Self Love in 5 Steps
Self love is such an important part of the messaging I want this blog to put into the world. I have often said that I believe most of the world’s problems would be solved if girls were taught to love themselves, and be confident and proud of it. Read on to hear Sondra’s incredible story, and how she learned to love herself after years of trauma. This is part of our #glitteryguests series, where we have amazing stories shared by guest writers. Make sure to subscribe to emails to get notified when new posts are live! xox, Callie
Self Love in 5 Steps by Sondra Holtz
If I could, I’d walk around this earth with a tutu (a super, super chic Pinterest worthy one, obviously) and a magic wand and sprinkle Self-Love EVERYWHERE. On EVERYONE. I personally believe it would look like glitter, but it would be way easier to clean up! This image of who I wish to be is mirrored to the person I needed once upon a time. A person I had to be for myself!
I have an extensive history of physical/verbal abuse, self-doubt, low self-esteem, weight issues…I’m a real-time Lifetime Movie. I grew up in an abusive home, with an alcoholic father. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to this intoxicated person, angry and irrational. Whether we did what we were accused of or not, we could be sure we were facing physical punishment. It’s a strange situation to be in, because the person hurting you is the same person you can’t really live without.
So, you lie to the teachers and hospital staff when they ask about the various bruises and injuries. You don’t have friends over often, because you’re not sure what could happen. You put on a smile, and pretend you don’t have a bed-wetting problem, caused by stress, when you go to sleepovers. No one knows you have a Binge Eating Disorder, or that you steal Little Debbie snacks and hide them under your bed. You just….deal.
I can remember the last time my dad ever hit me. My friend Melissa was over, and it was the first time he ever hit me in front of someone else. Someone on the outside. I was 15 years old, with a typical teenage ego, and the look on my friends face said what I knew all along: “This is NOT ok.”
When he sent me to get the mail that day, I had thrown a backpack out my bedroom window-and I never went back.
That was almost 16 years ago, and I’ve been rebuilding ever since. It became evident to me a couple of years in that I had more to prove to myself than I had to prove to anyone else. I had to ditch the anger and sadness to learn who I was without the constant fear, stress, and anxiety. Who I wanted to be without someone making me feel like I wasn’t worth anything. Most importantly, I had to figure out how the hell I was going to do any of this on my own, in a world where it was quickly becoming harder and harder to blend in OR stand out.
First, I pretended.
Running away from home led to an opportunity to start fresh in a new city, at a new high school. Somewhere where no one knew who I was, or what I had been through. No pity. No shame (except in regards to a really unfortunate haircut I got just before moving). I could start every day as who I wanted to be, slowly pushing away that fear, self-doubt, and stress more and more as I did. I learned that who I wanted to be was fluid. That I could adjust, based on how these different things made me feel. I learned the things that made me feel the best ultimately revolved around making other people feel good, or being useful to them. People’s praise and opinions are a high-value currency for me.
The next step, was to balance it all out.
Yes, I love making people happy and making them feel smart/special/important….but at what cost to myself? Was I making myself feel the same way, or exhausting myself seeking validation from people and not getting much more than self-satisfaction out of it? Another form of balance was treating myself with a little more respect. I had to trade in my Little Debbie binges for food with nutritional value, and be gentle with myself when I started to have anxiety over being “the fat girl” eating in the cafeteria, or being afraid of how a bag of chips made me feel. I had to learn to stop fearing food, and owning my efforts (and sometimes, lack thereof).
After that, I had to learn celebrate myself at every stage of my journey.
I learned so many surprising things about myself along the way, and some were really hard to wrestle with! For example, I thought my life would be magically fixed if I lost weight. I started a blog, had weight loss surgery, and documented the experience. 130 lbs later, I was even more confused and started struggling with new food fears. I started running to lose weight, and kept doing it even though I HATED it, just because I thought it would make everything better. Eventually, I started putting some of my weight back on and went into full PANIC mode. HOW DO I TELL EVERYONE I FAILED? THEY CAN ALL SEE ME FAILING. IT’S ON THE INTERNET.
So, I took a blog break, and worked on myself. I got some modeling opportunities with big names, and loved how I looked dancing in my underwear on camera. After I took a trip to Greece to model, and looked at those images and instead of thinking “That can’t be me!” I was thinking “THIS IS ME NOW.” I re-branded my blog, with an emphasis on traveling (my lifelong dream was to see the world), accessible fashion, and most importantly, SELF LOVE.
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I was almost to the finish line! Now, I had to create a cycle.
I had to find ways to constantly remind myself that I’m a force. A beautiful woman. A powerful person. A person with the ability to make others feel good. I started throwing out any practice that had previously made me feel like “less than.” I slept naked, and realized how much I actually hate pants. I wrote my posts from my heart. I bought the bikinis. I bought the crop tops. I let myself do things that might call attention to myself, because they make me happy. And I mindfully compliment anyone out loud when the moment presents itself. I found a career as a 911 Dispatcher, and even on its hardest days, I feel a sense of purpose and pride caring for others.
I stopped trying to change who I was to relate to people, and started owning who I was to relate to them instead. I forgave my dad, and made amends with my mom, because I want my family in my life (on my terms).
Finally, I realized something: There is NO finish line.
Even if you’ve worked on yourself tirelessly, Self Love requires maintenance. Treasuring the pretender you used to be. Mindfully finding balance in hard times. Seeing the smallest ways of celebrating yourself as victories. Honoring the cycle you’ve created. And when you’ve nailed that all down, you just keep it going EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
And if you’re an overachiever like me, you try to pay it forward and help someone else find more value and confidence in themselves, too!
Let’s recap! There are my five key steps to Self Love:
- Fake It ‘Til You Make It
- Find Balance
- Celebrate Yourself
- Create a Cycle
- Daily Maintenance
I know my story isn’t the same as yours, but I’m always amazed at how many people from all walks of life can relate. We’ve all been walking around with similar struggles and looking at each other, jealous of the illusion that the other person has to more “together” than us.
Self Love is essential. Especially today, where everyone’s every breath and movement are captured in real time, and shared with the world. Your failure. Your success. Your outfit. Your haircut. Your relationship. Your family. It’s almost as if there’s an unspoken need to compete. We feel this pressure to measure up, and level up. We spend more time and energy pretending to be happy than working on actually being happy.
In the moments where I genuinely allow myself to practice Self Love and reflect, my life is pretty amazing!
Maybe it pales in comparison to some of those people I follow on Instagram, and the way they’re living. But it’s mine, and it’s a far cry better than the not-so-long ago days of living in my gifted mini-van, working 4 jobs and going to school full time, couch hopping at friends’ houses, barely being able to afford to eat, and breaking my own heart trying to earn love from others rather than fostering it in and for myself.
You. Are. Worthy. You always have been. And you always have me if you need a reminder!
Sondra lives in San Diego, CA where she works as a 911 Dispatcher by night, and a blogger/Self Love Advocate by day! She has a passion for size-inclusive fashion, travel, karaoke, and anything involving glitter! Occasional part-time Plus Modeling led her to find love for her own body as it is, and inspired her to encourage others to love their bodies and themselves, at any and every stage of life.