I Practiced a Summer of Radical Self-love. Here’s What Happened.
Radical self-love. What does that even mean? In this day and age, the word self-care gets thrown around a lot. People are always touting the importance of practicing self-care. I have written about the myth of self-care and how it’s not so much about actions as it is about intentions. It’s about honoring yourself, practicing empathy with yourself, being authentic, and putting yourself first. Most of all, it’s about loving yourself unconditionally. That is where radical self-love comes in.
What is Radical Self-Love?
Radical self-love, as I envision it, is about unconditional love for one’s self. Loving yourself because of your flaws, not in spite of them. It is knowing, believing, and acting on the knowledge that you are worthy of love. It’s holding boundaries with yourself and others so that you can be in your own integrity while remaining compassionate towards those around you. It’s about having your own back, supporting and loving yourself no matter what, and having the guts to speak up for yourself and what you need.
Why I Decided to Practice a Summer of Radical Self-Love
This has been a hard year, am I right? Global pandemic aside, I was going through many major life changes in the start of 2020; new job, new career, new business, and toddlerhood… Things were changing rapidly in my house and I felt like I was taking them in stride. Then the pandemic hit. Still, things were good, surprisingly good. And then I got pregnant.
My energy was zapped. My mood was all over the place. My nausea lasted all day long AND I was on lock down with a toddler. Needless to say, my mood shifted a bit in those months. As summer came and restrictions were lifted, my nausea waned, and I thought my mood would improve. But it didn’t. I decided that the pandemic, the pregnancy, and all of the life changes were a lot for anyone, so I should give myself some grace. It’s okay, this is hard. Let’s use this as a growth opportunity.
I felt so restless and unsure, I thought that this would be the perfect time (before baby number two made his appearance) to get myself back in a way. Focus on me and my needs a bit. Reclaim myself and my direction in life.
I have always been a doer and I derive most of my worth from doing, so not-doing was really hurting my sense of self. I knew that needed to be addressed, so I decided to embark on a summer of radical self-love. I was going to learn how to love myself; how to treat myself with worth, empathy, and compassion; how to honor my needs and hold firm to my boundaries.
What I Thought It Would Look Like
I started with a list of all the things that I enjoy doing and are important to me. I envisioned spending my time away from work and mothering as lots of hiking and swimming and yoga and journaling. I anticipated finding myself in the quiet of nature, reflecting on my life, who I am and want to be, and arriving at some awesome realizations about myself that I could use for the next chapter in my life. I thought I would smile a lot, take deep breaths, revel in nature and my own thoughts and love for myself.
I set out this list:
1. Get to know myself better through hiking, meditation, and journaling.
2. Practice Brene Brown’s method of self-compassion: Kindness, empathy, common humanity, mindfulness.
3. Create and hold boundaries: Research, write about, then implement. (I was not sure exactly what boundaries were when my summer of love started.)
4. Have my own back by doing what I say I will do for me, and not indulging guilt and negative self-talk.
5. Have fun and do things for myself with the right intentions; not avoidance or numbing, but pleasure and honoring my values and needs. (This is where the list of activities came in.)
The first day of my summer of radical self-love, I went to the park, ate some frozen yogurt, swam in the river, and wrote my lists. I was ready. I was excited. I was hopeful.
Three days later I had a complete breakdown.
What Actually Happened
That was the first of many break downs. Really, my summer was just one long string of emotion: Cry, sleep, break down, repeat. So much for hiking and fun!
What this taught me was three-fold:
1. I needed connection with myself.
I was craving connection. I had always looked outward for connection, but I realized what I really needed was to connect with myself. And that meant hours of crying, sleeping, and lying in bed; sitting in my emotions and acknowledging that I needed help. I was learning to listen to my needs, accept them, and then ask for them to be met.
I learned to draw inward and ask, what do I need right now? And why? I thought I would get out and hike and find myself but instead I drew in, way in. I got really depressed and hopeless and then I finally took the steps to get help. I gave myself permission to not do anything, allowing my body and mind to collapse into the depression.
2. I had to learn to let go and be supported.
It was hard to admit that I needed more support. I realized I needed someone to support me, care for me, and love me first so I could stop trying so hard to do everything myself. I opened up to my husband, my midwife, and a few close friends, then found a doctor and a therapist. I thought this summer of radical self-love was going to be about giving myself permission to explore and play to get myself back. Instead, I ended up giving myself permission to fall apart and be broken, supported, loved, and cared for by myself and those around me in order to get myself back.
3. I had to learn how to set and hold boundaries in order to have integrity with myself.
This was the hardest part for me. First, I had to look long and hard at myself and ask, am I myself? Am I honoring her? Or have I abandoned her? Am I lost in depression? Am I living my truest life? The answer I found was no, I was not.
Then I had to admit that I needed help. My boundary issue was that I put others’ needs before my own, and I needed to stand in my integrity, ask for what I needed, and trust that I was worthy of having it. This meant getting serious with myself about whose needs came first; mine or my families.
I really owned that lesson, which allowed me to say no to my need to constantly do, do, do. It allowed me to say no to my husband and admit that my time is as valuable as his. It allowed me to admit that I needed anti-depressants, and that it was a good decision for my family and my baby.
I had to realize that radical self-love meant having integrity with myself and standing up for my needs. It meant I could love my kids AND put my emotional health first. I had to accept and own that I was worthy of a better emotional state. I am enough and I can take the necessary steps to improve my life while being true to myself and my family.
My realization: Self-care and self-love don’t look at all like what you might expect, but they make all the difference.
In my summer of radical self-love, I learned that radical self-love looks different for everyone. For me, radical self-love was about admitting, accepting, and owning that I am worthy as is. It meant acknowledging that I was allowed to fall apart, and trusting that I was still enough, even when I felt broken.
Radical self-love meant putting my needs first. I learned that it was not about hiking and playing and doing things, but about accepting that I was still worthy of love even when I needed help. I learned to love myself by falling apart, identifying my needs, then meeting those needs in order to put myself back together. And then finally, I loved the HECK out of myself.
This was the nurturing I needed, and it was radical.