There was only one thing I recall from the movie Sex and The City - besides it being a terrible movie - was during the break up scene between Samantha and Smith. She said, “I’m just going to say the thing that you’re not supposed to say: I love you, but I love me more.”
I felt like that was one of the most liberating lines of dialogue I’d ever heard in a romantic movie (and highly unexpected in a movie as terrible as that one) - and yet Samantha felt the need to preface it with a caveat. She "wasn’t supposed to" say that. If not then, when? Did it make more sense to stay in a relationship that no longer made sense, that no longer made her happy? Whatever happened to what you wanted? Does that matter anymore once you’re in a relationship - or is that deemed selfish?
When I realized that my previous relationship with my ex was in trouble, I dove head first into therapy. Primarily to help me understand what was “wrong” with me - a funny use of the word now that I think about it, right? Something must have been wrong with me - that the ball was in my court to fix. Why were we so unhappy? Why was I unhappy? I sought counsel from so many friends and even strangers - sometimes the best advice comes from people you don't know.
During therapy, my shrink asked me about my own happiness and how I felt about the situation at home. And then out of nowhere a strikingly awkward question would surface of what I do to take care of myself or show love to myself. In the beginning I didn’t really know how to answer that question as I had already laid judgement on what was happening in our relationship - that again, perhaps I must have been at fault. And because of that, why should I care about how I feel? My entire world was about my kids, who were so little at the time. All I cared about was preventing the world from crashing down around them. How would I shield them from the pain and the distance? I would move heaven and earth for them and so never did I think about me. “I’m fine,” I would answer, in typical mommy fashion, “I’m worried about them.” And my therapist would say, “And I’m worried about you.”
Bring on the waterworks.
As a mom, you build the greatest wall around yourself - a shield upon which everything bounces off, because your children are behind that shield. Your emotions and well being, while a distant second, are also securely guarded behind those gates because you want - you need - to remain strong during times of turbulence. You are their centre of calm. What ends up happening however, is you forget about - you. Those emotions you keep so close to you will eventually begin to surface sometime down the road. What I learned through months of therapy was the ability to accept that I need to love myself and learn to forgive myself as well. To let go of the things that bothered me and accept love (something I initially thought had sounded so corny but I totally get it now). I needed to spend time on me - to regain balance and strength. Kids are amazingly perceptive - and can notice the most subtle things that you do or don’t do. What I discovered is that I needed to love myself in order for them to have a mother who was fully capable of being present for them.
So I want to share with you some things that my therapist taught me.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in today’s drama, and thinking that you had a part in it and somehow don’t deserve love as a result. Sometimes you might even feel contempt for yourself. Let things go - because I guarantee there will be more drama in the future! Forgive yourself - and others - and be in the present, in the moment.
Accept that today’s drama has happened. Allow yourself to feel - whatever those emotions may be. There are no bad emotions. They could be pangs of guilt, anger, sadness or elation. You could cry or scream or shout with joy, but let it all out. Once you’ve given yourself permission to emote, be thankful for the ability to do just that - your freedom of expression.
LET GO OF OTHERS’ OPINIONS
We’re surrounded everyday by those who hold higher opinions of themselves over others. I guess the thing to ask is, whose opinion matters the most. Is it your colleague at the office? Is it your mother in law? Is it even your girlfriend? Your significant other? What about your own opinion? When you’re surrounded by people who wish to give their two cents for better or for worse, the best you can do is prioritize. In my twenties, I used to worry so much about what other people thought of everything that I did or say. My self-esteem was a rollercoaster depending on the day and who was there to give advice and feedback. This is where time really does help to build your maturity and awareness of the types of people out there and hence your confidence. After some time, you’ll get a good sense of where the comments are coming from and whether to do anything with them. Because in the end the decision is always up to you.
This is an extension of the previous teaching. You can spend a lifetime comparing yourself to others - from material goods to physical features to family traits and an infinite number of things. Striving to have what others have, or to be what others are, is to sell yourself short - and not seeing the beauty and gifts that have been bestowed to you. I know, it’s so easy to say that and sometimes I find myself wishing I was taller or had perfect eyesight. After a while, it can be exhausting and it does your body no good.
Mindfulness doesn’t come easily, especially in the beginning when you’re practicing to let things go. It’s hard! So I usually seek out the help of an app (like Breathe, available on the App Store) so that I can turn to it whenever I feel scattered or stressed and need a quick 5 minutes of calm. Grab a cushion and place it on the floor, sit near a window and turn the app on. You don’t even need candles or aromatherapy oils. You just need a calming voice to guide you through your current mindset into one that is more restful.
MAKE A LIST
Once in a while, make a list of things that you are grateful for before you go to bed. It could be your health, your family, good friends, the ability to build a snowman with your children or be there for your friend earlier in the day. These are positive reminders that help you appreciate and live in the present, about all the things around you that you may take for granted.
TAKE A BATH
It is incredible how simple yet soothing a bath can be. Whether it’s a bubble bath or one with scented bath salts or my favourite - with a bath bomb (like the ones from Clarity Quality Goods, pictured above, with proceeds going to the Canadian Mental Health Association). It’s dedicated time just for you - cocooned in a tub of warmth and security - away from the day’s woes. Take a bath regularly, and just before you go to bed. It’s such a great way to relax before you drift off to sleep.
I hope some of these ideas have inspired you to spend more time on you. I’d love to hear more about some of the things you do to show yourself love?