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. Click To Tweet
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.