Full disclosure, I’m sharing a personal story today. Often, I write blogs a little differently, but wonder by sharing this story if some of it may resonate with you. My hope is that we can all go out and be cognizant of how we are connecting with others and how others are connecting with us, and maybe ask ourselves why we choose to make contact in the way we do. As we dive in to this question of radical self-love, I wonder if anyone in your life has ever commented on your looks, your height or weight, or the way in you do something? After many years of many little comments, a comment a couple week ago really resonated with me in a different way.
I was at a party in which there were many people I had known over the past 10 years. Some of them good friends and others, acquaintances. I was socializing when someone who I had only seen a handful of times over the course of those years came up to me, and before saying hello said, “Have I ever known you to be so small?” In that moment I was dumbfounded and in a flash my brain went right to my amygdala as I tried to sort through the fight, flight, or freeze responses. Additionally, all the emotions of the 100+ pounds I had gained and lost in three pregnancies, two live births, and post-partum depression flashed in front of my eyes in mere seconds. Luckily rational thought prevailed (through my stunned state) and I simply stated that she had primarily known me through two pregnancies, and that my body went through a lot of transition in that time. Looking back, I wondered if that was really an authentic answer. I believe the comment she made came from a place of goodness and at the same time just was not fair. I was put in a space to defend my smallness and bigness, and as a person working to radically love whatever state my body is in, I was angry that I allowed this comment to have so much power over me and make me feel like I was emotionally not able to keep my head above water.
Radical self-love is a quest. How we engage with ourselves can change and shift daily, and obviously from my story sometimes from moment to moment. When contemplating radical self-love, my favorite theorist, Virginia Satir can always fill the gaps when I am searching for words and meaning. She has this to say,
“Over the years I have developed a picture of what a human being living humanely is like. She is a person who understands, values, and develops her body, finding it beautiful and useful; a person who is real and is willing to take risks, to be creative, to manifest competence, to change when the situation calls for it, and to find ways to accommodate to what is new and different, keeping that part of the old that is still useful and discarding what is not.”
Can I get a “Yes!!” or “Amen!”? Radical self-love is acknowledging where we are in our journey, while looking both to the past for wisdom and to our hopes for the future. It is standing up for our humanity, what we know to be true and right about ourselves and being bold and honest with others in times when the message sent isn’t the message received. Most importantly, we get to choose love for ourselves, and in doing so keep what serves radical self-love and toss out what doesn’t.
What would I have wanted to say looking back? I would want to say to myself, you are more than your body…You are a mind, heart, soul, and body. Your body is a beautiful vessel that you get the honor to reside in daily. Your body has done amazing things like carry beautiful children, hike many miles, rest when sick. Your body continues to move, grow, shift, and be—and that is a gift. You have every right to be upset when unsolicited comments are made about your body, and every right to respond authentically to words you find hurtful.
Speaking these words to myself works two-fold. First, I am practicing how I can best love myself. Second speaking this love into myself evokes a sense of calm and makes it less important to think of what to say to the other person. I can stand comfortably, and soundly in my personhood and allow the other’s comment to not cling tightly to me. I wonder for you, dear readers how you already acknowledge, accept, and love what makes you fully human. I would love to hear how you love yourself radically, even when other’s around you might say something that causes you to feel less like or question your authentic self. It is my hope for you that those outside voices can be quieted or silenced altogether as you strengthen, nurture, and grow in love with the amazing person you are always becoming.