The only relationship you will have for your entire life is the one you have with yourself! You really do need to learn to love you because you will always be with you. No matter how hard you try to escape, you will always be there, so you might as well get along!
Learning to love myself was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do. I was raised to believe that loving yourself was narcissistic, egotistical, and self-serving. All of which were sins. I was also led to believe that I was not worthy of love.
A little back story, again. I was 6 months old when my birth mother died of a massive heart-attack. I was the youngest of 9 children, but at the time it was only the youngest 4 living at home. After Mom died, life became very difficult for us kids. The four of us, aged 13, 12, 2 and 6 months were left without any parents. The older girls would wrap up us little ones in blankets and set us on the front porch of our house while they went to school. They knew they had to go to school because they were terrified of the Truant Officer coming to the house and finding us all living alone. Everyday, they would steal from local corner stores to feed us. I should also mention that this happened during one of the worst winters in Ontario history. This is how we lived from December to March when CAS finally found out the truth. All of us were taken into Foster Care. The older sisters remained in care until they aged out and us little ones were adopted together.
We were adopted by a woman who felt the pressure of complying with the social status that a woman must have children. She was unable to have them on her own. She was not equipped to raise children.
I learned much later in life that a child must bond with her parents in order to develop safe, healthy bonds later in life. I had been abandoned by my birth mother (I know she passed away, but my 6-month-old mind did not understand this). I then went to 3 different foster homes in the span of a few months before being adopted by a woman who was unable to love anyone outside of herself. In my first, very pivotal year of life, I had developed an attachment to my birth mother, who died, my older sisters and a few foster moms, who disappeared and landed in the arms of a woman who would have preferred a doll. This, my friends is what they now refer to as Attachment Disorder*.
*Attachment is the deep connection that is established between a child and their primary caregiver that profoundly affects the child’s development, their ability to form strong social bonds and manage their emotions.
I also struggled with loving myself because if your own mother doesn’t love you, are you even worthy of love?
Celebrate Life’s Little Moments
I truly didn’t understand love until August 12, 1991. I remember the day like it was yesterday. That was the day the doctor placed my daughter in my arms, and I looked into her perfectly tiny face and knew I was finally home.
It still wasn’t until years later that I discovered this thing called self-love.
My second daughter began struggling with self-harm at the age of ten. She tried to hide it, but the school found out and called me. My husband and I dove right in to finding solutions to her struggle. We spent years dragging that poor girl from one therapist to the next. We tried everything! Nothing seemed to help. Her self-harm was getting more serious, requiring stiches and somehow, I wasn’t able to accurately communicate with these specialists to get her the help she needed. I remember having a conversation with my husband one evening and expressing to him that if I just new how to speak the right language, the right buzz words to get her the help she needed.
I had to learn the language! So, at the age of 40, I enrolled in college to study addictions and mental health. My Honours Diploma says Addictions & Mental Health, but it should say ME. This is where I learned more about me, who I am, what I am capable of and the power I possess to create the life my family deserved.
As it turned out, there is a very specific language you need to use in order to receive the mental health care you require. But more importantly, I learned that I needed to love me in order for my daughter to love herself.
Our children learn to navigate life by watching their parents. You can talk to them until your blue in the face, but if you are not walking your talk, they won’t either. My daughter’s greatest struggle was self-love, so I needed to learn to love my self, so she could learn the same for herself.
Was I worthy of love?
There was a huge internal struggle here. I had the subconscious belief that I was not worthy of love, so how could I possibly love myself? I challenged myself to create a list of 40 accomplishments that I had achieved in my 40 years. That is only 1 for every year. Surely, I could fly through this list in a breeze. NOPE! This was hard as fuck!
My list started with the obvious:
✓ Honours Diploma in College
✓ 2 beautiful daughters
✓ A healthy marriage
Then I was stuck. I really had to look at the things I had achieved that I knew others wished they had. What had I done, that would inspire hope in another woman?
So, I started over:
✓ I survived the death of my mother
✓ I survived being homeless before my first birthday
✓ I survived Foster Care
✓ I survived a narcissistic Mother
✓ I survived suicidal thoughts
✓ I survived rape
✓ I survived a physically abusive marriage
✓ I survived a mentally abusive relationship
✓ I survived being a single mom
✓ I survived repeated traumas
✓ I survived a broken neck
And my list grew from there. In about 30 minutes I had my 40 accomplishments and man did I feel good. I realized that I am proud of the woman I am, the journey that brought me here. The highs and the lows were all part of my process. They were all necessary to prove to me that I was strong, capable, relentless, driven, successful and most of all, worthy of love.
This simple exercise was the beginning of my deep relationship with myself. I am so proud of everything I have accomplished, and I am grateful for every step of my journey. As my love and appreciation for my self and my journey grew, so did my daughter’s. We both celebrate this journey!
Don’t get me wrong, I still have moments where my self-talk is horrific, but these are merely moments. I am now able to recognise these and remind myself that it simply isn’t true. This negative voice in my head is named after my adoptive mother, because it is her voice. I tell her to shut the fuck up. Her opinion is no longer valued or required. I now know the truth about who I am, where I have been, what I deserve and where I want to go next!
My daughter’s journey of self-love is taking her to beautiful places, and it is an honour to bear witness.
Task – Personal Accomplishments
Make a list of everything you have accomplished in your life – one for every year you’ve been alive!! If you are 39, then you need 30 accomplishments.
Don’t ever stop adding to the list. Each year on your birthday, add the biggest accomplishment of your previous year. Be proud of what you have done and how far you have come. Take a moment and truly celebrate the woman you are TODAY!! Celebrate YOU!
Download Chapter 3 – Celebrate YOU!
Don’t forget to join us at The ME Factor to share your journey!!