My life revolves around routines.
In the morning, I wake up and go to the bathroom. I stumble sleepily upstairs and make my coffee. Green mountain breakfast blend in the Keurig. I add a generous portion of almond milk.
In the evening, I do the same, except with other activities. I shower. I put on my moisturizer. I brush my teeth. Take out my contacts. Put on chapstick. Put on lotion. Get in bed.
It’s no surprise that my life centers around routines with the pipeline of genetic OCD running rampant in my family.
So to add something new to my routine takes time and effort. It takes consideration, planning, a few more weeks of planning on top of that and then deliberation before execution. All of these specifics made it oh so deliciously easy to excuse not working out and taking care of my physical self.
As the self-proclaimed self-love guru, I don’t want to admit something. My physical health resembles a dumpster fire. Maybe a dumpster fire in an affluent neighborhood with only old bottles of scented soaps burning, but a burning fire nonetheless.
The last few months, I’ve sat in a rut. Not a deep one, but I know I’m in one. The constant thoughts flooded back into my head: why am I not pretty enough? Why do I look like this? And the anxiety-inducing thought of: have I been lying to myself this whole time? Do I really not love myself?
It made me upset because, well… who am I if I’m not in love with myself? I’m the shepherd of a really tiny flock of women (and maybe men?) who often tell me how courageous my self-love is and how “they wish they were me,” because I own my shit and I know my worth.
Still, with the constant reassurance of my friends that I am loved and that I am beautiful the words just didn’t resonate. The normal things I do to remind myself that I am worthy just weren’t working. No matter how many warm baths I took and despite the never-ending flow of face masks, naps and hot tea, I still felt off.
I’m almost finished with Rachel Hollis’ book Girl, wash your face when I happened upon the chapter “The Lie: I am defined by my weight.” I cringed. I almost put the book down and never picked it up again. After therapy, years of unlearning the shit I’ve been conditioned and some valuable alone time, the topic of weight CONTINUES to haunt me and continues to be my biggest vulnerability.
Long story short, I had a revelation after reading this chapter: I’m not fully loving myself, because I’m not taking care of ALL of myself.
I’ve made excuse after boring excuse as to why I can’t work out. Why I can’t eat well and drink my water. Why I sleep too long in the mornings when I don’t have class and why I say “not today” when the yoga class up the street is calling my name.
I quite literally used the excuse of “self-care” nights to deny myself MORE LOVE.
My life has been an uphill battle with self-love. I spent year after year, my weight rising and falling with my moods. I’d get “skinny” and still hate myself. I’d gain all the weight back, then continue to hate myself. Then, I’d lose all the weight and the cycle would continue to repeat like that.
When I finally put my foot down and refused to continue that vicious cycle, I never picked up the aspect of physical self-love again. Partly because I actually loathe traditional forms of exercise but also because to me, working out never meant being healthy. It meant running from my problems and using the intense exercise to cope with my “unwanted feelings,” and I needed to learn how to love myself mentally before I committed physically.
Repeating things like “I will love myself for the skin I’m in” was a comfortable barrier from the reality: I’m not doing the best I can with my circumstances and I’m not prioritizing ALL aspects of my health.
I woke up Saturday morning feeling better than I have in months. I went for a light jog, choked on my own air and threw in the towel half a mile in but damnit I did it. I went home and did YouTube yoga in my living room and had an absolute blast.
I prioritized myself, and when I prioritized myself even my strict OCD mandated routines allowed it to happen. I didn’t explode, nor did it ruin my day.
And I felt great because for the first time, I exercised because I love myself. Not in spite of myself or because a doctor or a friend or a lover told me to. I did it because all those times I felt “down” on myself in the past month, it wasn’t that I didn’t love myself, it was that I loved myself enough to recognize that something wasn’t meshing and to make the difference, even if it took a lot of courage and self-realizations.