My goodness. I remember with no fondness at all how over the decades of being overweight and struggling with binge eating, I was told that I had to "love myself" first. It was as if someone was speaking a foreign language to me, quite frankly. I actually thought that by feeding my every whim when it came to cravings and binges, that WAS loving myself. That loving myself meant that I would allow myself whatever I wanted. And that in turn would, "make me happy".
At first, truth be told... it sort of did. The bingeing was a great soother. I didn't like that I "had" to binge, but it did the job, provided that anesthesia I needed. I knew it was anesthesia, even as a teenager. That it was a suppressant much like cough medicine. It was a "keeping down" not of coughs, but of emotions. And that was just fine with me.
Over the decades as my bingeing escalated out of control and became true addiction, I was still being told I needed to love myself first.
I have a better idea about what that love looks like now.
Self love is about self regulation. It may feel like denial, but it is not. Self regulation is an adult's way of determining what is healthy and what is excess. You love yourself when you are able to say, "I love cookies. I will have three cookies. I will not have thirty cookies". It's like self parenting. If your own child comes to you wanting cookies, you are not going to put thirty on a plate. You are going to allow them the pleasure of it without the excess. We need to do that for ourselves too. And of course, there are so many different ways we can show this sort of loving restraint toward self. With food and drink, with our non-essential purchases, even with the words we choose to use when we talk to others...and ourselves. They all require adult thinking, not childish thinking. And it is tough because I truly believe that where we first began our disordered eating life, me at 13... there is a psychological stunting of growth there. I was bingeing like a 13 year old at 50 years old, at 55.
Right now "love of self" means eating healthfully and also allowing myself treats. Exercising sometimes when I don't feel like it (because that's what adults do) and also realizing when my body needs a rest. Making either of these choices is a gift of self love.
There is something to be said for "putting on our big girl panties". Change is hard, but change can happen. We don't have to LIKE change as it is happening. Believe me I still would like to eat thirty cookies. But there is such a shift of mind body and soul when we can say, "not today". And we can show ourselves that we can do this "not today" for many, many days.... until there is that "new normal".
That new normal is beautiful. Restraint feels like independence, where being out of control used to feel like it. Eating healthy can be beautiful and you can talk about a stupid avocado with as much love as you did a piece of chocolate cake. One self restraint builds upon another. Your self esteem rises and also, your scale doesn't. You show yourself who the grown up YOU really is. And you delight in her.
I don't have the answers. I still struggle at times. But I swear to you it has been months and months where I look in the mirror and beat myself up. It never happens anymore. And I didn't even realize I wasn't doing it! I just naturally began to feel more peaceful. More accepting. More acceptable. And I grew to love myself. It wasn't that ego-driven love of, "YOU DON'T KNOW HOW GREAT I AM!!!". It is a mellow, mature, "you are doing your best". Doing my best has been the most self loving thing I have ever done for myself.
Do your best. It's not easy, but if it were, everyone would be doing it. It's because it is hard that it makes you dig deep. That digging is tiresome. But wow, the diamond you may find if you keep excavating... it will make you a billionaire in your heart.
God bless your efforts.