A story of self-love

For a really long time I thought I loved myself. Not in that show off, big headed, narcissistic kind of way.

More in a happy with myself and in my own skin kind of way.

In general, I have always been pretty kind to myself. Ok I wasn’t always my own BFF but I didn’t allow the inner critic to take over with huge put-downs.

And even from a young age I knew my worth with boys. My mama told me I was a Queen and I believed her and so entered the world of boy/girl relationships, demanding to be treated that way.

Always allowing the mantra of ‘Actions speak louder than words’ to dominate, so even the teenage boyfriends didn’t get away with shit. As well as encouraging my girlfriends to think the same way.

“You too, are queens, and deserved to be treated that way and I don’t care how hot he is!” I said.

This was a far cry from where I used to be. In my early school years my self-esteem was rock bottom. I was chronically shy at school and basically didn’t talk. It was more existing than active participation.

Until the teenage years hit and I found my voice. Still far from the loudest but I now made a sound.

So given this history and how far I had come, I thought I had the self-love thing down.

Until that day.

At the grand old age of 35. My coach at the time introduced me to ‘mirror work’.

It sounded pretty simple. Just stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself ‘I love you’.

Out loud.

No make-up.

Up close and personal.

Look deep into your own eyes. Not at your eyebrows (to check if they are fleek), lashes or checking out your hair.

Nope. Into your own eyes.

“Cool, I got this, I do that every night”, I thought as I sipped my tea and waited for the REAL work to be dished out.

That evening, I willingly jumped right in. After removing my make-up and brushing my teeth, I was ready.

I looked up and then quickly looked away.

An uncomfortable feeling started to rise from the pit of my stomach.

“Come on Nicola. Let’s get this done. Your bed is calling”.

So I tried again and this time forced myself to hold my gaze, even though everything within me wanted to look away.

And as I tried to the say the words, the tears came.

Such a seemingly simple thing, yet I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The irony lying heavy in the fact it was something I thought I had been doing every night. What I had failed to notice was that looking in the mirror had been with a focus of putting on my make-up or checking the progress of that homrmal pre-period spot, or indeed if my eyebrows needed threading or if could I get away with another week.

Those were tasks which lay firmly within the preoccupation of improving, checking and fixing.

Not gazing, appreciating and acknowledging.

Not looking into my own eyes and simultaneously telling and showing myself love.

Everyday that week I went back and tried again.

Each day being able to hold the gaze for a few seconds longer but it felt bloody uncomfortable and the tears kept coming.

7 days later and back on the call with my Coach I told her how it had been. She nodded knowingly and said ‘that’s why I got you to do it’. Keep going.

So I did.

A year later it is completely natural for me to be able to do the ‘mirror work’. In fact, it is something I do everyday and there are no sad tears. If there are tears, they are ones of immense gratitude. For this body. For this mind. For me.

It is a delicious cocktail of tools and techniques that has got me to a stage of being able to say ‘I love you’, to myself.

From journalling to meditation, forgiveness work, NLP and people around me who continue to call me out on my own BS.

And the most exciting thing is that this self-love story is only just getting started.

What’s your self-love story?