Can you tell us about your journey towards self-love?
To me, self-love is a forever journey. It's not a destination as such. It's more of an ongoing process through life.
I am no stranger to feeling a lack of self-love. My earliest memories of this go right back to primary school. I was chubby and the only one in my class to wear a bralette/crop top because I had boobs. I remember being teased about this. It felt like I wasn't good enough because I wasn't like everyone else. I just wanted people to like me. As I got older the puppy fat shed, but the feeling of not being good enough and wanting to be liked didn’t.
As I grew older I became fiercely independent, hardworking and a self-assured woman. This outward persona became my security. It became a way of not having to face into those feelings of not being enough. On the outside you probably wouldn't have known I was lacking in self-love. You wouldn't think that I would settle for emotional abuse. And you wouldn't have realised that this fit woman was suffering from an eating disorder too. As you can imagine things got pretty tough juggling all three.
I remember during my first relationship I was working in my dream job, kicking ass and succeeding. I ended that relationship quickly when I found out he was cheating on me with a prostitute. My first reaction to his cheating was thinking 'Im not good enough.’ I began to question my worth. Although I felt strong enough in myself to leave him, I spent a lot of time crying, running, not eating, and drinking afterwards.
I decided to spend a few years single. There was this one point where I started seeing someone off and on. It was more of a fling. He told me loved me and he wanted more from the relationship. I knew I didn’t want anything more, so moved on. It wasn’t long after that I found out that he had a partner all along. I realised that I was a mistress which made me feel like a horrible person. Again those same thoughts came up for me. Why am I not good enough? I questioned my worth. Then I stopped eating and exercised obsessively as a coping mechanism. A cycle was forming.
It was years later when I met someone who I thought might be ‘the one.’
Things started off really well. He acknowledged me for being fiercely independent and driven. He told me I was fun. One day he declared to be head over heels for me in a way he hadn't felt for anyone else before.
On our first date he drove for hours to see me - just so we could go for a walk together. I thought that was pretty lovely. We talked non-stop and opened up to each other about everything. I even shared with him about my E.D history early on. I thought it was a healthy thing to do, to be open. Being with him made me feel like I was enough.
But, slowly things started to change.
I started to notice the small things. He would never leave his phone alone, ever. It was always face down or close to him. The way he spoke to me changed. One day he told me that people only talked to me because I was pretty and that I wasn’t worth being friends with. This behaviour had me questioning my worth, again.
Things started to escalate. He played on my eating disorder by encouraging me not to eat. This meant there was extra money available for him to spend on food or alcohol. Usually my money.
Our arguments were so scary that I would run away and hide. If we were in the car he would purposefully drive in a way that would frighten me. I would often find myself crying and asking him to stop. He didn’t listen.
There was jealousy, paranoia and anger. I remember holes being punched in walls or the time he trashed someone else’s room. I never liked it when alcohol was involved. He became violent towards others, trying to start fights. It was normal behaviour. Even though it wasn’t OK for him to behave that way, people almost expected it of him.
Eventually things turned from emotional abuse to physical. It happened a few times. I remember one day where he was drunk and about to attempt to drive the car. I chased after him to try and take the keys off of him. He pushed me. Being about 2.5 times my size it didn’t take much to put me on the ground. Still, to this day there's a moment that sticks in my mind. It felt like time stopped. He got in to the car and I had to decide in that second - do I get in with him or call the cops? I thought if I got in the car, I could try and convince him to pull over so we could swap places. I don't know why I got in the car, but I did it.
Looking back I think a part of me thought he would calm down if I was in there and not want to put me in danger. But no, he sped off. I remember thinking that I was going to die. I was crying, pleading and grabbed the handbrake to stop him. He just kept driving and we crashed into a ditch. Thankfully someone we knew lived nearby that could help us. Between the two of us we helped him into the house when his phone fell out of his pocket. It was that night that I saw his phone face up for the first time. I realised that he was texting someone else.
Again, the same thoughts rushed through me. Why am I not good enough?
I tried to break up with him many times. He would use things like suicide threats to keep me around. One time I rushed over to his house in response to a suicide threat only to find him on the playstation. I lived in constant fear, worn down and tired. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for anything or anyone else. I was convinced that other girls were prettier than me. I thought this was the only love I could ever have. That’s the thing with emotional abuse. You believe these lies.
Eventually I hit rock bottom. I wasn't eating, sipped vodka to go to sleep and felt paranoid all the time. I didn’t tell my family or friends what was going on. I was so embarrassed and ashamed. I thought the abuse made me a worthless human. It was at rock bottom that I found the strength to leave. I realised I couldn't go on like this anymore. Being in this place forced me to look at my true self rather than the self I had been presenting to the world. I didn’t want to carry on with a life that felt like this.
Deep down I knew I had to choose to go after what I wanted in life. It was time to start focusing on me and my career, fitness and hobbies. It was time to put myself first again. I chose to be more self-loving.
I was finally ready.
What does self-love mean to you?:
Self-love is believing in yourself. Backing yourself. Standing by yourself.
It’s saying NO when something or someone is not serving me anymore. It’s standing by your values. Because when you live in alignment with your values you are at peace with yourself.
Self-love to me looks like being able to share ice cream with my love and feel OK with it. It's most of all listening to my body. No forcing it to do things it doesn't want or need to.
Today, I embrace my life as it is. I’m learning that self-love isn’t always fun. I’m accepting that when I practice self-love I become better, stronger and more me.
Why is self-love so important to you?
Self-love is important to me because I matter and I am worthy. Life's no fun when you don't love yourself. Now, whenever I feel the old E.D lurking I repeat my mantra to myself:
"I am worthy. I am enough. I am MORE than worthy. I am MORE than enough"
This belief is so powerful. I know when I love myself I am kinder towards others, I have more time for them. I make more time for things I love. I am passionate about learning to love myself as I want to lead by example for other women and my younger sister.
Tell us what makes you proud of the woman you are today?
I am proud of myself for being okay with vulnerability.
I finally labelled my eating disorder and openly talk to people about it. I overcame a bad lapse after the relationship. I no longer freak out when a form asks me to fill in my height and weight. These days I own my story. I feel worthy and now I’m in a position to help others too.
I talk to others about self worth and values a lot. It's not talked about enough - so I am proud that I am using whatever platform I can to serve without shying away. I feel like that is what God has put in front of me.
What values are important to you when it comes to love?
Respect - This is a huge deal to me because of my past. It’s about others respecting me and having respect towards my own body.
Trust - You have to be able to trust your friends, partner, family, to be able to be fully yourself. The same goes for trusting yourself, it contributes to that belief and knowing that you can do it.
Space - As in space to let each other be yourselves (in a relationship) and space to let yourself be yourself.
What does a healthy relationship look like to you?
Despite what the social media world portrays - it's not always getting along. It's being okay with not always getting along. We are all human and we always will have small differences.
It's giving each other space to be yourselves and not forcing your own beliefs or thoughts onto the other. It's also looking after yourselves first, so you can look after one another after.
It's about not being embarrassed to share anything, because you know the other person has your back. It's hugging and saying I love you even when you're mad.
If you could share one piece of advice with our readers, what would it be?
Don't be embarrassed. Don't feel ashamed. Others actions are not about you. They may feel like it but they're not.