A handful of years ago, I was struggling in a relationship in which I was truly settling. I admitted to my best friend on the phone that I was afraid that if I wasn't with him, I wouldn't be with anyone. I had just moved to a new town, and I worked at a jewelry store where I mostly encountered females or males shopping for their significant others. I was afraid of being alone, and I was still recovering from a past relationship that left my self-esteem quite damaged. Depression has been a constant Villian in my life, and It was resurfacing again.
My best friend listened to me, and she said, "Why do you feel like you have to be in a relationship to be happy? You need to learn to be happy with yourself and to love yourself first."
I'm pretty sure my response was something snarky or defensive like, "That's easy for you to say since you're already married." Several others in our friend group had gotten married or engaged recently as well, which sharpened that feeling of loneliness I was experiencing.
My friend was kind and sweet, responding with, "That's true, but.." and then she went on to tell me of her personal inner struggles before she met her husband and how she had to find her love for herself before she was able to truly love another person. "You need to take some time to focus on you and put yourself first."
After we got off the phone, I thought about those words. I had lived my whole life believing that others deserved more than I did, so I always put myself last. I realized that I didn't know how to put myself first. So I did what a lot of us do when we need information; I went to Google and searched "how to put yourself first." An article from Oprah's magazine about self care was one of the top results, so I clicked and read it. I discovered that this lack of self love and care was a common for females, who tend to more naturally assume the roles of caregivers, often putting their own care last. After my Google researching, I began to implement some of the ideas I read. Making yoga and meditation a priority, and taking time to do other things that nourished my Spirit or helped me rest and relax, like snuggling up with a good book or getting a pedicure.
Within two years, I was enrolled in Yoga Teacher Training at Asheville Yoga Center in North Carolina. For my birthday that year, my best friend got me a set of heart chakra-colored mala beads. While at my month-long training immersion, I learned how to do a japa meditation using my beads, and I found the mantra, "I know who I am, and I am worthy."
For three years, this has continued to be a mantra of mine, and I incorporate into my yoga practice regularly. Depression is always there, somewhere in the background, trying to threaten me, but the immense love I have for myself (as well as other stress-relieving tools I've learned from yoga, meditation, and counseling) has helped this Villian to leave me alone. It has been an immensely transformational process to tell myself phrases like, "I am worthy," or "I am enough," and even directly speak to myself, "I love you, Andi."
I would encourage everyone to try something like this and see how you feel after regularly expressing self-love. In your own practice, try to think of something about yourself that you just love when you're in a yummy heart-opening pose. In an active flow practice, try saying something like "I am worthy" every time you do Down Dog.
Happy Valentines to you. You are worthy.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." - Buddha