As I was writing my goals for this year last December, I resonated with one goal in particular: learning to love myself. My time as an intern here at The Love Yourself Foundation has been a wonderful and fulfilling journey and I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I am a capable, unique, and creative person. The Love Yourself Foundation helped me realize these are quality traits I have and I learned to love myself the way I am. I was never a nobody, and I believe every one of us is special, important, unique, and beautiful, just the way we are.
Regarding learning about self-love, I learned that there are many ways to be gentle with ourselves. We learned to love ourselves by embracing our personalities, taking care of ourselves both mentally and physically, and treating ourselves with things we enjoy.
Reflecting on this month's theme of forgiveness, There is something more meaningful and deep about self-love that I never pondered before: learning to forgive yourself.
As we go through a journey of self-love; we let compassion, grace, and patience in our lives, but what about forgiveness? I know forgiveness is not easy, especially learning how to forgive yourself.
I still struggle to forgive myself for being too hard on myself. Perfectionism has taken over my life growing up. I remember the negative words and mean comments others have said. I still remember the words they said to me:
“You are not pretty enough.”
“You are not good enough.”
“You have the worst sense of fashion.”
Letting go of these words is difficult. As people threw these verbal stones at me, I grew a perfectionist mindset. I often do things perfectly, in both academic and personal settings. I work hard to have the perfect grades, maintain a perfect work ethic, and wear the perfect outfits. Because I am afraid to get judged or get called names, being perfect is the only way for me where I can fit in this society. When I don’t get things done perfectly, I get frustrated easily. I didn’t allow myself to have a break or enjoy getting ice cream. I just did not want to stop studying or working on assignments until they were completely done. When I learned I was not completely being gentle with myself, I realized I needed help. I need help to stop being a perfectionist. I need help on being gentle with myself and finding forgiveness in myself again.
“I Watched It Begin Again”
During my time as a board member for one of the student organizations that I served on campus, I received such a sweet blessing from being on the team. This blessing is meeting a wonderful and sweet human being who eventually became my best friend. Not only do we share the same interest in Taylor Swift, but she is also the only person who always knows what to say. Her words of affirmation are the antidote that I needed. On the same day as our first hybrid event, I was having a tough day.I felt like I was giving myself a hard time because I could still remember the hurtful words others said to me. When I came to campus, I went straight to the computer lab at the Student Union. As I went inside the computer lab, my friend and I saw each other and she immediately gave me a hug. That day, I shared what I really felt and became vulnerable to my feelings about why I give myself a hard time doing things perfectly. I remembered telling her that the hurtful words and comments from high school still feel painful to me and it is never easy to get past this traumatic experience of being bullied by others. I was comfortable talking with my friend. Her listening to what I was feeling made me feel heard. She told me that day that the negative words from people were never true about me and that she knew what I was going through. She gave me comforting words of affirmation reminding me I am beautiful and smart and that I am enough. Having a loving and supportive friend who always knows what to say helped me find the path to stop giving myself a hard time and let go of being a perfectionist. Our friendship taught me that being kind and forgiving yourself is the first step in healing from the past. Just like one lyric from Taylor Swift goes:
“I watched it begin again.”
The insecurity and shame really took over my life growing up, and it is still hard trying to overcome the rough experience I had, but I learned that this healing will never happen in one night. Healing is never a straight line; rather it takes steps. Learning to forgive ourselves allows us a new beginning and lets unconditional love fill our hearts again. Forgiving yourself is being gentle and treating yourself like your best friend. Forgiving yourself is letting go of being a perfectionist and accepting that it's okay to not be perfect because we are all imperfect. When I accept the fact that I am not perfect, I begin to feel the love that I needed for myself and I stopped giving myself a hard time, instead; I allowed myself to make mistakes because I am only human.
“PEOPLE THROW ROCKS AT THINGS THAT SHINE”
When we are all beaten down by others’ words or comments, we give ourselves a hard time, but we need to learn we are never alone. One of my favorite lyrics from Taylor Swift called “Ours” goes:
Don't you worry your pretty, little mind
People throw rocks at things that shine”
Even when the memories of others who threw many negative and discouraging words about me still haunt me, I learned those words were never true and it doesn't define me.It is true that there will be people who will try to steal your happiness and bring you down, but I learned that you do not have to dwell on what they have to say because you are never alone. I learned that reaching out to someone I can trust helps me become and be free from being a victim of perfectionism. Whenever my friend and I plan to meet up at Starbucks or call on the phone, she always tells me loving and gentle reminders to take care of myself with something I love. Whenever I felt like I needed a break, I would turn off my laptop and grab a Chick- Fil- A meal to eat. When I treat myself with something I love or enjoy, I feel happy about myself and I accept the fact I am human and I did not need to be perfect. Receiving the reassurance of knowing that I am loved just the way I am helps me take the first step to forgive myself. As we learn to forgive ourselves, we begin our journey of self-compassion, grace, and self-love. As I accept the fact that I don’t need to be perfect at everything, I allowed myself to feel that compassion and love that I needed. I learned that giving yourself grace and compassion makes a significant impact on your well-being.
“You are what you LOVE”
Just like how healing is never linear, forgiving yourself will take time, and that’s okay. We need to allow ourselves to take the time and enjoy the things we love. Though the memories of the past still feel sore, learning to forgive yourself opens up the light to learn how to love and embrace yourself again. As the words from Taylor Swift once said,
“I wanna be defined by the things that I love
Not the things I hate
Not the things that I'm afraid of, I'm afraid of
Not the things that haunt me in the middle of the night
I, I just think that
You are what you love”
Friend, know that you are loved just the way you are and you do not need to be a victim of perfectionism. Whatever the past or struggles you've been through, know that it does not define you. The discouraging words you've been through may still hurt, but know that they were never true. Allow yourself to take time to heal and let that love fill your heart again. If you feel frustrated, take yourself out on a date or do something you love and enjoy. This could be being with your loved ones, going out for a walk, or grabbing a lunch or dessert with friends. The friendship I have with my friend became a new beginning for me to let go of the hurting of the past and really step into that daylight of love and self-forgiveness. As we continue our journey with self-love, we should never forget to forgive ourselves. By learning how to forgive ourselves, we can watch ourselves begin again and bloom into the person we want to be.
About the Author
Charlene is currently an LYF marketing intern and is in her final year at UNLV studying Psychology and minoring in Couple and Family Therapy. She is currently involved a lot on campus and in her church. She is currently part of UNLV’s Dean’s Student Advisory Council, 1st Generation Club, Psi Chi Honor Society, and Psychology Club. She is also a co-mentor for the UNLV Graduate Rebel Advantage Program. Charlene also devotes her time as Young Women’s specialist at her church, where she gives guidance and support to young girls ages 12-18. In the future, she either wants to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist or School Psychologist, where she hopes to continue to help others and break the stigma of mental health. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family, friends, and her goldendoodle named Winston. She is also a huge fan of Taylor Swift, loves to journal, and enjoys clothing and fashion.