In all my heart’s rawness and truth, I have never been able to stand in front of the mirror and truthfully admit that I love the person I see. All I could see was the way my bangs fell on the wrong side or the always-present bags under my eyes. I took in the extra weight around my stomach peeking over, and I felt the pain that ached throughout my bones. I never loved what the mirror showed me, and I never learned how to love calling my body “home.”
That’s the truth, but that’s not the end.
I have come to believe that we are constantly writing a love letter to ourselves. Every day – the things we decide, the moves we make, the feelings we give way to, every moment we breathe – all these things become a piece of that love letter. I’ve learned that we write of demons and triumph, fears and dreams, ghosts and hope. We write to the back of our hearts, where we’ve held on to souvenirs of regrets and mistakes. We write to the depths of our bones that shake with broken pieces of a barely-breathing story. We also write to the little piece of our heart that beats a little louder than the rest. We write to the gold in our eyes that we cannot hide, that the world cannot dim. This letter is both beauty and pain, and when it comes to loving ourselves, we have to face both.
Loving yourself means learning to let go of those demons and souvenirs we have held in our hearts that tell us we are not good enough. We have to leave behind the things that tell us we don’t deserve love or that we even aren’t worthy enough to receive love from ourselves.
I’ve been there, and I’ve felt that pain. I know how real it is. Here it is: written all over my face, hidden in my back pocket, left on my sleeve, rattling in my brain, swelling behind my eyes, and burdening my being. You’ll see there’s a belief that I need to carry every petty moment, every fear, and every mistake, blemish, and doubt along with me. I’ve piled them on like battered suitcases on the sidewalk, never knowing I was free to move on from them all; never knowing I was not chained to the weight they carried.
Those things I’ve carried have hindered any hope of writing that love letter to myself.
I don’t know what you see when you look in the mirror. I don’t know what is sitting on that little shelf in the shadows of your heart. I don’t know what weighs heavy on your bones. I don’t know what you fear or what lingers in the shadows of your own deep breaths.
But what I do know is what I see in your eyes. It’s that glitter that you could never hide, that hope that you still can love yourself. It’s a hope that your love letter is going to make it, and it’s going to shake the dust. I see that, I really do.
Who needs a heart weighed down with pain, mistakes, and souvenirs from yesterdays? You and me, we are going to realize that tomorrow is better than yesterday and that every step from here on out will be anything other than backwards. We are going to learn that bad days are not bad lives. We’ll see that tears are not stains, fears are not callings, and mistakes are not our future. We are more than all the baggage, lost love, regrets, and darkness we have tried hiding in the crevasses and on the shadowy shelves of our hearts.
Self-love starts today, and it is a journey through the light and the dark. It comes with fears and dreams and sleepless nights and parades in our own name. Self-love matters. It’s how we make it to tomorrow and how we take another breath; it’s how we fight, and it’s the joy each day brings.
You are going to get there. We are both going to get there. We’ll see the day where we can look in that mirror and smile, and we will smile because – perhaps for the first time in our entire lives – we feel good about what we see staring back at us. We are going to finish that little love letter, and we are going to shake our own bones and shine a light in every secret hiding place.
We are going to be OK today, tomorrow, and every day that comes before us. We are going to make it. We just need to start with a little hope and a whole lot of self-love.