To Love Yourself “As Is” (Part 1)
“Be kind to others,” they told her.
“Be kind to yourself.” She didn’t hear much of that.
Maybe they assumed she just would be. But despite the radiant smile on her face, the voice in her head said, “Not good enough.”
It wasn’t enough.
It was never enough.
For years she tried to reach perfection’s highest rung, but she missed again and again and again.
And then she had little ones of her own. At first their messiness and mistakes reminded her of her own imperfections. She found herself losing it over trivial mishaps and typical kid issues. But living in the shadow of fear and inadequacy was not the life she wanted for her children. She made every effort to see beyond their mess and mayhem. And in her children’s disarray, their humanness, and in their silly little quirks, she saw something worthy of love and forgiveness. She offered them love without condition and restraint, and when she did, their little faces glowed with validation and acceptance.
To love someone “as is” was a gift, she realized.
So whenever her children messed up she’d say, “Be kind to yourself. Everyone makes mistakes.”
As the children grew, they started saying it to themselves and to each other. And one day, when she burned the bottom of the crockpot, the littlest one said it to her. “Everybody makes mistakes, Mama. Be nice to yourself.”
She wished someone had said it when she was young. But it wasn’t too late. Thirty-eight years of being unkind to herself was enough. It was quite enough.
“Be kind to yourself.”
“Only love today.”
She began saying it. Sometimes 100,000 times a day, she said it.
Only Love today.
Only Love Today.
Be kind to yourself.
She says it now.
Because it’s not too late.
To Love Yourself “As Is” (Part 2)
The mantra was working. “Only Love Today. Be Kind to Yourself.” Those empowering words were silencing the bully in her head. There was a crack of light. She could see the next steps.
She decided to stop beating herself up over past failures.
She decided to stop re-playing mistakes over and over in her head.
She decided to be open about her shortcomings, real with her humanness, and generous with her apologies.
“I don’t always get it right, and I never will,” she honestly admitted to herself.
But that was not something to be sad about because there was a silver lining.
Even on the days she didn’t get it right, her children were still learning valuable lessons about life, persistence, determination, failure, compassion, authenticity, grace, and forgiveness. Even when she wasn’t getting it “right,” it didn’t mean her children were going to turn out all wrong.
Her humanness allowed her children to be human.
Her courage to keep showing up gave her children courage to show up.
Loving herself despite her failures, flaws, and imperfections gave her children permission to love themselves “as is.”
As a result, her children discovered much sooner something she wished she’d known all her life: You can’t see the silver lining that comes from falling down until you get back up.
But she sees it now.
She sees it now.
Because it’s not too late.
If you follow me on The Hands Free Revolution page then you may know I posted these two pieces separately over the span of several weeks. I didn’t realize they were two halves of a whole until I noticed the similarities in reader responses.
“I needed this today,” was written again and again and again. I received personal messages from both an eleven-year-old girl and a seventy-two-year-old woman who confirmed these words knew no limits, no boundaries. “I needed this message,” they both wrote.
I’ve come to this conclusion: it doesn’t matter who we are or how much we have accomplished, there’s a lot of beating up going on inside our heads. There are a lot of people walking around feeling like they aren’t doing well at anything … in any area … at any time. And because of this realization, I am compelled to add one more part to this story: the how part.
To Love Yourself “As Is” (Part 3)
Learning to love myself “as is” didn’t happen overnight. This process began when I started my Hands Free journey almost four years ago and is chronicled in my book. However, it wasn’t until very recently that I realized I have been doing something very powerful to love myself “as is.”
I’ve begun to see good in the parts of myself that I thought were bad. You know that drill sergeant I strived to get rid of when I was learning how to live Hands Free? Well, that is a part of me that I have come to love and appreciate because it helps me tremendously in certain circumstances. When I am trying to meet my publisher’s deadlines, relocate my family to a new state, or get a messy house in order for an unexpected showing, my inner drill sergeant always saves the day! I am learning to love a part of me that I thought needed to be extinguished. This is healing and freeing.
I’ve also came to love that overly sensitive side of me that I used to chastise for being a thin-skinned weakling in need of some toughening up. I’ve found myself saying to that part of me, “I love you. You cry when others cry. You remember to ask people about the challenges they are going through. You listen and care when someone speaks.” It is because of that sensitive part of me that I feel life. It is that part of me that allows me to articulate through my writing what others feel but cannot express. I am learning to love a part of me that I thought needed to be abolished. This is healing and freeing.
Seeing my once perceived “weaknesses” as positive attributes in certain situations allows me to look at myself with more kind and loving eyes, just as I do with my children.
I am not saying I don’t have bad days; I do. But the tendency to go easy on myself is stronger than my tendency to bully myself. This is significant because it used to be the other way around. My knee-jerk reaction was to criticize, condemn, and not-good-enough myself to death. That was a brutal and hopeless way to live.
Four years, my friends.
It’s taken four years of baby steps to get to this place of loving myself as a whole. But it began with a single mantra: “Only Love Today. Be Kind to Yourself.”
Those words shut down the bully and threw me a lifeline.
And when I grabbed it and pulled myself up, I saw two little girls looking upon their authentically messy, hopelessly flawed mother with love in their eyes and relief in their chests.
That’s when I saw the silver lining. It shined so brightly I could see every blemish, every imperfection on my tattered soul.
I couldn’t have hidden them if I tried.
But I didn’t want to–I have two very good reasons not to hide anymore.
Friends of The Hands Free Revolution, tell me about the bully in your head. Is self-criticism something you struggle with? Does it impact the way you treat the ones you love? Please feel free to share your struggles and triumphs in your own journey to love yourself and others “as is.” So much hope can be found when we reveal our scars and share what we’ve learned by getting back up after we’ve fallen down.
I have spent the last few weeks pouring over Mike Robbins' beautiful new book, Nothing Changes Until You Do. Being a storyteller myself, I was drawn to Mike’s highly authentic and relatable way of sharing powerful insights from his life. This book made me do something I don’t normally do: I went back and read certain chapters again. The truths Mike shares from his own journey have a way of flipping a switch of awareness and inspiring change in one's own life. Nothing Changes Until You Do shows us how we can have more compassion, acceptance, and love for ourselves, others, and life itself. The book is divided into 40 short chapters, which you can read straight through or one at a time in any order. If you are looking for a tool to help you love yourself “as is,” it doesn’t get any better than this. You can read about Mike’s incredible work here.
Lastly, if you are in need of a daily, visual reminder to love yourself “as is,” check out the ONLY LOVE TODAY bracelets in the Hands Free Shop. There are three colors to chose from–two are made with distressed leather and one is a non-leather alternative for our vegan friends. There is also a gorgeous hand-lettered print with the ONLY LOVE TODAY message.
Thank you for walking beside me on this journey. Your beautiful messages and comments keep inspiring me to share the difficult truths of my own journey. I appreciate you.