If you’ve been reading my posts for awhile, you know that I talk a lot about awareness and acceptance. They are crucial for healing from trauma, and they are crucial to properly advocate for your child. My husband was able to get the help he needed to get sober when he closed the door on denial and chose awareness and acceptance. Awareness and acceptance are also necessary components of a healthy marriage. Without a doubt, the hardest thing I had to to accept was that my relationship with my mom was toxic. As a result, I made the decision to go no contact with her.
My mother is many things to me. As a child, she was the center of my world. I wanted more than anything to get her approval. I believed that somehow she would become the mother I needed if I kept believing and trying.
She did terrible things to me, and as an adult I realized those things were abusive. I understand that my mother is toxic. Yet, I have fond memories of her too. In some ways, the good memories made it harder to accept the truth. I have memories of her singing songs to me, rubbing my stomach when it hurt, and playing games with her.
When Brielle was born, I was determined to be the mother to her that I never had. Still, I hoped my mother could be a part of my life and part of my child’s life. After all, she was my mother, and she was Brielle’s grandmother. Although I hated what she had done to me, I loved her.
My toxic relationship with my mother
Several times over the course of Brielle’s life my mother got mad at me, and she would stop talking to me. As a result, she would also stop talking to Brielle. I warned her that this couldn’t happen. Brielle deserved consistency, and it wasn’t healthy to have her in and out of Brielle’s life. It was confusing and painful to try to wrap my mind around her behavior, and I didn’t want Brielle to experience this.
Three years ago my mother and I got into an argument. On that fateful day she told me she didn’t like me and wanted nothing to do with me. I felt like a knife was plunged into my heart.
I reminded her that Brielle was a child. There was no way she could see Brielle without making some sort of arrangements with me. She refused to communicate with me and sent me an email threatening to sue me for visitation rights. As angry as this made me, it also made me incredibly sad. She would rather take me to court than be cordial with me for the sake of her granddaughter? I knew on a rational level that her behavior was erratic at best, but knowing that my mom would go to such lengths to avoid me made me feel like the problem was me. What was wrong with me that my mother could just throw me away? Why did I have such a toxic relationship with my mom?
my decision to go no contact
After decades of wishing upon a star for my mother to love me, I looked at my innocent child and had to face reality. My mother would never be someone I could count on for emotional support. My mother is incapable of unconditional love. If I allowed her in Brielle’s life, it was inevitable that she would hurt my daughter in unforgivable ways. I had to accept going no contact with my mom.
Although my mom would eventually reach out to me (this wasn’t my first rodeo with her), I knew this wouldn’t change my need to go no contact. I defriended her on Facebook and removed her from my email and phone contact list. Brielle knew that her grandmother was constantly in and out of her life. I had to explain to her that that kind of behavior is unacceptable, and I wasn’t going to allow that. One day I might tell her about my horrific childhood, but for now, I want her to know as little as possible. I had my innocence ripped away from me as a child, and I am determined to not have that repeated with my child.
estrangement was my only choice
My mother texted me two years ago. She said she missed us. It took every ounce of strength to not respond. I’d like to say that I decided to go no contact with my mom because it is what was best for me. Although that is true, the reason I had the courage to do it was because of Brielle. My toxic relationship with my mom would translate into my daughter having a toxic relationship with my mom too. I went no contact with my mom to spare my daughter the pain of loving someone who cannot love her back in a real and healthy way.
There are moments of weakness where I think about the fact that my mother is getting older. I feel waves of sadness that my mother is now a stranger to me. Guilt absolutely creeps in from time to time, along with grief. I am mourning the loss of the mother I had, and I am mourning the loss of never having the mother I needed.
Surviving No Contact
It is a personal decision to go no contact, and everyone is entitled to decide what is best for them. For those of you that have gone no contact with someone who has brought you tremendous pain and suffering, I hope it brings you some comfort to know that I understand how hard it is to make that choice. I also recognize the bravery and strength it takes to do this.
I am proof that surviving no contact is possible.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you when making (and continuing) this choice is to ask yourself if this person is capable of change. The definition of insanity is making the same choice over and over again, expecting a different result. I realized that I was acting insane for being on this endless roller coaster with her; hoping each time that things could change, that she could change.
Going no contact was a hard pill to swallow. I will never have the mother I needed. It took decades of denial for me to get to a place where I was aware and accepted that she cannot be a mother to me in the real sense of the word. My mother is toxic, and having her in my life would only bring pain to me and to my daughter. I will never allow anyone to do that to my child, even if the perpetrator is my own mother. To give my daughter the childhood that she deserves, I had to close the door on the person who destroyed mine.
I have had to accept a lot of hard truths in my life. Sometimes it took some time for me to get there, and other times I looked awareness and acceptance straight in the eyes. What I’ve learned is that you can’t reach the light at the end of the tunnel unless you are willing to walk through darkness. I never claimed that acceptance and going no contact is easy. However, like Robert Frost said, “I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
You can learn to love yourself. However, learning to love yourself is like learning to walk; it takes time, patience, and a lot of falling down and getting back up. The tips below are helpful in your pursuit of self-love. Give yourself a mental high five with each step, and remember that when we practice self-love, we are teaching our kids to love themselves too.
10 Tips on how can learn to love and respect yourself
(1) establish and set boundaries
I don’t know about you, but everywhere I look someone is talking about the “b” word.
I used to find the concept of boundaries very overwhelming. In reality, boundaries aren’t as intimidating as they seem. What I now realize is that it is important to love yourself enough to set boundaries. The beauty is that there’s no one-size-fits-all boundary. They will vary from person to person because needs differ from person to person.
Boundaries are a good thing; actually, they are a great thing. Why? Boundaries mean determining what you need so you can feel secure in your relationships. Boundaries are necessary in all types of relationships, not just romantic ones. Whether it means letting your friend know that you won’t answer the phone after 11pm or telling your parents that certain topics are off-limits, they are meant to set clear expectations so that you can have healthy relationships with others. It is crucial to love yourself enough to set boundaries.
Making a list is often a great place to start. Write down some things that you would like to establish with the people in your life. Start with something small, and then you can work your way up towards bigger boundaries.
Share your boundaries is a loving, clear way. Remember that change takes time, and that you may have to restate your boundaries. Also understand that relationships are a two-way street, so healthy relationships mean giving boundaries as well as respecting the boundaries set by others.
At first it might feel awkward to set boundaries with others. You may not be used to expressing your feelings and needs to others. The important thing is to try to stand by the boundaries you set. Remember the importance of respecting and loving yourself enough to set boundaries. If you falter, that’s okay. You’re a work in progress, remember? The more you practice giving and sticking to your boundaries, the more comfortable you’ll feel. With time and consistency, you can learn to love yourself enough to set boundaries.
“Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.” (Anna Taylor, Goodreads).
A cranky, sleep-deprived person is not going to feel great about anything, let alone themselves. If your kids are keeping you up or you’re a troubled sleeper, try some of my sleep strategies.
(3) Accept your weaknesses along with your strengths
At some point you realize that you have nothing to gain and everything to lose by repeatedly hitting your head against a brick wall (metaphorically speaking). No matter what, I am going to make mistakes. There will be times where I am going to do things wrong. I am going to be emotional and anxious and sometimes needy.
I am flawed. Deeply. Wishing it away and hating myself for it isn’t going to make it go away. So how do you learn to love yourself? You can learn to love yourself by accepting those flaws and reminding yourself that you are doing the best you can. The key to happiness is acceptance.
It might be that I may never love those parts of myself, but I can love myself for WHO I am. I am not defined by my anxiety and my fears. I am defined by who I am as a person. My name is Randi and I feel anxious. That’s very different than thinking, “My name is Randi and I AM anxious.”
Try to show yourself compassion. When you feel badly or angry about something, argue with those negative thoughts. Remember you are trying and give yourself space to grow without forcing it. You can learn to love yourself and accept yourself. It simply takes time.
As strange as it might seem, try embracing your imperfections. We are the sum of all of our parts, but our parts guide us rather than define us. Imperfections are what make us unique.
“Loving yourself doesn’t mean you think you’re the smartest, most talented, and most beautiful person in the world. Instead, when you love yourself you accept your so-called weaknesses, appreciate those shortcomings as something that makes you who you are.” (Andrea Brandt)
Part of prioritizing your feelings is taking time to invest in your emotional well-being.
Read that book that got buried in your closet. Go for a run. Take a relaxing bubble bath. Listen to music. You can’t like or love yourself if you aren’t willing to invest time to care for yourself.
(5) daily affirmations
I’m a big believer in faking it until you make it. If you play a role long enough, you’ll can actually learn to love yourself.
Make a list of positive affirmations such as, “I am enough.” “I deserve love.” “I am worthy of happiness.” “I am proud of how hard I try.” You can make these lists with your children as well.
Write them on a piece of paper and read them aloud. Write them on a post-it and stick it on your mirror so you see it everyday. Whenever you are judging yourself or feel badly about yourself, grab that list.
This is something that comes up often with my daughter, especially around bedtime. I have to remind her that she should be kind to herself about her sleep issues and comfort herself as she would a friend.
When I am harsh with myself, I try to think about how I’d feel if the circumstances belonged to someone else. Most of the time, I would be far more compassionate and supportive than what I’m telling myself.
“When you are your own best friend, you don’t endlessly seek out relationships, friendships, and validation from the wrong sources because you realize that they only approval and validation you need is your own.” (Mandy Hale).
(7) Rediscover your hobbies
We get so enmeshed with our children and our loved-ones that we often forget what brings us joy. Not your kids, not your spouse, you. What are things that you like to do? What can you do for yourself to learn to love yourself?
Commit to spending even 5 minutes a day doing something just for you. Sometimes our hobbies are a form of self-care (such as journaling, listening to music). Sometimes hobbies are different than our self-care. Hobbies are meant for fun, whereas self-care is about focusing on your emotional well-being.
(8) Prioritize your feelings and look out for yourself.
That is a frightening notion for some of us. If you’re like me, you’ve spent most of your life focused on the well-being of others. My feelings fell by the wayside because I felt responsible for taking care of everyone else’s feelings.
It was a hard pill to swallow that I had to focus on myself first and foremost. That sounded incredibly selfish to me. People depended on me. I would be okay as long as I was taking care of my responsibilities, which meant making sure others were okay.
I didn’t realize how codependent that way of thinking was, and that I could never be the kind of mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and person I wanted to be unless I took care of myself. The truth is that all my best efforts can never fix/save others, and others aren’t responsible for my happiness either.
I want my daughter to stand up for herself, and that means I have to set the right example and do that for myself. I need to be my biggest supporter and cheerleader because if I don’t look out for myself, how can I expect others to respect my feelings?
You can’t be the best version of yourself if you are pouring from an empty cup. If you treat yourself as insignificant, it is not shocking if others treat you that way too.
Prioritizing your feelings may also mean taking time to calm down when you feel angry, stressed, or overwhelmed. Whether it’s telling your spouse, your child, or you friend that you need a moment, sometimes you need to simply walk away. If you can get outside and take a walk, great. Give yourself space to take some deep breaths and practice some relaxation exercises , even if it means putting your kids somewhere safe and locking yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes.
(9) ask for help
Learn to love yourself by reaching out to others if you feel overwhelmed and need to recharge. We put so much pressure on ourselves, and society puts so much pressure on us, that we feel like we are failures if we are struggling. Part of loving ourselves is accepting we cannot do it all, and there are times when we need the support of others.
(10) Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you are feeling
It is okay to be sad, anxious, or angry. You are not a robot, so you will experience a whole spectrum of emotions. It is part of life, and burying those feelings or judging yourself for them is only going to make you feel worse. It is okay to not be okay .
Self-love isn’t linear. You will likely take several steps forward and then several steps back. Some days you’ll feel on top of the world, and others you’ll feel like something that is getting scraped off the bottom of your shoe. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and new ways of thinking take time. You are going to make mistakes, but what matters is that you are trying.
“I gave myself permission to feel and experience all of my emotions. In order to do that, I had to stop being afraid to feel. In order to do that, I taught myself to believe that no matter what I felt or what happened when I felt it, I would be ok.” (Iyanla Vanzant).
The hard truth is that learning to love yourself is no easy achievement. However, the greatest achievements in life are meaningful because of the journey required to achieve it. The journey of self-love is filled with road blocks and hurdles, but it is a journey that is worth traveling.
There are often times in life when we are just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Like I’ve written before, life is HARD. Parenting is HARD. Marriage is HARD. Even harder is understanding that the only way to find happiness is through acceptance and compassion for ourselves.
As an adult, I had the same feelings of sadness and anxiousness that I did from my childhood. I felt disgust that I felt scared about things, angry that things that came easier to others were so hard for me, and self-loathing that I couldn’t just let go of my feelings of sadness about my mother and about my childhood.
Those feelings never went away, despite trying all kinds of therapy and implemented every suggestion and tool that they gave me. I was desperate to figure out why. With each failed attempt I asked myself, “What is wrong with me?” and, “Will I ever get better?”
One day I was asked a question by a therapist that I had never been asked before. I was explaining how badly I felt that nothing I did ever worked. She looked at me and asked, “What if there is nothing wrong with you?” Say what? I was speechless. I had a list the size of my arm of things that were wrong with me. Why in the world would she say that?
the road to healing and compassion
I was told by more than one therapist that happiness is acceptance of who you are. That made as much sense to me as the question I was asked. I was seeking professional help because I wanted things about me to change, so how could I accept them? This was the ultimate catch-22. I needed to accept the parts of me that I disliked to heal the parts of me that I disliked? I couldn’t wrap my mind around that.
No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get that question I was asked out of my mind. There were so many years I tried to fix myself, that it never occurred to me that maybe giving myself permission and compassion to feel however I needed to feel would set me free.
I had endless compassion during my husband’s journey of sobriety. I felt nothing but compassion for my daughter and was her number 1 supporter and advocate. Furthermore, when she felt badly about herself because of her learning issues, I told her that she might learn in a different way, but that doesn’t define who she is a person . I reminded her that who she is as a person is what defines her. I even had compassion for my mother because her own mother had been abusive to her. Why in the world could I have compassion for everyone else, but I couldn’t give myself that same support and understanding?
giving ourselves permission to embrace our emotions
Regardless of what our set of circumstances may be, we all feel sad, anxious, and badly about ourselves from time to time. We have all put pressure on ourselves, and we have all judged ourselves . Whether it is getting mad at our kid and losing our temper, feeling overwhelmed because of all that we’re juggling, or feeling badly that we didn’t do or say the right thing, we are all guilty of not giving ourselves grace, compassion, and forgiveness. We forgive the people we love, but do we forgive ourselves? What if we showed compassion for all parts of ourselves instead of judging ourselves?
I finally discovered the answer to my lifelong question of how to accept myself. What if I defined myself based on who I am as a person, and had compassion for my struggles? What if I understood that it was perfectly understandable for me to feel the way I feel based on my life’s circumstances? Even crazier, what if I recognized that what I went through would affect anyone? What if instead of judging myself and feeling shame, I applauded myself for being the person I am, despite all the terrible things that happened to me?
finding happiness within yourself means acceptance and compassion
It took me awhile to find my way, but I now know that the key to happiness is acceptance and compassion. Just as I told my daughter that she is defined by the person she is, I now understand that labels don’t define me. Who I am as a person is what defines me. I can show acceptance and compassion for my struggles, and by doing so, leave space for healing. I have learned that not only am I okay with who I am, I am proud of who I am, flaws and all. Accepting myself is how I found happiness.
Acceptance means understanding who you are and why you are the way you are. It means understanding your struggles and showing love for ALL parts of yourself. What if the next time we feel shame or badly about ourselves, we ask ourselves how we would feel about someone else who had the same feelings or went through the same circumstances? I’m willing to bet that if it was the same circumstances happening to someone else, most times we would feel empathy and understanding for that person. The only way we can be happy is if we show ourselves acceptance and compassion.
No matter what cards life has dealt us, we all have struggles. Everyday life, and especially life during a pandemic, is a world filled with uncertainty, hardships, and confusion. My hope is that now, more than ever, instead of beating ourselves up, we are able to lift ourselves up. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. If we show ourselves compassion and acceptance, maybe, just maybe, we can be better equipped to handle whatever comes our way.
Self-love is important for all of us. It is crucial for us to learn how to love ourselves.
Self-Love and acceptance are keys to your mental and emotional wellness
We live in a culture that is obsessed with success. It is a never-ending hamster wheel of doing more, working harder, and being judged by our achievements. It’s no wonder that many of us feel like we are failures when the bar is set higher and higher.
There’s also a revolution out there of increasing mental awareness. We are not only expected to do it all, we are expected to win the Olympics of mental fortitude.
The truth is, I used to get annoyed when I’d read articles about self-love,self-care, self-help, self-anything. I was barely hanging on by a thread trying to keep my mental faculties somewhat intact. I didn’t need a reminder of the things I wasn’t doing and didn’t feel capable of achieving.
It is the ultimate catch-22; we can’t love ourselves unless we are kind to ourselves, and we can’t be kind to ourselves unless we love ourselves.
This leads to the million dollar question: How can we learn to love and be kind to ourselves?
Answer: Accept that you are a work-in-progress.
we are all a work-in-progress
“We’re all a work in progress, and I’m not ashamed to say that I don’t have it all together – I really don’t think anyone does.” (Adrienne Bailon).
We are flawed. Every single one of us. Some might hide it better than others, but there isn’t a single person on the planet who doesn’t struggle about something.
Self-love is essential because if we don’t have a healthy relationship with ourselves, that opens the door to dysfunctional relationships with others. Relationships with friends, spouses, parents, siblings, and even our children are impacted.
Codependency often is a byproduct of not loving ourselves. Lack of self-love can lead to looking for others to “complete us.” We can shut others out because we are afraid of getting hurt. Letting people in requires true intimacy, and that kind of vulnerability is difficult if we don’t love ourselves.
“You’ve got to love yourself first, and until you value yourself enough and love yourself enough to know that, you can’t really have a healthy relationship.” (Joyce Meyer).
When we don’t love ourselves, we are unable to teach our children how to love themselves. It is our job as parents to set a healthy example for our children. We need to learn how to love ourselves so that our children can love themselves.
self-love is being perfectly imperfect
Self-love is looking at every flaw, every wrinkle, every extra pound, every trigger, every fear, every doubt, and every heartache and knowing that you are exactly who you need to be in that moment. You are perfectly imperfect, and that imperfection is what makes you loveable.
You see, my sweet friends, self-love isn’t about thinking you’ve got it all together, it’s about knowing THAT YOU DON’T.
“Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don’t even want to look at.” (Pema Chodron).
Learning how to love ourselves doesn’t happen overnight. Giving ourselves permission and space to try to love and accept ourselves is a huge first step. Take it day by day, hour by hour, or even minute by minute.
Self-love and self-kindness are both works-in-progress and THAT IS OKAY. What is not okay is giving up on ourselves. Take a chance and invest in yourself. It is the best investment you will ever make.
*To help support your self-love journey, I’ve created a self-love workbook. To print, click here: