Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her bestselling book “Eat Pray Love”, that one day she walked into a building in New York City in a hurry. She was dashing towards the elevator when she caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror. However, she did not immediately recognize herself. Instead, she thought: “Oh, look! I know that woman. She’s my friend…”
Gilbert moved toward her own reflection with a smile, ready to hug this person, when she realized that she was looking at herself…
I can understand why they picked the beautiful Julia Roberts to play Elizabeth Gilbert in the movie based on the book. I cannot really imagine myself, or any other woman over 50, glancing in a mirror mistakenly thinking our reflection is a familiar, beautiful friend. Nope, we see blemishes, grey strands of hair, bloated stomachs and wrinkles. Don`t we?
But what stayed with me about the book was an incident Elizabeth recalled months later when she was in Rome. At that time, she was going through a divorce and felt sad and alone, yet, thinking of that day in New York brought her some comfort. She was updating her journal and wrote at the bottom of the page: “Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend.”
In an ideal world, self-love should be the easiest thing in the world. But let`s keep it real, it`s not. We don`t always eat like we love ourselves. We don`t always move like we love ourselves. We don`t always speak like we love ourselves. We don`t always act like we love ourselves.
Perhaps the most overused phrase in a therapy room is the dreaded “self-care”. Self-help gurus constantly tell us to carve out some time for ourselves, give ourselves recognition, forgive ourselves, treat ourselves, take good care of ourselves, love ourselves and remind ourselves of our good qualities, but it`s much easier said than done.
Why? Because we have been raised to put others first, so making time for ourselves so easily causes feelings of guilt. It`s so contradicting., actually. We`re living in an era where the self-love revolution is gaining momentum, and yet we have trouble doing the work.
As psychologist Mary Dobson writes in a recent Blog: “The road to self-acceptance is paved with paradox. Is it not satirical to beat yourself up for failing to pursue self-care?
Maybe the problem lies in our framing of the situation. You may be in a season of young children. A season of laundry. A season of career acceleration. Your priorities in any given week are the things that you are confident will bring you the most meaning and satisfaction. Maybe it`s all okay if we sometimes just choose.
Each day, we get a fresh 24-hours to decide. Today, self-care for you, may be a bubble bath. However, if you are writer, it may mean a half hour of uninterrupted time in front of your laptop. If you`re a runner, it may mean a loop around the block.
And if you are all of those things, and a mother too, it may just mean a quick shower. In and out. Or something as simple as a 45-minute Pilates class, with the soothing music and the square footage of the mat your sanctuary.
When I think about my own hectic routine I realize that I have learned to appreciate a warm bath the way I savor our annual warm, 10-day seaside vacation, with a hardcover of my favourite author in one hand and a glass of red wine in the other.
I think we should simply stop beating ourselves up over self-care. When we choose to focus our energy on a new project, creative endeavor or career challenge, are those pursuits not as necessary for the preservation of ourselves as a bubble-bath? We should stop thinking that we are failing ourselves – whatever it is you`re choosing to focus on is what`s crying out the loudest to you, and I`m certain that`s exactly where you need to be.
But loving ourselves a little more? Yeah, we should all work on that one. In her book “The self-love experiment” Shannon Kaiser says: “Self-love is not a place we get to but a place we choose. It`s learning how to let go of how you think it`s supposed to be, learning how to appreciate who you are and learning to show up for yourself in ways you never have before.”
Self-love is not an achievement, it`s a practice. A tedious and difficult practice. It`s saying to yourself – “I love myself even before I drop one kilogram of that much dreaded lock down weight. Thick thighs? Yes! Arms too flabby? Damn yes! Casual “choose trainers over everything” personal style? Hell, yeah!”
“Worthiness does not have prerequisites”, Brené Brown writes in “The gifts of imperfection. Isn`t that beautiful? Worthy now, not if, not when, worthy now. Right this minute. As is.
We have the capacity to love other people for their flaws and quirks, snorts and hurts, triggers and tears? That`s how we should love ourselves, first.
As C Joybell C, inspirational writer recently said:
“People think that what`s important is that the world sees them, understands them, values them. That`s not what`s important. What`s important is that you see yourself, you understand yourself and that you value yourself. A rainbow would still be a rainbow even if nobody looked up into the sky. Same goes for the stars, the Moon, and Saturn, too far away for any of us to see she still wears her rings! Be Saturn, be Moon, be stars, be rainbow. And see yourself…”
We should stop spending precious time chasing around the squirrels around our brains, worrying about thinning hair, complaining about our weight, justifying our actions, seeking adoration and beating ourselves up about our flaws. There are cracks in all of us. That`s how the light of God gets in!
Our hearts beat! We can see! We have love, laughter, language, compassion, fingernails, flowers, music, movement, mountains and muffins! We are here, we are alive, and we ARE your own best friends, because always, even in the loneliest moments, we have always been there for ourselves.
Tomorrow our Summer Challenge starts, and I am so exciting about this 9-week journey with the 89 members who have already signed up. It`s not too late if you still would like to join us. Not sure? Send me a WhatsApp or give me a call.
But, Challenge or no Challenge, promise yourself love, and care, and happiness the rest of this 2020. That you would never stop fighting and striving for your own happiness, that you`ll make space for the unknown future to fill up your life with yet-to-come surprises. And that you`ll eat, pray, love, AND exercise – like you love yourself.
Yours in fitness
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