by Hannah Andrews
It took me a while to warm up to this month’s theme, “Loving Ourselves.” I didn’t feel qualified to write about “self-love.” My cup has never runneth over with self-confidence. I think the adopted kid in me built an inner narrative. After all, if my own mother, the one who was supposed to love me the most, gave me away, what real value could I have? I’m sure some schoolyard bullies reinforced this belief in me, but I definitely had my own inner bully. I learned to live with the highs and lows throughout my life, though that’s an understatement. My highs never seemed that high and my lows were excruciating.
I thought finding my origin story would solve everything, a magic elixir. I sent for my OBC (Illinois now allows this. All states should. Don’t get me started.) Instead, seeing I’d had an entirely different name and finding my first mother died just before the law changed left me reeling, and with an extra layer of identity crisis. Who was I? Who could I have been? Doing “the work” of adoption awareness and therapy, and finding the adoption community has been really beneficial. I’m still a work in progress, though. It would be disingenuous for me to spout positive affirmations into the ether while secretly shaming myself over everything from, the degree I didn’t finish, the life I might have had, the first mother I never met, not doing the work earlier in life… You get the point.
Just love yourself. Easily said. Not always so easily done.
One of my favorite scenes in Euphoria, an in-your-face very adult-themed teen drama, is Kat’s “Love Yourself” scene from the 2022 season. Kat is a high school student. She’s cute, smart, popular, and has a sweet boyfriend. She’s not traditional skinny cookie-cutter pretty, and indeed she harnesses that as part of her power. Kat is totally self-assured and body-positive. Or is she? In this scene, Kat lays in bed, eating junk food and swimming through social media on her lap top.
A supermodel-esque beauty glides in from her bathroom. “Kat, you’re the bravest person I know,” coos the bikini clad woman. Soon Kat’s room fills with a bevy of beautiful Instagram and Tik-Tok influencers in a campy dream sequence montage. They tell her to “reject all beauty standards,” while ironically being exacting examples of said standard. A young feminist influencer adds in that Kat can “dismantle the patriarchy.” Kat tries to tell them all she can’t do any of that, she can’t even drag herself out of bed. They tell her she can do anything, she just has to love herself. It swirls into them all chanting, “love yourself” over and over. Kat screams at them, buries her head in her pillow, insists she can’t possibly do any of that because she hates herself. Its one of my favorite takedowns of toxic positivity. I’m 54, far from a teenager, and don’t even have a TikTok, but it really hit home for me.
I don’t hate myself, but loving myself feels like such a stretch at times. Getting out of bed some days is a struggle. I wish I could wake up and face the day like my dog Josie. Every morning she
runs to her breakfast dish and then squiggles in excitement as I put her harness on. Every day is the best day. Every walk a magnificent journey. I also wish I could love myself as much as she loves me. I am her sun, moon, and stars. But I digress.
How do we learn to love ourselves? Maybe it starts, ends, and meets in the middle with an attempt to love ALL of our different selves.
I write daily. I’m working on a memoir and a few other projects that may never be finished. Every day, though, I also write a little something— just for myself. It’s not journaling so much as just scribbling down whatever is bouncing around my brain. It’s an act of self-care for me. This week’s writing included a handful of letters to my younger selves. Yes, plural.
I wrote a letter to the embarrassed Kindergartener who peed her pants. Me, I mean me. I told her that her mother was right, that the kids would eventually move on and maybe forget about it,but that she would though, unfortunately, remember it forever. I didn’t sugar coat or lie to my younger self. I treated her with respect, and dignity. I wrote a letter to the little girl who made a mudpie for another little girl and laughed while she ate it. Yeah, also me. I told her it was a very mean thing to do and that I understood she (that’d be me) was just acting out because she’d been bullied herself, and that it didn’t make it okay, but that I forgave her (me).
And that’s when it snowballed. I wrote a letter to 15, 22, 32 year old me. I’ve made some bad choices along the way, so I won’t run out of letters to write anytime soon. I talked to my selves like I would talk to a friend. Not to rehash or punish. The letters are just for me, and it wasn’t a magic cure-all, but it was a nice exercise in awareness and it turned into an act of self-care. I embraced all of my selves, and judging by how I felt afterward, my selves really needed embracing.
Just love yourself. All of your selves. It isn’t easy, but I think its definitely doable.
Loving ourselves is crucial. It doesn’t mean we have to pretend to be okay when we aren’t. I think it means we hold ourselves with the same compassion we would hold a friend. I think it means we take some time to treat ourselves well. That might be yoga to one person, hiking or biking to another. It might be curling up on the couch with Netflix and a bowl of popcorn.
It might mean taking a deep dive into all that is adoption through documentaries, books, podcasts. Really exploring your feelings. It might mean seeking professional help. It might also mean taking a break from “doing the work.”
It might mean something today and something totally different tomorrow. And certainly, what it means to me may be completely different from what it means to you.
So, what does “loving ourselves” mean to you? Our peer support groups will feature “Loving Ourselves” as the February topic, though you’re always welcome to speak on other subjects.
Have a great February!
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