know about your besties, but mine? They refuse to let me wallow in my own suffering.
It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting at home telling yourself the “not enough” story, the best of friends are the ones that walk in (without knocking) throw back the covers, tell you to get out of bed and get dressed and pull you out of your own misery.
They remind you that you have a life to live — trips to take, people to meet, laughter to be had, movies to see and a world to discover.
That’s what I did for myself day after day when I committed to loving my life.
Sure, the voice of unworthiness was still with me, but at least I wasn’t sitting at home waiting for her to shut up before I could leave my house or try something new.
Even today, she’ll come pay me an unexpected visit. Just like she did a few weeks ago:
One of the biggest annual events in our small mountain town was coming up, and I had plans to spend the whole weekend with Glenn.
I was SO excited to dance the night away with my guy. All of our best “couple” friends were going to be there, and we had made all of the pre-planning arrangement together. I had my gorgeous sequin dress picked out. The dinner rezzies had been re-confirmed. And, I’d been running fantasies in my head for days about how great the evening was going to be, all of us together.
But then, the day of the event, Glenn became sick. And, I heard “her” start to rear her head. She loves to run the “self-pity” tape that says things like, “Woe-is-me, you poor thing, nothing ever works out for you,” and, “Oh, you suck.” Do you know that tape?
I could feel myself being pulled into my old self — the one who loved to suffer:
“I’m just going to stay home,” I told Glenn.
“No, you’re not,” he argued back.
This went on for about 15 minutes.
And then I channeled my inner best friend.
Her message was clear:
“C’mon girl, put on your dress. We’re going out tonight.”
And, that’s what we did. By the end of the night, my heart was so full. Yes, I loved life that night. And, I loved myself for not sitting at home feeling sorry for myself.
Through living, the voice of self-loathing begins to fade
In the beginning, I carried that part of me that was addicted to suffering everywhere.
In fact, we traveled the world together. We’ve hung out in a lavender field in Provence and snorkeled in St. Barts. We’ve attended networking events together. And, oh, did she love the time I mispronounced the French wine “rose” like the flower during my first day in sommelier school.
You’re so stupid!
Who do you think you are?
Just go home before you embarrass yourself again.
But, I kept showing up. And, as I did, something crazy started to happen.
When I stopped trying to fix myself and focused on creating myself, things began to change without all the hard effort.
My state of being was changing. The energy I was transmitting to the world was on a completely different level.
And, that nagging “not enough” voice in my head?
It started to fade and another one another appeared.
It was the voice of my childhood.
This reborn part of me said things like:
That was so fun.
I’m so proud of you.
Look at your living! Go, girl.
And, then more miracles started happening.
I began to lose weight with ease.
I was happier.
I started receiving crazy opportunities out of nowhere.
Ones that seemed like fairytale fantasies of my dreams.
My GOODNESS! I think I love myself
In all that living, I fell in love with the part of me who…
…does things scared.
…is imperfectly perfect.
…puts on a beautiful dress and dances all night.
…does things even when I don’t feel like it.
…walks into a room and thinks of others.
…follows her curiosities.
…is there for a friend.
…screws up and tries again.
…looks for things to feel grateful for.
…does the best I can.
…loves people with a big heart.
…jumps on a plane and travels.
…throws dinner parties.
I am living my life as I did when I was a little girl — enjoying and appreciating the world around me.
And along the way, I began to appreciate the woman living it.
It’s truly miraculous.
Breathe the love back into your life.
Mary Oliver said, “Are you breathing a little and calling it a life?”
I am a testament that you can breathe fully even if you don’t love yourself (yet), and with each deep breathe, you may discover that you are breathing the love and life back into yourself.
I’ve come to understand that we all have that voice in our heads and if you focus on fixing it before you live, you’re in for a miserable life.
If you’ve been struggling with self-love giving you what you want, do this:
Book a trip.
Go outside for a walk.
Watch a sunset.
Take a class.
Join a club.
Listen to music.
Set a goal.
Do something that challenges you.
Find things to appreciate and love.
(And, yes, I’d even encourage pedicures and massages just because you deserve it!)
Get out there and LIVE!
And, I bet that one day you’ll wake up in the mirror, like I did, and say,
… and not break out in laughter.
You’ll really mean it.
In all that living, you will fall in love with the part of yourself that is greater than that voice in your head and has the courage to go out there and French Kiss Life.
This is what happened to me.
It’s been a grand romance ever since.
This is my love story.
JOIN THE CHIC CONVERSATION: What’s your love story going to be? Share some ways you will love and live your life starting today.