Guest Posts, Self Love

The Long Painful Road to Loving Myself

April 11, 2016
healing

By Dina Strada

“Sometimes you’ll just be too much woman. Too smart, too beautiful, too strong. Too much of something. That makes a man feel like less of a man, which will start making you feel like you have to be less of a woman.  The biggest mistake you can make is removing jewels from your own crown to make it easier for a man to carry.
When this happens, I need you to understand, you do not need a smaller crown—you need a man with bigger hands.” ~ Michael Reid

The first time I heard Michael Reid’s beautiful poem, it was read to me by my best friend in an intimate group and it resonated with me in a big way. I had often felt throughout my life that maybe I was too much… too much of something (independent, outspoken, honest, sensitive) that made me “not enough”.

The 2nd time I read it was when an old male friend of mine who has known me close to 20 years posted it on my Facebook wall recently. It resonated with me even more the 2nd time around because he knew what I have been through the past few years and his gesture in sending it reminded me to stay the course… and to not dim myself for anyone, including myself.

Prior to the last 2 1/2 years of my life, I would have argued that I was completely happy with myself and no longer felt that I was “too much” of anything. I loved my life and what I had made of it and felt pretty confident in who I was.

What I didn’t realize was that I had been stuffing down and not acknowledging this old story about myself that I’m “not enough”.  A story that only those intimately close to me would tell you existed and that it was actually running my life.

On the outside, I appeared to have it all growing up. A straight “A” student, an accomplished athlete in high-school, loads of wonderful friends and a close-knit Italian family who couldn’t be more loving if they tried. I graduated from a great college and immediately starting building a very successful in what most people would consider to be a glamourous job in the entertainment industry. All without seemingly breaking a sweat.

The first conscious belief I had about myself that I wasn’t enough was at the age of 15. I would tell anyone who would listen back then that I was fat. In my mind, I didn’t look like the other skinny girls I played soccer, field hockey and softball with, so I most definitely knew what I was talking about.

The truth was… I was really OK. More than OK.  On the outside. Short and muscular, with the body of a gymnast, I was far from fat.  But I beat myself up daily. Looking in the mirror, I would stare at my reflection with disgust, pinching every body part that was unacceptable to me, feeling depressed about the way I looked and starving myself with an apple and a diet coke a day, thinking that if I could just get down to my ideal weight, I would be “enough”.

But nothing was ever enough in my own eyes. No matter how much I starved or exercised or retricted, I was never good enough and would punish myself in horrible ways for my inability to “be perfect”. Hence began a 15 year battle with an on-going eating disorder that nobody knew about.

It was a dirty little secret… My eating disorder, my self-hatred, my shame about so many things about myself. My feelings that I wasn’t ever good enough in the eyes of anyone including my own family. My belief that I choose the wrong men, make the wrong decisions, was a selfish human being for moving cross country to LA to pursue my career, all served as excuses to beat myself up on a daily basis.

Looking back, I can now see that when  one area of my life was going phenomenally well, something else fell apart that I could glom onto in a persistent effort to  hold onto that painful, bullshit fucking story of not being enough.

The one nobody else believed by the way… but me.

I think for all of us, there is a defining moment in our lives… that one unexpected, out of left field, never-saw-that crazy-ass-thing coming moment that swings in like Miley Cyrus’ wrecking ball, shakes up your world in ways you never thought humanly possible and guts you to the core. Leaving you wondering…

WTF just happened?

 How did I get here?

 Who the hell am I?

When my marriage ended unexpectedly just 3 months after giving birth to my daughter, I found myself alone, with 2 small children to raise, and a shitload of anger, resentment, confusion and the “SEE – THIS TOTALLY PROVES I AM NOT ENOUGH!” story banging on the drums of my bruised ego and heart louder than a rock concert.

Because I couldn’t make sense of any of it, and because there was nothing I could do to change the hellish reality that was quickly becoming my life without my permission, I realized I didn’t have any real choice but to go inward. And do my own healing work.

Because it was really the only thing left to do.

I had spent far too long not loving myself. Not treating myself with the respect and care that I deserved. Not speaking up when I was being mistreated or disrespected.  Not accepting myself for who I was. And I was 100% clear, that this latest curve ball thrown my way was God or the Universe’s way of testing me… to see if I was going to allow this one single thing to define the rest of my life and destroy all of my self-confidence and self-worth or whether I was going to pull up my big-girl panties and finally let go of my very skewed, bullshit story that I was a woman who is “not enough”.

On my soulful, sometimes rocky and uncomfortable journey inward, I was forced to own pieces of my life I hadn’t wanted to take responsibility for and look at things I didn’t want to see.  Because let’s face it… there are things we all have that we just don’t want to see about ourselves.

I had to face parts of myself that were broken and shattered beyond recognition, knowing it was time to put the pieces back together… and other parts I tried to hide my entire life because they were things I was not proud of.

But on this journey inward I also had the opportunity to see and acknowledge my own beauty and magnificence. In the most painful moments of my loneliness and struggle, I discovered what it was about myself that I loved. And there was so much about me that I loved… that until this wrecking ball moment, I was never able to clearly see.

I fell in love with my sensitive, thoughtful and empathic heart, where once I had hated how emotional and sensitive I could be in the face of another person’s sadness or pain.

I fell in love with my strength, and my ability to laugh at myself and my situation even on the darkest of days.

I fell in love with my boldness, my independence, my sassy, sometimes off-color Jersey sense of humor, my vulnerability that likes to hide behind the “tough girl” mask and my vibrant sexuality that I had tried to dim and hide for so many years in an effort to always be the “good girl”.

I learned to embrace and forgive myself for all the mistakes and missteps I had made in my life. I apologized where I needed to. I forgave other people who had done things to me I thought were irreparable.

I allowed myself a break – to actually be human. To cry when I needed to, be pissed off, drink too much, not exercise enough, eat chocolate for dinner, take time for myself, lose my patience, admit when I was having a bad day, slack off, sleep in, skip Yoga class and screw up more times than I cared to admit because I’m not perfect and no longer felt I needed to be.

I don’t think it was until I started sharing more publically all of my faults, warts and messy emotions that I really, truly learned to love myself completely.  Because it was only then that people started to share with me their own faults, warts and messy emotions. And isn’t that really what connects us at the end of the day? People who can be honest and raw and real and share their most authentic selves with others, yet still be loved for who they are?

If I could go back to my 15 year old self, my 25 year old self, my 30 year old self… I’d want to tell her so many things. But the most important is this….

No matter what… you are enough. Love yourself. For everything you are, and everything you aren’t. Just know that you are exactly who you are supposed to be in the world.

 And you are and always be… good enough.

Dina_Strada-Headshot2

Dina Strada is an Event Planner, writer and Intuitive Counselor & Coach, passionate about expanding consciousness and helping others connect with their true selves and live their life’s purpose.  A graduate of Boston College and Coach U, she’s a recovering perfectionist, single mom of two spunky small people, and still a Jersey Girl at heart. Dina also writes for Huffington Post, Tiny Buddah, Elephant Journal & Chopra.com. You can connect with her on Facebook or read more about her on her website.

 

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Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. This will be her only international retreat in 2016 and is her favorite retreat of the year. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

 

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Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a special Mother’s Day weekend retreat in Ojai Calif, May 6th, 7th, & 8th, 2016.
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Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty.
Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

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3 Comments

  • Reply Louise Lane April 11, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Thank you Dina, your words and initial poem resonated for me and was your journey through your dark places probably your best & hardest work to date? Well done on dusting the cornices of your sensitive soul & best wishes for the future.

  • Reply Dina Strada April 11, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Louis… Yes… my journey has been the darkest place I’ve ever been in my life… especially the past 2 years. The darkest, the hardest… and yet the most profound and transformational. I think I am the best version of myself today than I have ever been. Mainly because I accept myself as imperfect and constantly a work in progress. I don’t need anyone to love and accept me, except me. And on the days I am not in that place of self-love, I just give myself a break, accept that I’m in a crappy place that day and that this too shall pass.
    I like to say that my imperfectness now is what makes me perfect. 🙂

    • Reply Louise Lane April 11, 2016 at 9:19 pm

      Thank you Dina. I found reading “woman who run with the wolves” and listening to cd’s by Dr Pinkola Estes, nourishing for my hungry inner child just as you describe yours. Best wishes, Louise

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