When you woke up this morning, what was the first thing you did? Kiss your love hello? Wake your sleeping beauties? Hit the snooze button? Or did you check your social media accounts? If you'd asked me this question just five months ago, I'd have had a different answer to the one I can give you today.
You see, five months ago, I was that person who, before her eyes have even adjusted to the early morning light and her brain had even really started up, was already flicking through Instagram, checking how many likes/follows she's received overnight and comparing her real life to everyone else's highlight reel. It didn't make for a pretty picture or a happy life. For, despite what my Instagram feed will tell you, I was drowning. Drowning in a horrible, overwhelming, no-idea-which-way-is-up depression, in a lack of self belief, and, more importantly, a lack of self love.
I know it sounds so hippie, it's almost a cliché. Love yourself. Though when you actually think about it, it has some merit. How are you supposed to be content, or even happy with your life and the people in it, if you don't love who you are?! Having said that, it's actually really hard. It's not like you can suddenly flick a switch that undoes all those years of being compared to your peers, or the latest Hollywood actress. You can't rewrite those scenes in your head where you're being told that your breasts are too small, that your calves are too big, that you're not tall enough. It's impossible. But it is possible to love who you are now. And this is how.
I can't begin to tell you how much impact this will have on you. You do not need people in your life who are either going to lie to you or bring you down with their words or actions. None of us are the same. Even Victoria's Secrets models look different. Even they aren't perfect, yet we expect all of us mere mortals to be skinny and toned with glossy hair and perfect skin 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Well I'm calling bulls**t. What you actually need is people who love the way you look now, not how you looked at 18 or 28 or 38. People who will make you realise that your girls look fantastic in a low v-neck but would never let you walk out the door in a pair of skin-tight pleather leggings without a top long enough to cover your lady garden. We all have things we hate about our bodies (uneven breasts and stretch marks anyone?!), but if you have people in your life who love the you in front of them, it'll make it a whole lot easier to start loving yourself.
And by this, I don't mean start training for a marathon (unless you want to, then go for it!). I mean walk to go and get coffee instead of letting your work colleague get yours again, go to the beach or park and mess around with your kids/loved ones, park further away from the entrance to the mall than you would normally (because yes, shopping totally counts as cardio). Do something active but don't do something that's going to make you unhappy. If the mere idea of going for a run breaks you out in hives, do something else instead. On the other hand, if going for a run appeals but you're that girl (like me) that always came last at school, then do a little bit at a time - jog to the end of your road and then walk back. No one can run 10k or even 5k without working up to it, so don't beat yourself up that you feel like an elephant next to those girls who run with just shorts and a sports bra on and NOTHING moves. Do something is better than nothing.
There are going to be days when you hate the world, hate how you look and feel, and just want to hide under the duvet. That's totally cool. Don't try to immediately snap out of it. Your body and mind needs to feel emotions to know how to deal with them. Always being the happy upbeat one won't do you any good in the wrong. Take it from someone who's been there. If you really can't face the world, go for a walk, buy ice-cream/doughnuts/chocolate, curl up on the sofa with a chick-flick (think Notting Hill, Two Weeks Notice - basically anything with Sandra Bullock/Hugh Grant) and go with it. For a couple of hours. Then have a hot shower, put on that dress/those shoes that make you grin like you just saw Chris Hemsworth naked, put on whatever amount of make-up makes you feel comfortable and beautiful and then go rock the rest of your day. Because you are awesome.
And that's it. I could put something in here about how you should meditate for 20 minutes or get up early and read your Bible. But quite frankly, I'm not here to make you do something you're not comfortable with. If you like meditation, do it. If your faith is important to you and helps, do that.
But no matter who you are, where you come from, what colour your skin/hair/eyes are, I guarantee those three things will work. Because really, learning to love yourself isn't an overnight thing. It's not even a 12 week plan. It's a constant learning battle where you give yourself credit for the stuff you did that was awesome (managed to keep your kids alive, feed them and get them into bed before 2 a.m. - go you!) and give yourself a break when stuff doesn't go as you planned or you screw up - and that includes having a glass of wine after a crappy day or eating your weight in chocolate!