This is a guest post by Stephanie Horning. Read About the Author below to learn more about her work.
“The soul would have no rainbows if the eyes had no tears.” -John Vance Cheney
Do you love yourself? Take a moment and dig deep. Think about this hard.
Can you sit with and experience the joys, celebrations, and the milestones in your life? Can you look in the mirror and see beauty? And what about in your darker moments?
You see, when I was a young girl I ate to cover up my emotions. I did not want to feel and sit with my discomfort. I didn’t like the aspect of myself that was uncomfortable. I ate as a means of escape and to get away from a certain part of who I was. What I didn’t know at the time was that discomfort was a part of me, and a part of who I still am. Discomfort as well as joy, beauty, struggle, grief, pain, and triumph.
And what if I told you that accepting all of it is the only way to truly love yourself? To love all aspects of who you are and not just the shiny parts? Not just the ones that go according to plan?
I believed for a long while that when I started to “get healthy”, lose weight, and restrict my diet, I would start to fall in love with who I was.
I believed that if I could get to a smaller dress size, reach my next goal, or eat fewer calories in a day, I would be worthy of love. Instead, my path down restrictive eating turned to binging and I found myself in a place where I continued to dislike myself more and more.
I was nowhere near loving who I was or finding happiness, and I just wanted out.
It’s ironic that I came to love myself in a place I never thought I would. No, I didn’t fully love myself after I reached a certain weight or looked a certain way. I didn’t come to love myself after I finished a large project or graduated from college or got married.
I came to love myself in the dark. I loved myself when life got real. I loved myself when nothing seemed perfect, and everything went wrong.
In 2015, I became pregnant with two beautiful twin boys. At the same time, my beloved dad was quickly declining from a rare form of cancer at just 62 years old. He died in my second trimester while I was battling my complicated pregnancy.
Three months later, still trying to reconcile the grief I had experienced from losing my father, I went into labor prematurely and gave birth to my sons; one who survived the journey the other who we tragically lost. Trying to feel both the the joy and the sorrow run through my body was, and still is, nothing short of heartbreaking.
With that said, heartbreak did not mean that I needed to take the path to broken. I had already chosen that path over and over again and it did not bring me happiness. It did not lead me to a place where I loved myself and felt comfortable in my body.
At first, I decided to be a superwoman: I took an old path and tried to make everything seem okay for people on the outside looking in. But of course, that did not bring me joy.
Then, I decided to be real. I decided to open my soul and truly feel and express those emotions. I sat with my tears and felt my heart ache. I sat with my newborn son Alexander in the NICU at only 2 pounds and 15 ounces and felt scared. I sat with the other women and told my story, and as I felt the tears stream down my face, shaking, and hyperventilating; I felt vulnerable. It was there, in those moments when I opened up myself to be real, that I started to accept all parts of who I am. Regardless of how I think it may appear or how scary I thought it would be, it did not break me. Instead, it helped me to heal.
I now love myself for all sides of who I am because I sat with myself in despair and grief and did not turn my back on that woman. I love myself for every situation I have experienced, for every sensation I have felt, and every decision I have made. They are not all pretty. But I am learning to see their beauty. I am comprised of successes, challenges, and failures and to turn my back on any of those would be turning my back on who I am as a whole being. So instead, I chose to love me…the whole me.
I love my grief for it has opened my heart in ways I could have never known without experiencing it. I love my disordered eating past because it has brought me gratitude for enjoying simple meals that others may take for granted. I love my tears for they are true and they help me to feel and express my emotion. I love my smiles for exactly the same reason. They are no different in that they all make me who I am.
So many of us desperately search for ways we can sidestep our own pain, grief, imperfection, and discomfort but the truth is that this is where we learn. This is where we grow. This is where we love. If you only will sit and listen. Don’t run. That path is much too difficult.
About the Author of How Grief Taught Me Self-Love
Stephanie Horning is a women’s wellness coach and holistic nutritionist on California’s central coast. After struggling with emotional and disordered eating for the majority of her youth, Stephanie has found freedom in her body, around her health, and in her approach to food. She currently supports other women on their wellness journey through her program Nourish 360, which she teaches on the Monterey Peninsula and teaches workshops all over central California. Stephanie’s passion for elevated health, self-care, and community guide her on her teaching path. She loves to support women find their wellness happy place in a way that is attainable, joyful, and resonates with wherever they are at on their life’s journey. She is also a mom and a stepmom, and loves to touch upon staying true to yourself amidst a busy, full, and demanding life.