Learning to Love Yourself.

Did Whitney have a point when she sang about learning to love yourself being the greatest love of all?

How often have you truly believed you are strong, happy, and in the right place, only to have your heart stamped on and all the insecurities come crashing down once more–I’m unlovable, it’s all my fault, I must have done something wrong, etc.?

I know I do, and it took a good friend to point out to me, despite what I may tell myself, I don’t love myself; not completely.

Now, I hadn’t been talking about the relationship which had recently fallen apart, leaving me wondering what it is about me that makes me so unlovable. That was a different conversation. No, we’d just been having a general chat over dinner before heading to a concert.

I paused for a moment before saying, ‘Yes, I do, or I think I do.’

‘No, you don’t,’ she persisted, offering nothing further.

I continued to munch on my sweet potato fries before venturing the question I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted an answer to, ‘What makes you say that?’

‘You put yourself down all the time.’

‘I do not,’ came back my immediate response.

‘Yes, you do.’

‘When? Give me an example.’

‘Just before, when we were talking about your website.’

I looked at her, my brow furrowed. Clearly, I had no idea what she was talking about.

‘When you were saying you couldn’t change the sign-up form on your home page.’

‘That’s not putting myself down, that’s stating a fact.’

‘No, it isn’t, it’s putting yourself down. If you loved yourself, you would have said you hadn’t yet figured out how to change the sign-up form.’

Until this point, I had never viewed comments such as “can’t” as a put down, but the more I think about it, the more I can see her point.

To truly love yourself, you must believe in yourself completely, knowing deep down you are capable of doing, or finding a way to do, pretty much anything.

To be fair, I honestly thought I did. Keeping the website as an example, I had spent several days the previous week building a landing page, a secret page for subscribers who join my mailing list, moving from MailChimp to Mailerlite due to the former’s recent rule changes, setting up an automation sequence and linking it through to my landing page. By 11pm one evening, after 12 hours at my laptop, having achieved all this, I raised a large glass of Malbec to myself and ran around the house telling the cats how “fucking awesome” their mummy was. The cats, predictably, were unimpressed.

Now, I am not a coder or a technical expert, nor do I want to be before you point out I’m putting myself down again, but I am tenacious and if I put my mind to it, I can usually figure things out. And I did, to a certain extent, in that I manipulated the code on my home page to get it to point to Mailerlite. The trouble was the “submit” button changed colour so you couldn’t read the writing on it. I will concede, due to fatigue, and the previously pointed out “noncoding skills”, I called in the experts to fix this final issue, which they did.

To put this in context, my website is a very specific custom build, so the usual “help pages” do not help. And, yes, I did call the people who did my custom build to help with all this, but when they quoted me £400 just for the secret page, I decided to go it alone as far as I could. After all, I’d rather spend the £400 on advertising!

So, where does it come from, this tendency not to love myself?

A couple of years ago, after another failed relationship, I decided I was done, that I was going to focus solely on me and do everything to please me. It worked. I was happy. I loved my life. I was confident, healthy, had a great social life, and I loved me, or so I thought.

Then I was “persuaded” to start dating someone who had yet to get divorced. Everything was going great. We talked, laughed, holidayed, made plans for the future, and believed we were soulmates. Then the divorce proceedings started, and it all went sour, to the point we broke up. His doing, not mine.

Despite my common sense telling me it was timing and circumstances, the little voice, the one I thought I’d finally silenced in my year of abstinence, piped up again, telling me I was innately unlovable.

But why? This wasn’t a natural reaction to a break-up–after all, I’ve never shed a tear about it–it was more primitive. It was a voice that came from deep down inside, from long ago, maybe even from a different lifetime–the message an interpretation, not a fact. It’s easy for me to say the words are untrue, but it isn’t so easy to shake the feelings.

So, again I ask, where do they come from? Why do I believe I am unlovable?

When I was a teenager, I fell in with the wrong crowd. My best friend and I liked to pretend we were older than our fourteen years and frequented the local pubs. Here we met a group of older guys, and it wasn’t long before romances blossomed. It never occurred to me anything bad would happen. I, like all kids, believed I could take care of myself. After all, I’d refused to take the drugs they liked to inject on a regular basis.

But little prepared me for what happened. After all, why would a man hurt the girl he professed to love? But hurt me, he did. He stripped me of my innocence, without my consent, and didn’t want anything to do with me afterwards.

I blamed myself. For years I kept it inside, never telling a soul what had happened, berating myself for putting myself in that position, for believing his words, for not fighting back. It was only through therapy–a place I have been multiple times over the years–I was made to see what had happened to me, that I was told in no way was I to blame or that it was a reflection on me. Whilst finally I accepted the first two points, the last point, despite me believing otherwise, I clearly haven’t accepted.

If I believed it wasn’t a reflection on me then why, each time I have sex, do all the insecurities come crashing back in? Why then, each time I’m told I am loved, do I question it?

Over the years, broken relationships have sent me back to therapy, searching for answers to the question of “what is wrong with me?”, refusing to accept there is nothing.

My last therapist made a breakthrough when he said I look for people who are broken and then fix them. The trouble was, he said, I only ended up fixing them for the next person, because I’d walked away long before then. He said it wasn’t my job to fix people, but he never did unearth why I thought it was.

It was only recently, whilst seeking advice on another matter, that the lady I was talking to said, ‘Yes, but who fixes you?’ My only reply was, ‘I wasn’t aware I was broken.’ Even as I said it, I knew it to be a lie, and I told her about my ability to detach my spirit from my body when I encounter unwanted attention. This scares me on so many levels, and I trace it back to the loss of my innocence all those years ago, it being my brain’s way of protecting me from what was happening to my body.

As I told her all this, she kept asking, ‘In how many previous lives were you a sex therapist?’. I kept shaking my head and carried on talking, but she repeated the question, over and over, until a number popped into my head.

‘Seven,’ I said and fell silent, the weight finally lifting from my shoulders as realisation dawned.  Her simple question made complete sense to me, although, as she pointed out, I am not a sex therapist in this life.

So, are these the reasons I feel unlovable? Because I was a sex therapist in previous lives? Because I was raped when I was young? A combination of these? Or something else entirely?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer yet, but it is a path I am continuing along as I approach my 50th year. It’s the reason I had a Boudoir photoshoot done a couple of years ago–to learn to view myself from the outside in, to see what others see.

I have no idea how long this journey to self-love will take, all I know is it is one hell of an interesting ride!

’Til next time.