Love yourself more
What does that even mean?! In the year following my divorce, I heard that sentence so many times; like everyone else loves themselves completely, and I don't?
In the year following my divorce, there's a couple of sentences I heard so many times, which sat with me in my thoughts and manifested in my actions, and inactions. "You just need to love yourself". "You just need to find out who you are". What does that even mean? Does everyone around me know who they are, and love themselves completely? This didn't make sense to me. If that's the case, how is it possible that there are so many men struggling with loneliness, insecurity, addictions, social anxiety and a myriad of mental health concerns?
“Words are important. It is the means through which we articulate strong feelings and emotions, and the means through which we breathe life into this world. When I embarked on a journey of realization and new discovery, I needed to realize that there is no shame in admitting that, I want to learn to love myself.”
So for months, the questions preoccupied my thoughts, and my steps on my journey: "If only I can love myself more", "If only I knew who I am, like a 2-minute elevator pitch. That would fix a lot of things, including my direction in life". I signed up for courses, journal, and did deep inner work. But, can I authentically say that I love myself, completely?
Love yourself more
What I found through this journey, is that loving myself, starts with me - obviously - intrinsic. But it is supported by what I do - extrinsic. So it starts with radical honesty, about who I am and the discovery of what that means, and it is supported by what I do. And I say radical honesty since no one needs to be brutal with themselves - even as men, we have a natural tendency to be brutal with ourselves.
So here is what I discovered:
Needs - Take responsibility for your needs. The only way to answer the questions, Am I loveable, and I valuable, are my needs important, is the world my family, am I good enough, am I safe, is to take responsibility for my needs to be met. And how you do that, is through relationships that fill you. If you have healthy, cooperative, and reciprocal relationships in your life, then your needs are being met. We are social creatures that need each other not just for survival, but also for a sense of belonging, and fulfillment.
Loss - When my marriage ended, I lost my identity, and my dreams. The things that made me feel safe and supported, and provided belonging, were gone in the blink of an eye; and with that the identity that I have coupled with this. Stepping out of a relationship that was not fulfilling or good for me, was the first step towards loving myself. A brave step. And the loss of identity can be a very scary experience, but I did not think of it that way initially. The loss of identity, and dreams, is a very real thing that I needed to grieve; and allow myself to grieve. So I needed to allow myself to feel and work through the difficult emotions that are associated with this loss. If you can meet yourself in these moments with compassion, you are able to hold yourself and your heart.
Learn - Words are important. It is the means through which we articulate strong feelings and emotions, and the means through which we breathe life into this world. When I embarked on a journey of realization and new discovery, I needed to realize that there is no shame in admitting that, I want to learn to love myself. That provides for a blank canvas where I can be curious and surprise myself. And when you're curious about yourself, show interest in your thoughts, feelings and beliefs, you can learn so much more about yourself instead of unconsciously being dragged around and feeling unfulfilled.
Love - Love means many different things, to all of us. The discovery of self-love means a discovery of what love means for you. Outside of the love languages that ALL of us have, we ascribe meaning to the things in life that we see love in, and where we feel loved. Loving yourself means finding what love means for you, personally.
Self care - This is the one thing we all hear time and time again. Self-care is important. But it can't heal you on its own. The good feelings from a gym workout, or a run, I found to be fleeting when you deal with a tumultuous life event. But, it is important for the process for sure. I have yet to see someone cry on a treadmill.
Empathy and Compassion - On many occasions, I heard other men utter that they "feel sorry for themselves", with a hint of self-judgement; as if it is not okay to allow yourself to feel in a particular way and work through it. Sometimes, self-compassion means that you can celebrate the achievement of putting on your own socks if that is all you can muster for a day. And rejecting a feeling, I found, gives it more strength in the mind, making it harder to overcome and process.
When you lose your identity, and dreams, the very expectations you had about your future, which you built towards, there is going to be spells of uncertainty and insecurity. And that's okay.
Loving yourself, is more a journey, than a statement. We're complex, and become even more complex when our lives are turned upside down through a life transformational event, such as a divorce, separation, job loss, or move. Do the self-care to support your mental and physical health for sure, but remember to give yourself permission to feel the feelings and emotions that coincide with the event and meet yourself with compassion and empathy.
When you lose your identity and dreams, the very expectations you had about your future, which you built towards, there are going to be spells of uncertainty and insecurity. And that's okay.
The goal is not to move forward with no lessons learned, and rejection of your feelings. The goal is to learn and become a better man as a result of it. It's an opportunity.
At The Boulder Man, we support men in their journeys to discover what it means to love themselves again after major life events and to discover how to love themselves more.