I can hardly believe how quickly the last few weeks have flown by. My mom arrives from Canada tomorrow and Matthew and I are getting married on Saturday! To prevent major overwhelm and so that I can fully savour this exciting time, I'm not going to be writing blog posts over the next two weeks and I won't be sending out a newsletter next Monday. Instead, I've asked a few of my blogging besties to take over The Laughing Medusa. For the next two weeks, they'll be stopping by to talk about their own self-love journeys and to share their top tips for romancing yourself. I know they have some really incredible stuff prepared for you and I hope you'll enjoy getting to know them as much as I have.First up is Jessica. We had the opportunity to take our friendship offline when she moved to London in January and she's quickly become one of my closest pals. Jessica is a major fitnessista but today she's sharing an important message about how our best intentions can have dangerous consequences when we don't prioritise self-love. Take it away, Jessica!
As with so many things in life, I didn’t realise how important self-love was until the need for it smacked me right in the face. I remember the exact moment I became aware of its existence – or rather, the glaring absence of it in my life so far. As I lay flat on my back, willing my aching, painful body out of bed, a fleeting thought crossed my mind, quickly followed by another: Why can’t I just get a fucking grip and get up? then, Hang on – when did it become okay for me to talk to myself like this?
Let me give you a little context: roughly a month and a half before the above inner monologue, buoyed and made zealous by the prospect of a new relationship, I slapped a nicotine patch on my upper arm and began the process of kicking my addiction to the curb. It was a win-win-win scenario: if I quit smoking, not only did I get the boy; I also would also be taking a decisive step towards being healthier and my parents would be overjoyed. Super positive, right? Mindful of the fact that bad habits are best dropped by picking up new, constructive ones and also kiiiiind of fearful of putting on weight, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and took up exercising again for the first time in six years.
I say “took up” – the correct verb is really “threw myself into it with wild abandon”. I tend to go a little overboard with things I’m passionate about, and fitness quickly became a passion. How could it not? It felt good in the beginning; I felt strong, powerful and in control. For someone who’d fallen prey to addiction, this was a welcome feeling and I couldn’t get enough.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and the picture couldn’t be more different: I was working out twice a day, following super-intense fitness DVDs and eating far less than I should have. Now that I’d been bitten by the bug, I was obsessed. I looked good, but all I could see were lumps and bumps that needed smoothing out, tired muscles and aching that I equated with weakness.
The results I wanted weren’t coming fast enough, so I pushed myself harder, beating my body into submission with punishing routines and as little rest as I could get away with. Progress had screeched to a halt but in my altered state of mind, I couldn’t see the truth – I had shocked my body so deeply that it was desperately trying to hold on to whatever fat it could so that I wouldn’t waste away.
My wake-up call arrived soon after: I’d just finished a video from the Insanity series and was about to start another. I bent over and felt a twinge in my lower back. Thinking nothing of it, I continued exercising, showered and went to bed. The following morning, I couldn’t get up. I tried coaxing my body into a seated position, but my whole back seized up in what can only be described as a big, fat, NOPE. My physiotherapist’s verdict was immediate: lumbago. I had pulled my bloody lower back. Like a bloody old person. A bloody old person who would now be unable to exercise for two weeks.
Without the quieting effect of working out on my mind, negativity rushed in like the tide. Why can’t I just get a fucking grip and get up? Why is my body letting me down again? But then, from somewhere within the darkness: Hang on – when did it become okay for me talk to myself like this?
That was the question that started it all; the catalyst that jumpstarted my journey to self-love. Through self-reflection and lots of reading (I was out of commission for two weeks, don’t forget), it dawned upon me that what had started out as something positive had turned into something really ugly. I wasn’t trying to improve my body; I was punishing it for not doing what I wanted it to do.
From there, the healing process began. I apologised to my body. I slowly learned to gaze upon it with affection, embracing the lumps and bumps as parts of me, rather than something I had to fix. I did some really weird shit like writing odes to the body parts I’d spent a lifetime hating and staring at myself in the mirror until I started crying from sheer relief. I furiously wrote in my gratitude journal. I nourished my body with delicious, healthy food – and more importantly, I had enough of it. It wasn’t easy; there was a lot of resistance, and even now, there still is. I’ll tell you what, though – it’s the most important thing I’ve ever done and it’s so, so worth it.
Starting on a self-love journey can be daunting, especially when it’s from such a dark place. I know – I’ve been there. My number one piece of advice is to give yourself permission to take it slow. It isn’t a race; you don’t need to perform (it took me a while to get that one). Start small – scribble one thing you’re grateful for on a scrap of paper. Do it again tomorrow, and the day after. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Buy yourself a bunch of flowers. Take five to breathe deeply – really deeply. Reacquaint yourself with yourself. It’s where it all begins.
Hi! I’m Jessica. I’m an author, consultant and coach who writes about wellness, self-love and general badassery over on my blog, Jessica Says. I’m passionate about helping my wonderful audience live their best possible lives and feel great, even on a super busy schedule. If this sounds like you, please come and say hello!