This post is an entry in the 2nd Stratejoy Essay Contest. Throughout the next month, we will be featuring each finalist writing their answer to the question: What would your TED Talk Be? On September 13th, we will open the voting to YOU, our community, to select the winner of the $500 prize.”
*Learning to Become + Love Who You Already Are*
I remember the moment very clearly.
It was 4 AM. I was walking across campus, alone, and sobbing as I struggled to return anxious texts from my freshman year roommate.
WHERE ARE YOU? The texts inquired.
Where was I?
How about, who was I?
I was a girl who until that moment had hated herself entirely, ferociously shackled to the beliefs that: I was fat. I was unlovable. I deserved absolutely nothing.
How had I gotten there?
I had been the loud girl, the opinionated girl. I had been the girl who was too much, took up more than my fair share of room. I’d had my spirit broken by bullies, coaches, and strangers – people who said, “But honey, you have such a beautiful face, why…”
Why would I let myself look the way that I did.
As if who I was, was the anti-thesis of beauty.
As if I was unworthy of the lives that I saw blooming all around me.
Until that point, I had permitted myself to be defined by other people’s expectation of who and what I was. I dieted, binged, exercised, cried, camouflaged, begged, pleaded and made promises with myself: you will begin again on Monday, for real this time.
I had done everything that I possibly could to get rid of myself, of my excess, of my deeply held shame around my lack of self-worth.
I had put myself in this situation, where at 4 AM I was walking home from some guy’s room. I had carefully positioned myself there out of my desperate yearning for validation. I had bargained with myself – he’s really not all that bad.
I had said nothing at all, when I had wanted to say no – believing that it was the quickest route from where I stood to being able to leave his room.
I had said nothing at all, because I had believed that I didn’t deserve to be picky about who I was lucky enough to have pay attention to me.
I said nothing at all, because I had believed that moment – a walk of shame across campus with tears streaming down my face – was all I could get.
I remember that moment, because it was the exact second that I realized I had to pull my shit together.
When I asked myself this: Is this how you want to live the rest of your life?
The answer was a quiet, but certain, no.
Learning to love yourself doesn’t happen over night. It is the quiet accumulation of everything that happens after that moment when you realize that you have to do something or you will continue hating yourself forever. It is the process of thawing from a lifetime of self-imprisonment.
At first, I felt as though I could crumple under the sheer weight of responsibility I had inherited.
If I could design my life any way that I wanted – how would I want it to look?
If I could just choose to love myself, unconditionally – how much effort would that require on days that all of the evidence to the contrary piled up and threatened to bury me?
If I could begin on the process of becoming who I already was, and living that life out loud – in the presence of others – what would that entail?
I had lived with myself for 22 years, and I felt like I was sitting with a complete stranger.
Once I began listening, the answers kept coming: it would require much less effort to simply permit myself to be myself, than it had taken for me to try to be something I wasn’t.
I started writing, and with ever word, I felt myself expand from what I had been trying to make myself to who I already was.
I wrote down every single experience that I had held, over the years, so close to the chest that not even my best friends knew. The time the frat boys called me a whale and chased me from their party. The time I had gotten so weak on the Atkins diet, I almost fell down a flight of stairs. The times I had been taken advantage of, when I had been to scared to say no.
With each word, I felt my spirit lighten.
It was possible. I was possibly worth more than I had been giving myself credit for.
You will not learn to love yourself over night, but you will learn, every day, how to love yourself a little bit more.
You will soften into becoming the product of your experiences – taking the best from them and forgiving the rest.
You will put down your emotional luggage and learn to rest for a bit.
If you make the decision to take a chance on yourself – the chance of truly embracing who you already are – you will begin to know your own worth.
That you are worth anything that you can imagine for yourself.
That you are worth trusting.
That you are worth loving, in that gorgeous I just want to shout from the rooftops how madly in love with you kind of way.
That you are worth far more than you’ve been giving yourself credit for.
Mara Glatzel is a self-love coach + author of Body Loving Homework: Writing Prompts for Cultivating Self-Love.She works with women who are ready to create the lives they want — and deserve. Her blog — Medicinal Marzipan — has inspired thousands of women to heal their relationships with their bodies, and treat themselves with relentless compassion. Catch up with her on facebook, twitter, or join her body-loving mailing list for secret swapping and insider news. .
*This post is an entry in the 2nd Stratejoy Essay Contest. Throughout the next month, we will be featuring each finalist writing their answer to the question: What would your TED Talk Be? On September 13th, we will open the voting to YOU, our community, to select the winner of the $500 prize.*