Learn to Love Yourself | My Story
Before I get straight in to this – TW: I talk about being unwell and misdiagnosed, I also share some post operative pictures.
So, I’d love to tell you that learning to love yourself is all meditation and spiritual awakenings. I mean, they do come in to it eventually, but there’s also nothing quite like a near death experience to put things in to perspective. I’ll get you through that story as briefly as possible. Then we will jump in to real life tips you can put in to place to FINALLY start letting go of growling ten times a day at your boobs/cellulite/wrinkles or whatever your perceived flaws.
The Big Scare
I’ve lived with a condition NF2 all my life, it causes tumours to grow on the nervous system. In 2018 I was getting sick, I didn’t know what it was. I begged, pleaded, had blood tests, visited the GP, and had two trips to a&e before a 3rd admission when I couldn’t walk or see located a giant brain tumour. Cue to 2 weeks later, I woke up from a 9 hour surgery feeling better than I had done in the last 9 months of begging to be heard. I was battered, bruised and well, a bit baldy. I had had about a third of my hair shaved off, and had two black eyes for weeks.
Learning to Love Myself
I so desperately wanted to be well and “normal”, I wrapped my cold baldy head up, and dragged myself out that hospital 4 days post op. From then on, I found it scary to be out in public being seen in the state I was in, until I realised I was wasting my time. For gods sake Amy you nearly died, you’re here to tell the tale and you care about how you look? On reflection, seeing my loved ones wave me away into surgery while they cried, and having them care for me with a big old ugly head that got even more bald with stress – made me realise that all that matters to me in life, is love.
The next part, admittedly wasn’t easy. Society has ingrained in women our whole lives, be thin, be pretty, have big hair and even bigger boobs, have a tiny waist, a huge smile and kissy lips. So as much as I told myself just be grateful you are alive, I struggled to get over the fact my body was forever changed. It’s almost 3 years later and I’ve still not quite got my hair back, and my head has got tissue damage which is a bit odd looking.
Over the years though, I started asking myself some questions to really help me understand what exactly it is that I was feeling, and how I could stop feeling that way. I’ll ask and answer them here, I truly hope this is beneficial to you.
Who, except for me really cares about how I look?
Well short answer, nobody. I am still loved by the special people in my life when I can’t even wipe my own butt. Yep! The world didn’t end when I was too weak to get myself the loo and back, the fact I had hair like a broken fork didn’t stop me being loved either.
But…coping with stares from strangers… I started staring back for one. And then it occurred to me, just how interested AM I by the way other people look? As it goes, not at all interested. I mean, I enjoy fashion, make up, celebrities etc seeing what is fit or shit. But I can admire all bodies, wrinkles, cellulite, acne and rolls galore. It was at that point, I realised – sure enough most people are the same as I am, they just don’t care.
That won’t stop them staring of course, but it made me realise something. People are just curious like me, how boring it would be if we all looked the same. I find myself staring too often than I care to admit. I’d hate for anyone to think I stare because I disliked them in some way – I usually stare because people are so beautiful, unique and fashionable I am soaking up their style for outfit inspiration or thinking “fuck me you’re fit”.
Just remember – people care more about the way THEY look, rather than the way YOU look.
What does it really matter how I look?
I asked myself this, and honestly I struggled to answer this one. Really though, the deepest most profound answer I could find to this question was that it makes me feel happier out and about. Yes, my looks matter most to me when I’ll be seen in public. So I remind myself of question one.
But it also made me realise, my looks don’t equate to my value as a human being. I am not loved, surviving, making friends and doing nice things with my life because my ass is juicy (it isn’t but w.e). Pretty privilege is a very real thing that does help people get ahead with more opportunities and chances of course. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that those people are happy, loved or fulfilled in their life does it?
I’d much rather spend my time working on increasing my value as a person, either in a job, as a mum, a wife or a daughter. Because nobody has ever had their eulogy say “Bridget, died peacefully, eaten by Alsatians – GREAT TITS”.
Nourishing my Body
One of the biggest changes I made to learning to love myself is a bit of an odd one I think. It is a two fold approach, and I think this was the biggest turning point for me.
I changed my diet to see if I could improve my health. I am not a fan of diets, I just wanted a healthy lifestyle. So, I cut out sugar and processed foods. Not completely, but enough to make me feel more inclined to dive out the bed of a morning. My day to day eating looks a little like this – if 80% of my food intake is for nutrition and health purposes, I can have 20% left to have things I enjoy. Doing this has been 100% the best decision I ever made. You can read about the side effects that had on my health here.
Changing my diet in this way, and seeing the effect it had on my mood, my skin, my hair, my energy, managing pain, and my renewed zest for life floored me.
I started to think “WOW” my body is amazing, just look at what she can do when I treat her right. So I thought about changing the way I speak to myself, because treating yourself right means emotionally as well as physically.
Changing my diet gave me a new found appreciation for just exactly what I am capable of. I started to think about focusing on what I can do, not what I can’t do, what is right about me rather than what is wrong with me.
Finally, I focussed heavily on speaking to myself, the way I would speak to somebody I love. If you can get in to the habit of being this kind to yourself, stopping your thoughts in their tracks and asking “hang on, would I say this to my sister?”, is an absolute game changer. You’d never stand in front of your sister and tell her her bum is too big, or her hair is too frizzy would you? So why on earth would you do that to yourself?
I think I had a bit of a spiritual awakening too – I won’t bore you with the details but it left me with a thought. My value is not determined by how I look but how I make others feel and what I can bring to the world. My body is just a vessel that carries my beauty inside – that’s my soul, it is who I am and what matters.