Today, I’m feeling honored and grateful for this space to write out what’s in my head, and even more so for all of you beautiful souls who read it. Yesterday I received a request to talk about how to cope with losing someone you love in the context of a breakup and how to love yourself rather than only seeking validation/happiness from others. I really see these as two separate things, so I’m going to address them separately. I’d like to once again put out the caveat that I am not an expert in any of this, and life is never a one size fits all. However, I do love this request, and I’m happy to share my experience and thoughts about it.
For anyone who doesn’t know my story, I grew up pretty insecure. Not outwardly – I was a performer, singer, actress, all those things some people think they could never do because they get stage fright – but internally I had no clue how to love myself or that I even needed to. It lead me to numerous unhealthy relationships and kept me begging for less than I deserved. Sometimes I would even find a decent relationship and end it because it just didn’t feel right or something felt missing. I know now that was a result of me not understanding what I really need or want because I didn’t know myself enough. Then, I had one relationship I really thought was going to be everything. When it inevitably wasn’t and we broke up, I thought I would never heal from it. For the next six-ish years, I learned what it meant to be alone and in that period, I also learned how to love myself.
First though, there was the coping with the loss of someone that had a significant place in my life. If this is you and you’re currently experiencing this, I’m so sorry and I feel with you. Sometimes it seems unbearable, like a pit you’ll never be able to climb out of, but you will in your own time. My biggest encouragement is to be kind to yourself and do what you need to in order to take care of you. I hope you have people who can support you and love you that you can reach out to. I hope you are gentle with yourself because what you’re experiencing is real and so hard, and whatever you are feeling is valid. Let yourself feel all of it when you’re able to, because the only way to process the emotions and heal is to feel them fully. And I hope you do what you know will be good for you, not just what feels easiest. Sometimes heartbreak exists to lead us away from something that’s no longer doing us any good (maybe it never did). Sometimes, heartbreak is an invitation for us to come back to ourselves. The things that helped me the most during the worst parts of losing someone were spending time with my best friend, reading books/watching shows and YouTube videos of people that had been through something similar, and learning to tune back into myself.
As far as learning to love yourself goes, I definitely don’t have all of the answers, but it’s something I’ve been striving toward for years now. It’s a continuous journey, and some days are easier than others. I feel slightly unqualified to talk about this, but what I do know is that loving yourself and being comfortable with yourself on your own is key to having a more fulfilling life and relationship with anyone. I’ve learned that if I don’t work on overcoming my own insecurities and past traumas, I bring them into every facet of my life. But, if I am whole and able to regulate my own emotions and process my own issues, then I can show up confidently and make choices based on love/excitement/my dreams rather than fear and pain. Unprocessed traumas are like bags of sand hanging from your body. They slow us down, make certain tasks difficult, and people can see that you are affected by them. It affects our relationships, our children, our job performances, and friendships. If we want to be whole, we have to learn to understand the things weighing us down so we can then let them go or learn how to manage them without allowing it to affect the rest of our lives. I decided to make a list of the things that have helped me return to myself over the past six years. What you need may be different, but maybe this will give you an idea of the process as I experienced it.
- If we truly want to heal, we have to dig deep and do the work. There’s no magic formula for fixing the parts of our brains that tell us we aren’t worthy. It takes a little rewiring, but it is possible and so worth it. For me, doing the work included therapy to uncover the subconscious beliefs I hold about myself and what created them. If you can’t afford therapy or don’t have access, there are great books on self-healing, attachment theory, etc. There are also tons of free resources on social media from people who teach self-healing. I’d be happy to share some accounts if needed. YouTube also has access to free information on understanding how our past shapes our future. However you do it, true healing requires us to address the wounds so they can be mended.
- Listen to yourself and don’t make rules. This is something my best friend tells me often. If we make rules for ourselves, we’re creating unnecessary stress and guilt, but what if there was no bad way to cope? We have to remember that society has engrained in us certain ideas of what is right and what is wrong, but a lot of that is based on outdated belief systems. For example, binge eating. Diet culture teaches us to have guilt around binge eating or emotional eating, but sometimes it is exactly what you need. My therapist was the first one who taught me an occasional binge is not the ultimate doom, and that sometimes it’s good for our bodies and souls to find comfort in food. Whatever your method of coping with loss or learning to love yourself, let yourself try things. Maybe you do a night of binge eating and realize you hated it. It doesn’t mean you need to regret it, but simply that you have learned something about yourself. I would definitely advise moderation and not doing anything that will be life-threatening, but allowing yourself to not feel guilty in rediscovering yourself is a beautiful thing, even if you make mistakes along the way. Trial and error can be a fantastic way to learn more about ourselves, and it is a practice to choose love instead of shame with ourselves when we do something that we decide isn’t right for us.
- Be intentional about rewiring the thoughts in your brain that work against you. Get curious: why do I feel that way about myself? Where does that come from? What would it be like to be totally in love with that part of myself? It helps me to write this out or put affirmations where I can see them daily to actively change the negative thoughts to powerful, loving ones.
- Cultivate a solid support system. If your friends don’t make you feel good about yourself or they drain your mental health in any way, consider distancing from them or removing them from your life altogether. This was something I waited a long time to do, but when I finally did it was ridiculous how much of a difference it made. Get friends that build you up and do the same for them. And be honest about what you need from each other. That kind of friendship can help you both flourish and grow.
- Work to become a person you would admire. If you don’t like yourself right now, what would it take for you to feel differently? What do you wish you were like? What qualities and characteristics do you admire in other people, and is it possible work those traits or skills into your own life? What would make you fall in love with you?
- Do the things you want to do. Listen to what your heart says right now. Get really curious about your ideal life and dreams and put your energy into making them reality. (This can also be a really good distraction from the pain of loss and grief.) Do you want to travel more? Book a trip. Do you want to change careers? Work toward whatever steps you need to take for your ideal life. Empowering yourself to take control of your life and make those dreams real is also a great conduit for confidence and pride in your life. It’s easier to love yourself when you’re happy with your life and proud of what you’ve turned it into. And it’s harder to let someone in who isn’t going to mesh with the joy you’ve created. Ultimately, the people on our journey should be pushing us closer to our dream life, not keeping us from it.
- Learn to be your biggest advocate. If you were a child you needed to protect, what would you allow to happen to them? How would you treat them? How would you speak to them or let others speak to them? Would you judge them for crying when they’re hurt or would you comfort and care for them? You’re not too much, you’re not too dramatic, and there is no timeline for when you “should” be healed. We are constantly growing and evolving, and every feeling is a valid one there to teach or show you something.
- Give yourself grace. Remember that no one is perfect at loving themselves, and even those who seem to have it down still have periods or days where they struggle. Also, sometimes it’s okay to ask for validation or happiness from the people in your life. The goal, at least for me, is just to work on giving myself that validation and knowing that if I couldn’t get it from someone else, I could find it in myself and I would be okay.
This is all I can think of for now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are future posts continuing this conversation. When you love your life, everything becomes so much better. There will always be challenges and difficult situations to deal with, but if you can be grounded within yourself, you will always have a loving home base to go back to. Then, any love you receive outside of that feels like a sweet bonus instead of something you need to desperately cling to. You can feel secure knowing the supply won’t run out because it comes from you, and I think it actually makes it much easier to give love to others at that point. Just remember, it’s a practice, it takes time, and you don’t deserve to feel shame if you aren’t where you want to be yet. And to whoever sent in this request, thank you for allowing me to share my experience on this. I believe in you. ❤