I’ve been thinking and processing a lot. For as long as I could remember, from trading a snack in an elementary school cafeteria because a mean kid liked mine better, to always saying “Yes” in a club or organization to take on yet another role, and to caring more about others’ feelings than my own for the sake of being “liked”, I've always put others first – for better or for worse.
Yes, in the spirit of volunteering and being a servant leader, you should put others’ first; it’s great and there is something powerful to be said about that act. However, the moment that you become so consumed about the thoughts of others and acting at their expense, is where you start to sacrifice your own joy and happiness.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend “Heartfelt” – a retreat that is a part of my gym, GetFit615 (if you’re ever in Nashville, I highly encourage you to stop by this welcoming community on Music Row!). At this retreat, we talked about authenticity, made ourselves permission slips, talked about loving ourselves – the type of work that I love, but don’t sit down often to do, especially with 18 new strangers. Well these strangers turned into some new wonderful friends and this retreat made me connect with parts of myself that I've been perhaps ignoring.
One activity we had to do was write a love letter to ourselves. For someone who’s been so consumed on and off for the past 15+ years of my life of what other’s thought of me, it was originally hard for me to write to myself what I thought about me, what I loved about me. Receiving accolades and having accomplishments in the limelight embarrasses me, so as you can imagine an activity where you had to praise yourself started to be hard at first.
Before we started the activity, we had to write some words about one another that we thought described each other. My list was filled with words like funny, strong, real, kind-hearted – words that I know to be true, but don’t let myself believe. These “Words of Affirmation” were needed and tapped into that "Love Language" of mine that isn’t often tapped into – especially with myself.
As I started to write with love and kindness to myself, the words flowed. It was like writing to an old friend, to a young woman who at one point was full of joy and kindness, and did what she wanted without caring what other’s thought of her. There was a time, probably sophomore/junior years of college, especially when I studied abroad, where I was full of this and just living life – even if it was hard being a 20-year-old.
This love letter reminded me that I should never let anyone take away my joy, I should always do what is best for me, and should always continue to keep pushing forward – even if it feels hard. It also reminded me that I shouldn't be sorry for anything I may feel – our emotions are valid, raw, and true.
As society, we don’t love enough on ourselves. I’ve written previously about loving my body and how far I’ve come in the sense of taking care of myself, however I think personally, I could lose all the weight in the world, have the most perfect hair, and always look Beyoncé flawless and that doesn't mean I love myself.
It isn’t until the moment that we put ourselves first, say yes to ourselves, and show up for ourselves that we could truly love ourselves. It’s not selfish, it’s not conceited, it’s what we need.
In a time where the world is filled with such hatred on our social media feeds, I strongly believe if we loved ourselves in a genuine, true way, we can continue to spread that love to others. Put yourself first, love yourself, and don’t apologize for it. Be unapologetically you.