I have a confession to make… one that feels shameful to admit although I think you might already know it. It’s just me who’s been lurking in the shadow of this realization. And the shame I feel for admitting it is the very thing that has kept me there: I’m not sure I know what self-love is.
Or maybe I do know sometimes, but I forget a lot. Too often. I forget every time I decide that I am unlovable and I abandon myself instead. I decide I’m unlovable when in pain, when my life and feelings get messy, when I haven’t yet discovered the silver lining, when I’m being all too human, when the pain seems meaningless. Not realizing that the meaninglessness probably comes from me abandoning myself, not loving. It’s a loop I can’t seem to get out of sometimes.
I’ve lived with the impression that I had self-love mastered. But my love was conditional to me being okay. I had learnt to love myself when my life was fine and when I had full control of my emotional life and positive thinking. I had learnt to love myself when love was the primary tone. I had fine-tuned my tools of self-care not realizing the ultimate self-care is self-compassion. This means compassion towards myself when I wasn’t okay and when things didn’t seem fine.
Realizing this, I could also see clearer what had actually created my suffering during many of the painful periods in my life. The main reason for the rough patches feeling unbearable was the fact that I abandoned myself. That’s what hurt the most, not the pain itself. That’s what still hurts the most.
My inner critic, in moments of pain, sounds something like any variation of this; “You should have this figured out by now, you’re so stupid for not being able to deal with this!”
And I know she’s wrong, but she can be really convincing sometimes. It’s a struggle to prove her wrong. But I’m trying to.
It’s a long road ahead, and no one else is driving me down it. I’m in the driver’s seat. It’s up to me to get there. And I’m determined to do so. But, no matter how long that journey takes, I need to remember three things. First, that no matter how many times I fail, I am not a failure. Secondly, that journeys take time, and that my journey to self love is a process that has no set time frame. Third, and most importantly, regardless of everything else, I am enough.
Esther Ginzberg is a sophomore at Maayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in New Jersey. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.