For a long time I genuinely thought I loved myself. When I saw something I wanted I bought it, ate it, or drank it. I felt sorry for myself when people were mean to me. Wasn't that it? Wasn't that me loving myself? Why wasn't my life getting better like Hair Flip Wine Sip said it would? Why did I feel anxious and like shit all the time?
This year I took a closer look and oh wow. No. I did not love myself. If I loved myself, I wouldn't have gone on that trip to the Cape. I knew I was going to have a lousy time. Out of the three women I went on that trip with two were okay, but one of them was really cruel and passive aggressive to me and I knew being around her was going to make me feel worse. So why did I go? Why did I remain friends with her for 8 years? Why did I exclusively date men who disliked me to my very core and were horrible to me? Why didn't I have a dentist? Why didn't I own winter gloves? It really hit me: all those times that people told me I was mean to myself, all those times that people told me I just needed to love myself? Yeah. They were right. I was a total asshole to myself and I needed to fix it.
I think a lot of the time when people want to focus on self-love and self-care they immediately book a massage or a vacation or take a personal day from work, I started my self-love project by booking a bunch of doctor’s appointments. I wanted a clean bill of health and I'd go from there. I went into my doctor’s appointments prepared to advocate for myself and it felt really good. I wanted my questions answered, I wanted good referrals to specialists who were actually going to call me back, I wanted more than a cursory glance and a "see you in a year." I got a physical and made sure it lasted a solid 30 minutes, I didn't rush through it sheepishly because I felt bad for taking up my doctor's time. I did a ton of research on birth control options and found the safest, most reliable one for a woman my age and set it up. I badgered my way into the dermatologist and had her look at all my weird moles and cut two of them off and biopsy them. I relentlessly called psychiatrists and finally found someone who would see me and got medicine for the anxiety I'd been struggling with for 15 years. I quit drinking alcohol and that blew the roof off of things. Then I got started on my apartment. I got a hamper. I moved my toaster to a part of the counter that made it easier to use and it made me love my kitchen again. I got rid of mugs I hated and books I never liked and pictures of assholes I'd dated. I got batteries for my alarm clock so I'd stop sleeping with my phone every single night. I moved my now-useless wine glasses out of the huge cabinet and filled that cabinet with food. Then, I dove into my finances. I sat down and spent a long time looking at my credit card statement online and for the first time in my adult life (sad, I know) I truly understood what I was doing to myself by carrying around that debt and I made a plan to pay it off as quickly as I could.
Isn't this all so exciting? Nope. It's pretty boring. It's not a massage, it's not a vacation. It's better. It's so so so much better. I stopped taking care of myself years ago because I just didn't give a shit. I felt awful and I got used to it. I stayed down there. I gave up. I passively bought myself sweaters and Ubers to work and pedicures and bottles of wine and $28 hamburgers at the Four Seasons and called it self-love because self-love was trendy and those things sounded good on Facebook, but it was far far far away from loving myself.
I am in a relationship now and I'm very happy. (I love you, Prom Date.) But I am equally happy that I'm FINALLY back in a relationship with myself and knowing and loving myself fully for the very first time. Happy Valentine’s Day, all.