Updated: Jul 3
Photo by Calvin Lupiya on Unsplash
There was a time in my life when exhausting myself to meet the needs of others was how I measured love. I feared that an inability or unwillingness to “give” would make me less desirable. My sense of self was tangled in the feeling of being needed by men who saw me as a safe space to bear their inadequacies. And when they did not need me anymore, I was left to unravel the source of the tangles alone.
For years, I lived in fear and pain, trying to save relationships from turmoil. Day after day, I found myself on the floor, feeling defeated, and at the mercy of men who could not pour into me. I found comfort in their promise to pay at the expense of trusting what I knew to be true: that these men could not love me. This lack of trust led me to years of self-inflicted physical and emotional abuse and a myriad of other traumas experienced by unhealthy relationship dynamics.
I remember the first time I was told to be kind to myself. My therapist at the time was listening to me talk through a face full of tears about how my insecurities were ruining my relationship, and that being “too emotional” was pushing my boyfriend away. I wanted desperately to be fixed; to prove that my relationship could be stronger if my brokenness was healed.
“You are doing the best you can. Be kind to yourself,”
At the time, it sounded cliche to hear, like a quote posted by a self-love influencer on social media or painted on a canvas at TJ Maxx. It made sense, but what did it really mean?
What does being kind to yourself look like in action? Little did I know, this simple advice would become a daily practice in nurturing a gentle relationship with myself and restoring my greater sense of power, love, and peace of mind.
Once my relationship with myself hit an all-time low that my mind and spirit aligned to say “enough.” This meeting of the mind and spirit is where reconciliation of love will begin in your life if you are careful not to disregard the sudden and gentle shift in your awareness. It was the moment when I came to realize that I could no longer take part in self-sabotaging behaviors that caused me physical, mental, and emotional pain. It was then that I began to create space for a more gentle relationship with myself by no longer resisting the present moment and no longer denying myself what I need.
My relationship with myself transitioned when I started responding to my trauma differently. Setting boundaries became an act of loving-kindness that renewed my energy and sense of being. Instead of seeing boundaries as restrictive, I re-imagined them as a way to promote health and well-being in relationships. Often, we reject the idea of boundaries because they trigger feelings of rejection inside of us. But in reality, boundaries should help you to love yourself in harmony with loving others. Loving boundaries happen when you reap positive results from listening to your inner needs. Whether that be time to disconnect from social media or spending the day alone in your own company, honoring yourself will help you to become a better lover to others as a reflection of the gentle and intimate relationship you have with yourself.