By Sophie Balisky, Silver Linings volunteer
Walk down the self-help aisle of any bookstore and it is quickly apparent that self-love is an emphasized topic of mental well-being.
For years while experiencing my eating disorder, I struggled with how to love myself. My eating disorder cast a dark shadow on my self-worth. I didn’t know where to even begin to find this self-love. More importantly, how was I supposed to give this love to myself when self-hatred took up so much space in my life?
The concept of self-love frustrated me. I believed that if self-love was an exit out of my eating disorder, I would never succeed in crossing its threshold.
Ironically, my struggle to achieve self-love significantly perpetuated my feelings of inadequacy. The repeating cycle of self-hatred continued until my therapist introduced me to a simple, yet revolutionary perspective: the concept of visualizing and reconnecting with my child-self.
I’ll never forget the emotions that overwhelmed me when I started to visualize blue-eyed, four year-old Sophie. She loved to search for mermaids and fairies. She ran through the forest, cut her little siblings’ hair and hugged the neighbours cat. She had a kind heart, an imaginative mind and a sensitive spirit. She was magical and beautiful and inherently deserving of love, exactly as she was.
I smiled with relief that she was still there, easily accessible in my mind. I cried uncontrollably over the realization that I had forgotten, neglected and mistreated her for so long.
I began to live my life in a different way. I made four year-old Sophie a self-love reminder by changing the background of my phone to a picture of her. I asked myself: “What does she need on a day to day basis? How can I take the BEST possible care of little Sophie?”
She needed food. She needed rest. She needed to play. She needed to feel safe. I could not hurt her with unkind words. I could not starve her. I could not criticize her body. I could not tell her she wasn’t good enough.
I began to encourage her. I protected and reassured her. I comforted her when she was sad and allowed her to feel what she was feeling. I woke up everyday and made it my goal to provide for her in the best way that I could. She was worthy of my love exactly as she was.
She was me.
She IS me.
And she always will be.
Self-love, like any relationship, involves ongoing and conscious effort. It means choosing, everyday, to accept and care for yourself in the ways that you need to.
The next time you are struggling with how to love yourself, try letting your inner child guide you. They always have been, and always will be, the essence of who you are and how you deserve to be treated.