Dear Me: I love you.
This is Jen. She has been my amazing assistant for the past two years. She is also one of my dearest friends. Before we did her session, I asked her to write her story. At first, she questioned her ability to do so and told me that she didn't believe her story was that relevant or even interesting. As you will soon see, it is both. I admire her so much for inviting vulnerability and putting her story out there into the world, in the hopes that she can help other women. Let's not forget that we are all in this together.
This is Jen's story.
“Shout out to the girls trying to love themselves in a world that’s constantly telling them not to.” -Unknown
'We live in a world where we are made to think it’s wrong to love ourselves. One where we aren’t thin enough, smart enough or pretty enough. We are embarrassed to find ourselves beautiful, smart and powerful. Then we are criticized for lacking self-confidence. We are judged more on our appearance than who we are as people. As women. This has to stop. For our children. For ourselves. Change starts by truly loving ourselves.'
'I’ve struggled with self-esteem, body image and confidence my entire life. I can remember being 8 years old and thinking I was ugly and fat. I wasn’t good enough. Those feelings only intensified as I entered my teenage years. I was flooded with hormones and overwhelmed with the pressure to be pretty, skinny, funny, happy and smart. My home life was falling apart and I lacked the support and positive example from my mother. That only fueled the self-doubt and insecurity. I remember how much that girl hated herself. How awful she felt in her my own skin. How deeply sad she was. I pretended to be happy and used humor as a mask to the outside world. I look at these images now and see how beautiful I was. I was growing up a lot faster than I should have had to, nearly alone. I was perfect. I was worthy, but I didn’t see any of that. You never love yourself for who you are in the moment. You always see it later and wonder why you didn’t love yourself more then.'
'My ex husband and I met when I was 17. He was the smokin’ hot, “unattainable” boy. He was charismatic and funny.....everything I thought I wasn’t. I knew there was NO WAY a boy like that would like me. Just a few short months later, not only was he mine, but I was pregnant....at 18. We were SO not ready to be parents. Talk about a life curve ball. From that moment on my life ceased to be about me and was all about my children.
That was the beginning of many years of survival mode for my he and I. We did our best to make ends meet and worked hard to support our little family. Two years later we had a brilliant, beautiful, perfect son and a baby sister on the way. Although I was joyful in my role as a Mom, I grew further away from myself. I didn’t have time to worry about me. My littles were everything.
My ex worked two jobs and I worked night shift in the emergency room. Our time together was a “hey, how are ya” as we swapped kids. We didn’t have time for ourselves, much less each other. It was life as parents. We had skipped right past dating and straight into parenthood. I spent those years filled with love for my beautiful little humans, but also filled with self-loathing. My marriage was failing. I found comfort in unhealthy habits. I Isolated myself from my husband, my friends, and myself. I worked.
I went back to school to pursue my nursing degree, which kept me away from home even more. College was the beginning of my self-realization and my journey back to myself. I worked my ass off. I was good at it. It gave me purpose beyond being a mother.
A year into nursing school, I started to self-destruct. Although I was succeeding academically, at work, and as a Mom, my internal battles prevailed....and often consumed me. I couldn’t handle it all anymore. I had spent so much time trying to be the strong girl. I didn’t have time to be anything else. The reality was there was a big part of me that was weak and beat down. I was insecure, self-loathing and depressed. One day I stood in front of the mirror and all I could see were my insecurities. I said out loud, “I am so fat, it’s disgusting. I can’t believe how ugly I am”. My sweet son looked up at me and said, so genuinely, “Nah uh Mama, you’re pretty”. “Yeah Mommy, you’re really pretty” echoed my daughter. I began to weep. It terrified me to think that my sweet, perfect babies might look at themselves and think, even for a second, that they were anything less. That day I truly realized that I had to start loving myself the way that they loved me. Not only did I deserve that but so did they.'
'I started doing shit for me. I started working out and changed my eating habits, which led to significant weight loss. I started to recognize behaviors in myself that were contradictory to my goals or were holding me back. I identified people in my life that fed the darkness and negativity. I let go of some pretty heavy shit from my childhood and removed myself from situations that hindered my growth. I started to surround myself with people who inspired me and kept me motivated. I started to discover hidden creativity and the joy that came from letting that part of myself come into light. I stopped putting myself last. I chose ME. I was brave and did things that terrified me.'
'The most terrifying of all was admitting to myself that I was unhappy in my marriage and that I knew that he was, too. Saying those words out loud meant I owed all of us the authenticity in the truth. I had to love all of us enough to say that our marriage was over. The truth was it had been over for a very long time. We did a kick ass job of raising two amazing humans and beating the odds. I knew in my heart that we no longer were in love with one another and were just continuing to do what was comfortable. I asked myself how I’d feel if either of my children were in a similar situation. What would I want for them? The answer was simple: I’d want them to choose themselves, to choose happiness. I was so scared of the unknowns of divorce, of being a “single mom”, of being another statistic. I was terrified of how it would affect our kids. I knew we both deserved to be happy and neither one could be that for the other anymore.
"I think we need to figure out how to separate”. This was followed by anger, disappointment, grief and fear. There were so many questions and unknowns. How we were going to navigate this? How do we tell our children and families? I was overwhelmed with guilt and fear. I was terrified that we’d hold onto the anger and we’d be the couple that couldn’t be in the same room together. I was terrified we were going to ruin our children. I couldn’t stand the thought of going to court or dealing with lawyers. I didn’t want to fight anymore. We sat our children down and we told them, together, that we were separating. We told them we were still going to be a family, just a different one. We told them we loved them more than anything and that we’d always be their parents, standing together by their sides. We all cried and he and I held hands as we comforted our children.'
'That was one year ago. This last year has been a whirlwind of change in my life. Our family dynamic has changed but we all are thriving. My ex husband and I continue to be a kick ass team. We communicate more effectively, respect each other more, and for the first time, in a very long time, we like each other. Imagine that?! It’s been an awesome and welcome surprise.
I’ve made the most progress in myself this year. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster. There were days I wasn’t sure I was going to come out of the dark. The emptiness and loneliness crushed my spirit. The highs were short lived in the beginning and the lows were deep, exhausting and felt never ending. The separation from my kids broke my heart. I worked every single day I wasn’t with them to keep my focus anywhere but on my sorrow. That exhausted and drained. Every single part of me was broken and I thought it was never going to end.
And then, when I was at rock bottom, I began to piece myself back together. And for the first time, I was in complete control of how those pieces were going to go back together. I felt empowered by that. The highs came more often and were powerful. The lows were less severe and I bounced back quicker each time. I rekindled my love of things that made me happy and I started working on projects that inspired me. I surrounded myself with people who empowered and encouraged me and tried to separate from those who drained my energy and made me sad. I learned to embrace my alone time and used it for self-reflection and to recharge.'
'Today, I feel powerful in who I am, where I’ve come from and where I am going from here. It’s incredible to sit here and say, for the first time in my life, I love me. Not just the mom, or student, or nurse. Not just the funny girl. I love them all. I’m happy. I won’t pretend I’ve mastered it all, because it’s a journey. Trust me, I still have my days. Days where I wear my sweat pants, my dirty hair in a bun, eating junk food and binge watching Netflix. I have days where my heart hurts so badly I want to simply stay in bed. Those days I let myself feel it, acknowledge it and then forgive myself because it’s ok to not be ok sometimes. Those are the days that have helped me grow the most
The road I am on is full of opportunity and possibility. It’s vast. That is fucking terrifying. There are times I am overwhelmed by it (pass the sweatpants and wine please). It’s also exciting, encouraging, fascinating and beautiful. I am so lucky to have so many incredible people in my life that are sharing this journey with me who have celebrated my victories and forgiven my crazy. I am living and loving myself just as I hope my two children will do, every single day of their lives. I hope that they will remember that even when it’s dark, the light is always within reach. I hope they always know they have a Mama who loves them so deeply and fiercely and that she loves herself, too. I hope I am showing them the beauty in self-discovery, confidence and the power of hard work. I strive everyday to be a positive influence for them so they will always feel and know what beautiful and good people they are through my example.'
To you: I know it’s hard. I know some days you want to give up and you don’t think that you’ll ever feel happy again. I know there are days where you can’t even get out of bed. That it’s all too much. I promise, it gets better. It becomes beautiful again. Seek out the light. Surround yourself with the things that set your soul on fire. Find people who inspire you, who believe in you and see your truth. These are the people who know your value and will remind you of it when you might not be able to see it for yourself. Invest in what makes you happy; live for it, soak it in and kick ASS at it. Work hard. Celebrate your strengths and forgive your weaknesses. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself a damn BREAK! Don’t waste another precious moment of life hating all of the things about you that make you so special. Those are things that should be celebrated and embraced.
You are beautiful and strong. You are a force. You are brave. You are a survivor. You deserve happiness and success.
You deserve to be loved, especially by yourself.
You are loved. You are worthy.
I am worthy, too.