Living Through Tragedy: My Journey To Self-love

Growing up there was one thing I was known for. It wasn’t how well I played soccer or how pretty I was, it was how much happiness I had within me. I was known for being a happy little kid, sure I could be quiet sometimes but it was a rare moment when I wasn’t smiling.

In those days I was comfortable with myself. It was before I cared about boys or whether or not my shirt and pants matched. I wasn’t self-conscious about the red birthmark that took up the right side of my face. Honestly, little Maddy couldn’t care less. Do you want to know why? It’s because our brains want us to love ourselves. Despite everything we’re going through, the human body has natural instincts that make us want to be happy with who we are.

However, the sad truth is that as we grow older society teaches us to not love ourselves. I was happy with who I was, but at some point, I couldn’t ignore the comments about my birthmark or the people who made fun of me for being too skinny. Eventually, I started to fall out of love with myself.

All of these difficult little moments couldn’t prepare me for the worst of them all. My freshman year of high school I lost my father and it was as if my world crumbled. Just like that my best friend was in my arms one day and gone the next. I didn’t just lose him that day, I lost a big part of myself. I took on so much of the blame; if only I had pushed him to go to the doctor, if only I had noticed the signs, if only I was a little more mature. Suddenly I hated myself, I was alive and my dad was not.

I fell into a deep depression. I was in denial for a long time, but finally, all of the dark thoughts made me realize that I needed help. I tried therapy twice and was put on medication, but I learned that while these things do help, the key I needed was to find myself again.

 

It’s been a rough journey, I’m not going to sugar coat it and tell you it was easy. Healing isn’t linear, it has its ups and downs just like every roller coaster and the bad days are going to come with the good. The trick though is to not love yourself despite those bad days but to love yourself because of them.

Think about it, you’re a bada**! You’ve been through so many hardships and you’re still here, you’re still fighting. You want to love yourself. You want to be the best person that you can be and you are so amazing for that. That is the first step to self-love.

I spent so many years of my life feeling like a zombie and counting down the days that I considered irrelevant. I never lived in the moment, I just wanted every day to be over so that it could be tomorrow. However, this wasn’t my wake up call. My eureka moment was after I lost another person whom I loved. I was so lost and whenever I’m lost I turn to books. I bought every self-help and relationship book I could get and that was the beginning of me finding the person I lost. Not my ex, not my dad, but myself.

I began ignoring the voice in my head that told me self-love was selfish and I started the journey to improve my mental health and the image I had of myself.

One book that really helped me was Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I grabbed a pen and started underlining every piece of advice she had, which resulted in marks all over every page. Each chapter addresses a lie that you’ve been told at some point in your life. Some of these lies being, “I’ll start tomorrow, I’m not good enough and I will never get past this.” Hollis opened my eyes to all these lies that not just other people were telling me, but that I was telling myself. I know that the worries in your head are so hard to ignore, believe me, I struggle daily with the voice that wants me to hate who I am. But it is a lie. You deserve not just to be loved by other people, but to be loved by yourself. Here are the things that Hollis wrote helped her to find happiness:

  1. “I stopped comparing myself”

  2. “I surrounded myself with positivity”

  3. “I figured out what makes me happy and I do those things”

 

 

The next book that helped me was You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. If you’re struggling with finding your self-love, I highly recommend that you check out this book and jump to chapter six, Love the One You Is. One of the most helpful tips that Sincero wrote is to drown yourself in affirmations and let me tell you that something so little can have such a big impact. Cover your dorm or apartment with little sticky notes telling you all of the things that you love about yourself and all of the things that you deserve. It’s so empowering on your bad days to see those little reminders, things that you wrote about being happy when your body is telling you otherwise. It’s the smallest things that often have the biggest impacts on us.

 

The simple truth is that you aren’t meant to just survive each day, you’re meant to live and thrive. I know that it can be hard, one of the symptoms of depression is you often lack the motivation to do the things you normally enjoy. You just have to push past that voice and do them anyway. If someone else wasn’t going to make me happy then I was determined to make myself happy. I started writing again, I started skateboarding again, I did all of the little things that I used to love. I felt wonderful.

It’s okay to struggle, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t doing enough. All that matters is that at the end of the day you come out on top. I’ve had my days where I wish it could’ve been me instead of my dad and I’ve had days where I’ve wanted to feel anything else besides the numbness that was inside of me. It’s important that you find the people that build you up instead of tear you down, having a support system is honestly something that everyone needs, even the people who don’t have quite as many struggles.

Another thing that has helped me on my journey to self-love is my faith. I find my strength in my church, and if religion isn’t necessarily your thing then find something else for you to believe in because you do have a purpose. Whether it’s a good cause or giving back to those around you, having something that you’re passionate about is guaranteed to improve your mental health.

It’s been a hard journey, but after five years, I’m finally where I want to be. I was in such a low place and it took all of my willpower to climb out, but I had the strength and so do you. Despite how difficult life can seem I promise that it is worth it, you just have to step out of your comfort zone and find the things that make it worth it. In the past few months I’ve picked up so many new hobbies, I’ve surrounded myself with positive friends and I do the things I love. I pray and I meditate, I do yoga and I better myself both physically and mentally every single day. I’m so happy that I found the love I know I deserve and that I found it within myself. Just remember that life is tough but so are you, and you deserve the love that you always save for other people.