To love myself, or not love myself – that’s the question

This week I’ve been participating in Mel Wells Self Love Week. Its been five days of Instagram challenges designed to get us thinking differently and encouraging us to love everything about ourselves. I’m not going to lie – it’s been hard! But it’s got me thinking and taken me out of my comfort zone, and as the saying goes, it’s only there where we grow.

For me, self love is about feeling comfortable and confident in my own skin. Knowing who I am and accepting all of it, good, bad and everything in between. Being able to say I have boundaries, and when it feels like they’re being crossed doing something about it. Knowing what I need and going out to get it, or not being afraid to ask for it. Knowing looking after myself has to be a priority, and that self care isn’t selfish. Without looking after myself I’m no good to anyone – you can’t give from an empty cup! Something we talked about in #theinspiretribe recently was the idea that actually, you can't give from a cup that isn’t overflowing otherwise anything you do give is taking from you and ultimately that’s no good for anyone.

Being told by others that you love yourself is an insult, its implying you’re all ego and think you’re better than everyone else, that you’re not interested in other people. But that's not what it's about. We're trained from an early age that self love is wrong. But why? If we don’t love ourselves how will our self esteem and confidence grow so we can go out and live the lives we dream of? Without some self love we feel guilt at spending time on self care, and then we end up run down, stressed out and in downward spiral. That’s certainly been my experience in the past anyway!

So how have I got on with the challenges this week?

Day 1: One thing I love about myself

Well this one wasn’t too bad, I chose to focus on things I’m proud of and characteristics I like about myself, rather than my body! That said, its far easier to list all the things I don’t like about myself, and I know that’s true for a lot of people, not just me. I picked bravery. For most of my life I associated bravery with being fearless, but that’s really not the case. Its about overcoming fear, about feeling afraid but doing it anyway. My fear of heights was getting out of hand and impacting on my daily life, so I decided to take the bull by the horns and did some crazy things like paragliding and skydiving. Yes, they were terrifying and on both occasions the fear was almost paralysing. But I did it, and actually loved it! I still don’t like heights, but I know it doesn’t need to scare me so much anymore, not when I’ve done things like that! It’s a great thing for me to remember whenever I feel fearful or anxious – I know I can get past it if I put my mind to it!

Day 2: I’m proud of myself for….

Not giving up. I could have given up several times over during the worst of my CFS/ME, but I didn’t. Its had an enormous impact on my life, but its taught be a lot about myself and others too. Nowadays I have a much bigger appreciation for things I used to take for granted. And I think that’s something to be proud of.

Day 3: Treat Yourself

Treats to me automatically make me think about junk food, sitting an demolishing an entire packet of gluten free biscuits in one sitting then regretting it and feeling rubbish, physically and emotionally. This challenge was about treating ourselves with something other than junk and booze! On Wednesday I finished work early (a perk of flexi time and being home based!), put on a face mask, and put my feet up with a cup of tea. And didn’t feel remotely guilty! It reminded me that treats don’t have to be food, or big, flashy and expensive, and that actually the little things can make all the difference.

Day 4: I love my body because

Well this one was the hardest of the week by a long way. Because I don’t love my body. I usually describe it as broken thanks to CFS/ME, so how could I possibly love it? It doesn’t feel like my own anymore, it doesn’t feel like it fits with the fire in my soul. But after some thought I realised that there a lots of things it does for me that I’m grateful for. Its very good at telling me what it needs, even when I don’t listen properly, and it shows me huge gratitude when I eventually do. It now lets me practice yoga and that always brings me joy. And sometimes it even lets me dance around the house to cheesy pop songs singing along (badly!). So maybe, just maybe, I do love my body really. I’m just not great at showing it, and don’t always remember.

Day 5: I’m manifesting my big dream of….

This one brought up two immediate reactions for me – excitement and absolute fear. Excited at the prospect of my big dream, and the fear of it never happening or me not deserving it, or not being good enough. But the fact is, I’m already working towards my big dream. I’ve got a website and am busy cooking plans. I’m facing the fears head on, and taking baby steps forwards all the time, regardless of how daunting it might be or what other people might think. Not everyone around me gets it. But that's OK! I’ve set up a virtual book club – the thing I spent so long looking for but never found – where we read and discuss all things personal and spiritual development. We’re only on our first book, but I have big dreams for where this will go, where one day we even have some of the authors themselves talking to us. How awesome would that be?! Maybe one day I’ll even write one myself. I’d love that so much! Check out the book club here if you want to know more!

And there’s the dream about the Fatigue Network I run. At the moment it’s a volunteer thing I do as part of my “day job” and I love every second of it. I want to set up something similar in the “real” world so I can help more people find the support they need. I wrote a blog post about the network recently – you can find that here.

So, have I made it? Do I love myself? Erm…yes and no. This week has shown me there are definitely parts of me I love, am proud of and have faith in. There are still things I need to work on though. But I’m getting there, and that’s what counts.

What do you think about self love? Do you love yourself?