Self-Love

Don’t Let it Take Hitting Rock Bottom to Realise You Need to Learn to Love Yourself

Hope’s story speaks of strength, bravery and courage. Read about how she went from hitting rock bottom to rescuing herself and then going on to help others facing inner battles.

I stood there, staring at the mirror. I hated what I saw, hated that girl staring back. She was so broken, afraid and alone. She didn’t know what the future would hold. She had spent so much of life being independent, being so sure of her recovery and herself but something had changed in the last few months and she had lost that part of her. Was she ever going to get it back? Did she have the strength anymore?

The pain she felt was staring at her, and she couldn’t even see herself anymore. She knew what she had to do to get through the day. Plastered on her make-up, pulled on a dress, heels and headed out. Instagramming her life as she set off for the day. Sharing quotes, sharing things that hit a nerve with her and whilst she was honest about her feelings she knew that there was something that was making her so broken.

That girl that everyone else saw was not the girl that was there in the mirror. That girl that since last September had begun to lose sign of herself. This girl that had so much built up resentment, frustration and pain that felt so inescapable. Her guard had increased, like nothing before she was self-destructing as she thought that was the best way out. How could someone love this broken being? This lost young girl who was feeling so much pain? 

That girl is me. Yes, the strong, independent, mental health campaigner who feels so confident going up against politicians but can’t seem to quite love herself.

What I realised over the last few weeks is if you don’t love yourself, if your barriers are up it makes it so much harder for those around you. But also we shouldn’t get our self-worth from others loving us. We need to be okay with feeling pain, sadness and even when we feel these things we don’t need to punish ourselves, we don’t need to self-destruct in the fear that everything around us will fall or leave us…

In the past my coping mechanism to all of this had been to seek my value from something else. And that something had been my Anorexia. I met her when I was 13 years old, after a string of sexual abuse and as a way of coping with the fact I hated myself but also hated feeling emotions. It gave me everything I needed back then, a real sense of love and purpose and I thrived off everything it gave me. That love the anorexia gave me was everything I needed. I longed for more and more of her. I knew the anorexia would never leave me but what I didn’t know at the time was how destructive and dangerous listening to that voice in my head actually was. I ended up losing a whole year of my life in hospital trying to recover, but for some reason when life feels tough, and when you feel unloved the anorexia tries so so hard to suck you back in.

Other than the anorexia, my other coping mechanism (if I am not careful) is fixing people (but that is a whole other story in itself).

Both of these coping mechanisms are unhealthy, but also shut off those around me.

When this starts to happen we need to know our warning signs so that we stop it escalating. We have to learn to challenge that inner critique, that inner voice that is crushing you. I have always been excellent at avoiding real pain and not learning to love myself but this avoidance stops here. This is something I am still learning to do.

But I try, and I won’t stop trying to love myself.

So here is it and I know this isn’t easy but I guarantee if we start to love ourselves, get confident in who we are we will be able to let down those guards, let people in in a healthy way and also live life more.

Focus on what your body can do, not on the physical appearance

I am so self-critical about myself; I can easily stand in-front of the mirror and criticise myself for hours. Recently I messaged a friend and asked her if I could ask a silly question. Her reply was “Yes of course, unless it is a criticism of yourself.” I liked this! We spend so much time picking up our faults in the mirror but why don’t instead we say something positive about our bodies. Realising that they can do so much more. Yes, I am not a massive fan of my legs but without them I couldn’t run. I challenge you next time you look in the mirror and your brain starts to falter to an insult, do just this!

Take part in a Self-Care Activity each week

This doesn’t have to be expensive but do something that makes you feel good about yourself. Take some time out for you to wash your hair, watch something on the Television you might want to or take yourself outside and sit with your face in the sunshine. When I stop loving myself I tend to stop washing my hair, and spend much longer inside doing stuff for others but not ever doing something for me. We can’t help others if we aren’t helping ourselves.

Set boundaries and protect yourself

If we don’t have boundaries we can so easily over work, and lose sign of our values. This is boundaries in every aspect of our lives, work, relationships and fixing thing. I am not always great at doing this in probably again every aspect of my life. Protecting yourself is key too. We need to protect yourself in all relationships personal and professional. Letting people in for me is a big thing to do and so I need to be careful how much I trust and share. To manage this for all of us I think we need to have professional boundaries, but also in personal life have boundaries in our relationships so that we can protect ourselves further and make sure we are getting the value we deserve. 

Stop comparing

ARGH! Comparisons are the worst! And this one sounds easy but sometimes it is more about reminding ourselves to just not to compare, particularly when we may feel at our most vulnerable. What people show on the outside or on social media might not be the reality! 

Work on letting go

This morning I sent a text to someone who I had built up resentment for over the last two years. There was a lot she had done to upset me, and it had pushed me at times to my absolute limit. I knew that this resentment had turned me in to someone I didn’t want to be so sending a text whilst doesn’t seem like a lot will help me to let go. Sometimes it isn’t always as easy as a text if we can’t contact that person for whatever reason it might be. But again we have to find a way to let go, forgive and seek support to do this! 

Talk

This is the most important! Let’s talk to one another, share our own feelings about our bodies, our value and worth. Get reassurance if we need it but if we learnt to love ourselves we won’t need to be as reliant on others.

So my commitment to you (and I really hope you join me) is that I am going to learn to love myself. It may take time and I may falter on the way but that is totally okay.   

Hope Virgo
Hope Virgo
Author of Stand Tall Little Girl and Mental Health Campaigner / Public Speaker

Hope Virgo is the Author of Stand Tall Little Girl, and an award winning international leading advocate for people with eating disorders.

Hope helps young people and employers (including schools, hospitals and businesses) to deal with the rising tide of mental health issues which affect one in four people and costs employers between £33 and £42 billion annually. She has been described by Richard Mitchell, CEO of Sherwood Forest Hospital, as "sharing a very powerful story with a huge impact".

Also a recognised media spokesperson, Hope has appeared on various platforms including BBC Newsnight, Victoria Derbyshire, Good Morning Britain, Sky News and BBC News.

For four years, Hope managed to keep it hidden, keeping dark secrets from friends and family. But then, on 17th November 2007, Hope's world changed forever. She was admitted to a mental health hospital. Her skin was yellowing, her heart was failing. She was barely recognisable. Forced to leave her family and friends, the hospital became her home. Over the next year, at her lowest ebb, Hope faced the biggest challenge of her life. She had to find the courage to beat her anorexia.

To learn more about Hope, you can visit her website and Instagram.

About Hope Virgo

Hope Virgo is the Author of Stand Tall Little Girl, and an award winning international leading advocate for people with eating disorders. Hope helps young people and employers (including schools, hospitals and businesses) to deal with the rising tide of mental health issues which affect one in four people and costs employers between £33 and £42 billion annually. She has been described by Richard Mitchell, CEO of Sherwood Forest Hospital, as "sharing a very powerful story with a huge impact". Also a recognised media spokesperson, Hope has appeared on various platforms including BBC Newsnight, Victoria Derbyshire, Good Morning Britain, Sky News and BBC News. For four years, Hope managed to keep it hidden, keeping dark secrets from friends and family. But then, on 17th November 2007, Hope's world changed forever. She was admitted to a mental health hospital. Her skin was yellowing, her heart was failing. She was barely recognisable. Forced to leave her family and friends, the hospital became her home. Over the next year, at her lowest ebb, Hope faced the biggest challenge of her life. She had to find the courage to beat her anorexia. To learn more about Hope, you can visit her website and Instagram.

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