Today’s email is a bit of a long one, but I think it’s really important to discuss, so settle in and get cozy.
I’m here today to talk about my own experience with learning how important it is to invest time, money, and energy in my own healing and self-care, and why I have learned that it’s NOT frivolous, like I once believed.
I’ve heard so many people say something along the lines of: “Spending significant (or in some cases, any) amounts of money or time on yourself is indulgent, pointless, selfish, etc.”
I thought so, too, but now I can see why it’s not only IMPORTANT to invest in my mental, physical, and emotional well-being l, but it’s my RESPONSIBILITY to do so as an adult. Let me elaborate a bit using my own story…
In my family, we’re not big on talking about our emotions. They’re kind of just ‘extra stuff’ that’s part of our lives, and we certainly DON’T need help with them. My mom has always been very loving and caring and has spent endless hours (thanks, mom!) listening to me cry or complain or be angry, giving me hugs, telling me that she loved me, and helping me come up with a resolution. However, that was the extent of my real experience with expressing my feelings. Me and my mom or me and a piece of paper where I vented.
I didn’t share many deep details with friends and certainly no therapists, coaches, psychologists, etc. were ever involved in my life. I believed feelings just ‘resolved themselves’ or if I could find something else to distract me, I could avoid them. I believed that I could tell myself I didn’t feel a certain way anymore, and then I wouldn’t; that I could order the feelings away, and off they’d go, so that I could get back to living my life. You cry a little bit, decide it’s time to move on, and it goes away, right?
Well, years passed using this approach, but then I started college. I went away to school, and I came to realize that living hundreds of miles away from the person I trusted the most (my mom) was going to be hard when there was also simultaneously a lot of stressful and painful things going on in my life at the time.
I would call my mom regularly crying, feeling like I was going to crumble under the weight of it all. During my second year of college, after countless phone calls crying to her and seeking support, she suggested I go ‘see someone’. I was down-right offended. This idea was crazy, and I felt embarrassed, ashamed, resistant, and honestly, wanted none of it.
I didn’t like admitting I wasn’t ‘strong enough’ to ‘handle it’ myself. I ABSOLUTELY HATED asking for help. Addressing my mental health seemed like something I would do only if I was ‘mentally unwell’, which at the time, I saw as something I had control over and had not ‘chosen’ for myself.
As with anything in my life at the time, it was OK that anyone else needed and asked for help, but not me; I needed to handle my problems alone. However, something deep inside of me thought maybe she had a point and could see what I needed more clearly than I could, so I agreed to try.
So, I made an appointment with the counseling center at school, and on the day of my appointment I almost chickened out. I got all the way to the building and wanted to turn back and just go home and continue dealing with things the way I always had:
– partying + drinking
– taking care of everyone else’s needs and neglecting my own
– sleeping a mere 3-4 hours per night
– drowning myself in schoolwork and distractions
– stuffing it down and pretending it was all OK
– obsessively checking + crafting my social media
…whatever it would take to not ACTUALLY have to deal with the pain that lived inside of me.
But there was something inside of me that wouldn’t let me turn back this time, that knew I had to walk through the door and reveal my truth, naked and ugly as it seemed, to another human being.
This was all very new for me. There was no single person at that point in time for me that I trusted with the full, raw, exposed version of me. I always had my guard up, doing my best to filter in my mind before I decided what to share with each person I talked to.
To give you an idea of how true this was for me: my dad was diagnosed with cancer in the same month I was scheduled to leave for my freshman year of college and my 18th birthday. He had had cancer (chemo, radiation, surgery, hospitalization, chemo, radiation, hospitalization, etc.) during my first two years of college, and passed away shortly before the end of my sophomore year and my older sister’s college graduation.
Despite this, most of my friends did not hear much about my dad (except for perhaps the occasional drunken cry, when I would finally let my guard down enough to express my feelings). I had friends I regularly spent time with who didn’t even KNOW my dad had cancer or that he died when he did…
Sit with that for a second…
At 19 years old, your father dies after battling with cancer for two years, and you are…
>> SO afraid to ask for help
>> SO obsessed with appearing strong
>> SO consumed by being who others needed to be and not being a ‘buzzkill’ who brings the mood down and receives looks of pity and sadness (“I’m at college to make friends, not scare them away with my undesirable emotions!”)
>> SO afraid to admit that some of the darkest and most painful feelings a human can feel are currently residing within you
…that you avoid telling them something that is such a big part of your life and who you are in this moment. Even during this time where I could have taken it as an opportunity to ask for support and look within, I continued to hide from the parts of myself that needed the most love and attention, both from myself and from those around me.
That’s because the truth is that I didn’t even want to look at myself; for many years of my life, I hated a lot about who I was. I rejected and fought this reality with every last bit of energy I could muster.
I lived in a constant state of regretting the past, being dissatisfied with the present, and placing all my hopes + dreams ‘eggs’ in the future ‘basket’. I figured I would be happy some day. If/when I deserved to be, if/when I was finally good enough. At times, I wondered if maybe I was just dealt a shitty hand when I was born + nothing could really ever change that.
With all of this being true (and there’s SO much more to the whole story than this, but we’ll save that for another day), you may wonder how the hell I ended up here.
Someone so ashamed of their truth is now a life coach? While I still had a LONG way to go after my first few therapy sessions in college, that experience, that willingness to show up for no one other than myself, was the small opening, the first step I had taken that helped me to feeling brave enough to try it again.
After graduating college, I did my best to live the ‘adult life’. I got a prestigious, demanding job and did my best to become more independent, but amidst all the debauchery, I eventually started to hit a personal rock bottom. I felt hopeless. I was so deeply exhausted I could feel it in my bones – exhausted by my unhappiness, my loneliness, my self-hate…(all coupled with actual chronic sleep deprivation). I couldn’t take it any longer. I didn’t want to take it any longer.
My wake-up call finally happened on a vacation in Europe that I had taken with friends. I was a mess, and it left me feeling shitty + embarrassed about how I was behaving and treating myself; I knew something had to change, but I wasn’t totally sure how.
Luckily, the Universe seemed to lead me in the right direction and connected me to the amazing people who would help me begin to figure it out, to pull back the curtains and start addressing what I’d been stuffing down and hiding from all these years. I started doing the work that was long overdue.
– It cost me a good amount of money.
– There were about 10,000 times when I wanted to give up, when it felt too hard, or not worth it.
– At times, I would lapse into denial that “well, actually, my life wasn’t that bad, I don’t know why I’m freaking out over this…” and then spend a week or weekend full of making decisions that reminded me EXACTLY why I was asking for help.
– I cried, got angry, pointed fingers, felt resentment toward those who caused me pain, felt shame about having gone so far down this path of self-hatred and losing myself in an effort to be who I believed everyone needed me to be.
– At times, it didn’t feel like any semblance of a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ was even visible. It was certainly NOT all ‘love + light + happiness’.
But I persisted.
And through all of this, I’ve realized more and more that helping myself in this way not only serves me, but serves to heal the pain of those who have come before me and to end the cycle for those who come after me. Investing in my emotional and mental health is one that has – and will continue to – pay back in dividends.
We all have our main pain point(s) that we tend to first; the wounds that are most tender, real, and exposed. My work personally started with my body image, which had consumed my life since the age of 9, when my pediatrician first suggested I was overweight and needed to go on a diet, Weight Watchers to be exact.
There was a lot of shame, pain, unworthiness, and self-hatred I carried around with me for many years, and while the number on the scale, the amount of food eaten, or the hours spent exercising varied, those feelings remained constant.
The reason was that, at the core, nothing was really changing; my body may have been shifting, but my mind was exactly the same. And as I’ve learned and have come to know deeply in my heart, body image has nothing to do with my body. It had much more to do with my soul. My heart. My self-worth. My need for control + acceptance. It felt like a big part of what really mattered to anyone else and whether or not they’d see my value before I opened my mouth (so I better make it good / get it right!) My body was an innocent pawn in the war against myself.
Some people think – “OK, well that’s nice for you, but that’s really privileged. You’re an educated, white, able-bodied, heterosexual (insert additional privileged labels here) female. I can’t believe you’re telling people to spend their free time working on body image / emotions / happiness / sadness / etc.?! COME! ON! There are bigger problems to solve.”
But you see, until I took the time to do that, I spent a large majority of my time hating on (and trying to ‘fix’) my body. There are so many other things my life, body, and the rest of the world could use my energy and dedication on. But the truth of it is: until I was able to acknowledge that my pain was real, that I wanted help, seek help, and dedicate myself to doing the work, I was going to be spending all my time focusing on ME and my long list of insecurities. That certainly didn’t seem like the best option.
Pain is pain. Invalidating your own pain by telling yourself it’s not a big deal is not doing you any favors. It’s there for a reason; get still, and listen to what it’s telling you and why it’s here.
By dedicating that time and energy to healing my god-awful relationship with my body, not only did I free myself from that, but I can now help other women and men of the current + future generations can relate to their own bodies and the bodies of others in much healthier ways.
I can spend my time being a part of the movement that makes body acceptance so widespread that the children of the future will learn about all the BS we’ve been fed all these years about weight and see it as just plain ridiculous, not relatable or true.
I can help people redirect their beautiful minds to focus on something bigger than the number inside their clothes or on the scale or a side of a package of food.
Even if it’s not body image related, I am able to use the energy I’ve freed up from my own body image obsession to help clients in other meaningful ways – to make their goals and wildest dreams a reality, or simply, to bring them a greater sense of peace, calm, and ease by decreasing the stress and anxiety that they carry through each and every day.
I think most of us would agree that our world could use some help, so I, and all of us, who dedicate our time to healing ourselves, are doing it to heal the past and enhance the present, and contribute to being the change we want to see in the world.
So much of what we are taught about changing the world involves pointing our finger outward and telling everyone else how they need to change, but a big part of change in this world is turning the finger in and figuring out what needs healing in our own bodies + souls.
Investing ourselves is about using our minds and innate gifts to the extent and capacity we are meant to, to think beyond the distractions society has given us to keep us busy and without the time or energy needed to face our truth and experience the feelings of love that we were born to have.
Investing in yourself is an act of self-care, and perhaps if self-care doesn’t feel important to you at this point, know that these types of investments are an investment in the world, your children (or future children), your friends, your colleagues, your siblings…everyone you touch. The changes that happen inside influence the outside, how you shape and show up in the world.
You’ve got this. <3
As always, feel free to share this with anyone who may find it helpful, and I look forward to hearing how it helps you.
P.S. If you need some help with this (or other related topics) and are interested in possibly working together, click the ‘Contact’ button above, and let’s get talkin’!