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My Path to Self-Love by Kimberly Sprintz

Updated: May 1

Speaking from my experience as a female, honoring this is not an isolated gender topic. However, in our community, who identify as women, perhaps you will find my story similar to your experiences; the following is mine.

Many people insist that you must love yourself before you can love anyone else, and I recall how the statement made me angry. How dare the collective population of armchair psychologists condemn me to being alone until I loved myself! Did the brilliant minds leave a manual behind since they found it so damn easy to love themselves?

I had no idea how to go about loving myself besides the way the world taught me, to give in to whatever suited me at the time, eat chocolate (obviously), drink gobs of wine and alcohol (because it made me happy, DUH (happily recovering addict alcoholic now BTW), pedicures, spa days, oh lattes, beach vacays...etc. Some old tricks worked well briefly, but nothing lasted, and nothing made my self-love magically appear. Trust me, I tried all the fun, easy, shorter methods.

For myself, it took recovery and LOTS of therapy, and I want to acknowledge that I am privileged to have access to the care I need because many cannot, and that reality is the driving reason for the Women Empowering Women community!

I needed guidance and support to improve and learn who I was as a singular human. I viewed myself as part of others' lives, not autonomous.

Sadly, being alone made me feel less than whole. I felt so much better when others needed me as a woman, mom, lover, friend, co-worker, etc. I learned, albeit in a slow turtle sort of way, that I am just fine alone. I can make myself happy, care for my needs, have space to love others and enjoy life without losing myself.

I now understand that I was self-abandoning whenever I gave my happiness, love, and life to others. Early on, I learned that people who were supposed to love and care for me were incapable of doing that and felt anyone must be able to do it better. Yeah... NO! I kept picking people who supported me being small and met their needs at the expense of my own.

So consider the analogy of being given keys to a car that can take you anywhere you want to go in life...AWESOME right? However, now that you were never taught how to drive it, you must depend on everyone else to take you "anywhere." It has to fit within their schedule regardless of your urgency.

That was how love and LIFE worked; I depended on others to have it. Yet, all I needed to do was learn to "drive" or, in this case, "love" myself without others to do it for me.

In the book by James Hollis, he writes about six stages of finding ourselves from within (including love for ourselves) and living with authenticity, integrity, awareness, and healthy intention:

First, the person is convinced that the inner (unconscious) experience is truly outer. Second, there is a gradual recognition of the discrepancy between the reality and the projected image… Third, one is required to acknowledge this discrepancy. Fourth, one is driven to conclude one was somehow in error originally. And, fifth, one must search for the origin of the projection energy within oneself. This last stage, the search for the meaning of the projection, always involves a search for a greater knowledge of oneself. - James Hollis

This spoke to me; this is my process of finding my true self. As I continued recovering, I realized the barriers to loving myself required letting go of the lies the world had sold me since childhood and ultimately convinced me of. We are all shaped by the familial culture, social environment, and caregivers that imparted the requirement that I must have someone in my life if I was to be seen, have value, be heard, and, quite frankly, exist.

Once I emerged from the trainwreck that was my life, I quickly had to contend with the fair amount of baggage I had collected in 40 years of being on this earth. I slowly regained consciousness (literally and figuratively). Many were shaking their heads and fingers at me, I lost many friends and even family along the way, mourning is also part of the process, I have learned that people do not like change. People do not like to witness the change process in someone else unless they want that change to occur; it fits their social and moral compass, etc.

Most people reject changes in others because they should likely make within their own lives; projecting is quickly becoming a favorite pastime of far too many. I was described as cold and callous, heartless for caring about my needs, setting goals for myself, and, in their eyes, walking away from a perfect relationship...(not enough time or desire to elaborate). Was it necessary? Absolutely. Could I have done it better and hurt fewer people than I did? Absolutely.

I have since learned that boundaries of the cinderblock variety are unsuitable for relationships (go figure). Closing doors are often needed, but slamming them is unnecessary. I can have boundaries and be kind; I can hold space for someone or not, and that is okay. I can decide what and who comes in and out of my life and live it no matter how others feel about it. This is how I became free, free to love myself 🦋

I have learned that the world is big enough for ALL of me (including my luggage, which I now have, much less). Can you believe 90% was not even mine to carry...seriously let's hear it for recovery. One of the best things I have learned is that drum roll, please...when you are in healthy relationships, regardless of the type, no additional substances or people (unless you choose) are required. Until I met my husband, I had no concept of having a date with someone without some alcoholic libation, no girl's night without it, no lunch without it...did I mention I was an alcoholic? (clearly, this goes without saying).

For me, finding myself and then learning how to love "her" required letting go of so much "stuff," people, things, emotional weight, and yes, alcohol and drugs. It will be different for you, and some things may be similar or even better. Our journeys are unique, but the desire to love and be loved is universal. Using the car analogy earlier, learning to drive to our shared destination is better. Life is meant to be enjoyed, to be filled with love, and that starts once you acknowledge that you are enough, you are inherently worthy, you have a full tank, and you may need a few lessons, some training wheels, whatever, but YOU can have the love you deserve, and it starts where your feet are. Safe travels...

Hollis, J. (1993). The middle passage: From misery to meaning in midlife. Inner City Books

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