On Loving Yourself and Releasing Old Stories

Self love watercolor illustration
Illustration by Jessica Araus

On my first day of high school, a teacher asked us to introduce ourselves by standing in front of the classroom and sharing our name, hobbies, and whether or not we had a boyfriend or girlfriend. My thought at that time was, “Are you serious? What kind of teacher asks students to reveal their relationship status in front of everyone?”

By the time it was my turn to introduce myself, I was sweaty and nervous. I had been bullied in elementary school. Kids made fun of me because I was overweight, and I was afraid this would happen again. But I rolled up my sleeves and stepped in front of the classroom and said stuttering, “Hi my name is Jessica, I like drawing, and I-I-don’t have a b-b-boyfriend.”

Right after that, someone whispered, “Who would want to be your boyfriend anyway?” breaking the silence in the classroom. Everybody started laughing and I felt my heart shrink. For a while afterwards, those words would surface and replay in my mind. And this thought became my truth during most of my teens and early twenties. For a long time, I didn’t feel pretty and thought I was undeserving of love.

One morning, that old belief presented itself. I was making breakfast and started to cry. My boyfriend asked if there was something wrong, and I told him about my high school story. He held my face in his hands and said, “Close your eyes and imagine yourself in front of that classroom. I’m looking at you and YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. Oh, and when that bully makes his appearance, I’ll kick his ass.”

Going back to that past memory and replacing it with a new empowering belief—the belief that I am beautiful—helped me break free from old patterns of disapproval and self-doubt.

In her book Life Without Envy, Camille DeAngelis shares one of her earliest memories of herself when she was three years old:

“My parents have taken me over to my aunt’s house for a holiday celebration, and at the end of the night they strapped me in my car seat and went back into the house to finish their good-byes. The car was probably no more than twenty feet from the front door, but it might have been a thousand miles for how freaked out I was to be in the cold and dark by myself. Through the front window I could see my dad and my uncle chatting, the Christmas tree lit up behind them, and I sobbed my little heart out.”

Camille writes that she never quite got over that moment until she recounted this story in a conversation about attachment parenting. It was then that a friend said to her, “You need to go back in your mind, take that baby out of the car, and love her.”

You need to do for yourself all that you'd do for your three-year-old self—or your son or daughter, if that's easier to picture. Camille DeAngelis. Share on X

How many times do we punish ourselves with the same rejection/mistake/sad memory? We do this by replaying painful thoughts again and again.

While we can’t press a button and reset our memory, we can empower ourselves by confronting the ghosts of our past and giving ourselves what we needed in that moment—attention, love, forgiveness. When we do this, we release old stories and we become more compassionate with ourselves. I for one have experienced that self-compassion is the way to self-love.

The more we take care of our own needs, the less we’ll seek for recognition/love outside ourselves.

Is there a story you’ve been struggling to release? How can you break free from it? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Author: Jessica Araus

Jessica Araus is a mixed media artist and illustrator living in the Netherlands.

10 Replies to “On Loving Yourself and Releasing Old Stories

  1. Well, now you have me crying in a coffee shop! 😭🥰 Moment of perfect candor here: even after writing about this and recommending it to lots more people in person, I’m still not great at this practice myself. Thank you for inspiring me to recommit to it. ❤️❤️❤️

    And out of all the interesting getting-to-know-you tidbits that teacher might have asked you for……..FACEPALM. Seriously. That is *awful.*

    1. Aww, a friend of mine had the same reaction after reading my blog post. She sent me a message saying she was in tears. And yes I agree, that teacher could have asked a dozen other questions. It was awful, but it’s now buried in the past. 🙂

      Thanks a lot for reading and commenting. It means the world to me. You are a big inspiration to me. ❤️❤️❤️

  2. hi Jessica, the story got me into misty eyes. I have undergone bullying when I was well into my 20’s, it was a pathetic experience and also changed my life in many ways. It’s a great reminder that we need to always feel beautiful and no other negative feedback matters to us. All it matters is what we think of ourselves. You are a great writer. Love it.

    1. Hi Simi. I’m really moved by your words. Bullying can be an awful experience, but at the same time, it adds to our resilience. You are right, the most important feedback is the one we give ourselves. Thank you SO much for your comment. It means a lot to me. Love, Jessica.

  3. I love this post! I have many old stories that are similar so I can understand what you went through. We are all worthy of love no matter what we look like! ❤️

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