Today is Valentine’s Day.
February is considered the month that celebrates love, so I had every intention of writing a blog on the topic of Valentine’s Day. Specifically, how people who aren’t in relationships struggle with this holiday.
But instead, I’ve found myself considering the topic of self-love.
What exactly does self-love mean? (I’ll admit that when I hear the term self-love my mind goes someplace not suitable for all audiences! 😉)
In all seriousness though, what does self-love mean to you? Maybe it’s taking time for exercise, or setting aside an hour to read;, maybe it’s pampering yourself with a manicure.
Self love can mean something different to each of us.
Today, after lunch with a very inspirational lady, I was reminded that self-love also means quite simply to love yourself. I mean, really love yourself. Not just on the surface, but really love yourself: deep down in the core of your being.
To truly love yourself, you have to let go of the negative thoughts; the negative stories that you created about yourself and and somehow still believe.
Maybe you created the story yourself?
Maybe the story was a defense against what others might think of you.
Maybe the story was created for you by family or friends out of shame or embarrassment.
Regardless of how it started, hanging on to the misguided belief that you are somehow “not enough” or “not worthy” or in my case a “failure” shapes every decision you make. Even if you think you’ve gotten past these belief, and moved on, and “healed”-- if somewhere in your deepest thoughts the story still lingers, it affects you and everything that you do – or are afraid to do.
I know this from experience-let me explain.
My word for 2018 is fearless.
I thought that I was being fearless when I left a high paying job without another job lined up, or when I got a tattoo (even though I knew my Mom wouldn’t approve).
But through my recent conversation, it was brought to my attention that those things were easy. I’d made up my mind in both of those instances and didn’t have any second thoughts. I just did it and I didn’t care what feedback I received. Sure they sound crazy and exciting – but the reality is that those decisions were very heart driven and my mind had very little say in the decision. I didn’t over-think it – I just did it.
Being fearless really means doing the hard things. Facing the fears that you normally hide in the dark corners of your mind. Doing the things that make you feel sick to your stomach with fear and anxiety. That’s truly being fearless; and it turns out that my fears can be found in other areas of my life.
I’m starting my coaching business. It’s what I was born to do; helping people realize their own greatness is a wonderful feeling. I love the co-creative process of the journey.
Although I’m confident in my skills, I’ve found that I’m hesitant to scream about my new business from the rooftops and excitedly hand out business cards to everyone I pass on the street.
Why is that?
I’m doing “all of the things.” I’ve got a website, a Facebook page and an Instagram page. I have beautiful business cards, ample experience, and the necessary paperwork. So why aren’t clients banging down my door?
Why isn’t this business an immediate success?
The lunch that profoundly affected me was with a friend who’s a successful entrepreneur. I wanted to pick her brain, get her input, and figure out why I wasn’t a huge success after having just launched my business.
As we chatted, I began to feel a realization wash over me: I realized it was my limiting mindset that was holding me back.
Somewhere deep inside, I found that I didn’t believe this business would work. I’m not living and breathing the business every second of the day. I realized it’s because of a fear of failure. Not a failure of not having money, because I have a day job to pay the bills until my fame comes through! But a fear of what others will think.
A fear of not being accepted.
A big fear of judgement and of having to explain if the whole coaching thing doesn’t work out. After all the years of personal development and yoga training and meditation, where were these fears and feelings coming from?
I realized that the root of my fear began years ago, 1990 to be exact.
After college, I attended the University of Dayton School of Law. I had always wanted to be a private investigator or an FBI profiler, but since I didn’t like the idea of having to handle a weapon, law seemed like the next best option.
I took the LSAT without preparing (and in all honesty, slightly hung-over). I think deep down I already knew it wasn’t the path I wanted to take. I wanted to be an advocate for juvenile delinquents, and change their world for the better.
It seemed that maybe becoming a defense lawyer might be the answer. But as the LSAT approached I found that I felt no attachment to taking the test-- but felt I had to go through with it. After all, I’d told everyone for years that I was going to be a lawyer.
I had studied political science and philosophy so that I could springboard right into law school. I couldn’t back down now, right? What would people think?
Despite my lack of preparation, I scored a 35 on the LSAT: a very respectable score.
With no apparent reason left to back out, I applied to law schools.
The University of Dayton accepted me instantly, and before I knew it, I was off to law school: emotionally and mentally unprepared, and completely unattached to the plan.
Keep in mind, law school is hard. It’s intentionally difficult, in an effort to weed out those that shouldn’t be there.
I didn’t fit in.
I didn’t have the safety of family or friends nearby.
More importantly, I had the self-imposed pressure of succeeding: all eyes were on me.
At the end of the second year, I was somewhere in the middle of the pack. A few grades of B. A lot of grades of C and one D (in property law!). I wasn’t happy. I knew I probably wouldn’t succeed. I knew that it wasn’t what “I wanted to be when I grew up.”
So...I made the decision to leave.
With the D in Property law, I knew I’d most likely be academically dismissed anyway. I was asked to meet with a board of advisors – both professors and peers to plead my case as to why I should stay. Instead of standing up then and walking away, I did what was required to try to secure my space in the final year.
The dean told me at that time that I was “a nobody.” People like me were “disposable.” I was “nothing and wouldn’t do anything great that would bring the school recognition.”
After it was done, I left. I never followed up. I didn’t want to know the final decision. I didn’t want to hear if I failed. I knew in my heart I didn’t want to be there.
How do you explain that to everyone?
How to you explain that you now have $100,000 in debt and nothing to show for it? Deep down I was actually comfortable with my decision.
I was free.
But after leaving school and then not being able to find any job (resulting in my working for JCPenney Portrait studio part time and at Ganto’s clothing store part time), I didn’t know how to hold my head up in the face of criticism.
That’s when I (unknowingly) made the choice to hide.
I didn’t move back home to MD. I didn’t keep in touch with friends or family. I didn’t open myself up to people. I was depressed. I was, in my mind, a failure.
I had created this situation because I couldn’t stand in my truth from the beginning and now I had wasted time and had nothing to show for it. I would never amount to anything, just like the dean had told me.
It was this moment when the story was created. Everyone was told I graduated but never took the bar exam. I don’t recall if I started the lie or if it started with family and friends. The embarrassment and shame of needing the lie made me feel worse. It made me know that I was “less-than.”
Years later I stumbled into a very successful career in licensing where I actually utilized my knowledge of the law to negotiate contracts. I thought at that point I was healed. I had a career that I loved. I was respected and successful and it didn’t matter what happened years before.
However, while applying for a new position, I was asked to provide transcripts from high school, college and graduate school. When I applied for the transcripts, the notice came back marked “academically dismissed.” That’s a fancy way of saying I had failed out of school. That one D did me in and since my heart wasn’t in my plea to stay, they decided I wasn’t worth saving.
There it was, the glaring reminder of my failure and worse of the lie.
When you keep a secret, you’re only harming yourself. Almost 30 years later, I’m sure no one cares about my sordid law school past.
But deep down, I carry the shame. Shame that was revealed to me during a heart opening lunch with a friend.
That shame on some level prevents me from taking chances: from really living my life fearlessly.
This, it appears, is my self-love for Valentine’s Day.
I’m releasing this story: out into the universe so to speak.
Judge me if you want, but you certainly couldn’t judge me harder than I’ve judged myself.
I think I finally understand that for me self-love is more than a mani/pedi, it’s really truly loving myself.
Even the parts that aren’t perfect.
Even the parts that others may not understand.
Truly loving myself and believing that I am enough – just as I am, right now.
I AM fearless.
I’m ready to move forward, past my “story” and into my authentic self.
I hope that on this Valentine’s Day you take time to reflect.
What is it you need?
What is the story that you’re living with?
Maybe what you need is a mani/pedi, but maybe what you need is to give yourself a break from the constant internal criticism.
Maybe it’s to let go of the fear of judgement from others.
And then of course a nice hot bath, a delicious box of chocolates and a glass of wine is nice too!
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Take time today to fall in love with yourself!