Self love is a pretty big buzz word these days. A good one, mind you. And so damn perfect in principle, but man alive, it’s not easy. At all. It’s a hard-to-hit target that seems almost mythical. Shrouded in rainbows and glitter: Self love. It’s mighty pretty and sparkly, but can one really fall in love with herself?
If you asked me this at 16, a girl who stood nearly 6 feet tall in an oversized shirt and hair that covered her face, my answer woulda been “Hell no!”. After all, is a chubby teenager with straight As and a big forehead loveable? “No way,” I would’ve answered. With certainty.
If you asked me this at 22, a young career woman with a live-in boyfriend who cheated on her constantly, lied profusely, and told her “I wouldn’t have to cheat on you if you were prettier,” I would have snickered “Impossible!”. Because I believed he made a fair argument and really can a girl who runs a 32-minute 5k and wears a baseball cap and no makeup be loveable? “Of course not,” I would’ve answered. Holding solidarity for my own unworthiness.
My love story started with a war story. And I was the one shooting bullets. Fat, ugly, stupid, incapable, ridiculous, terrible. This is how I described myself.
Ask me this now my answer is “Damn straight, sister!” And I can spell out all the things that make me awesome. And I believe them. Because they’re true.
But my journey from loathing to love was a long one—worthy of a 3-hour documentary rather than a blog. The short version is this:
My love story started with a war story. And I was the one shooting bullets. Fat, ugly, stupid, incapable, ridiculous, terrible. This is how I described myself. Outloud sometimes even. And always in my mind. Impossibly unworthy.
I tried desperately to hide my existence. To be invisible. To roll under the radar. When you feel like shit, spotlights are the worst. I covered my chub in an oversize shirt. I hid my disdain hunched over at the back of the line. I buried my self-loathing beneath a closed bedroom door. I didn’t like me. I was mad at me for not being better, more beautiful, smarter, nicer, more interesting. All of it. I was pretty sure I was a person that the planet could take or leave.
I carried this with me into adulthood. I dated men who echoed my self-hatred with their contempt: One said, “You’re a 7. I should be screwing a 9, at least,” as he fled our home with bag in hand. I looked in the mirror and grimaced. “I hate her appearance,” another wrote in notes to his therapist. I cried. And burrowed under the blankets for days. My war was rampid.
All the while, a fire in my belly was burning. Stronger and brighter. I started reading books about exploration, Everest, and wolf migration patterns. I was reading women’s travel blogs and bookmarking them. I was researching adventurous lifestyles, treehouse living, hiking boots for sale.
It was more than just a curiosity, it was a longing.
A longing that erupted into an incredible and insatiable thirst for wild. So I broke up with my boyfriend (he was a lying turd anyway). Bought a $400 backpack and hiking boots (thank you, Visa!), and a ticket to the Yukon. Three weeks later, I jumped out of a helicopter with 40lbs on my pack in the Tombstone Mountains in the Canadian alpine, completely unprepared, incredibly frightened, and the most ecstatic I’d ever been. I set that fiery adventurer free.
I was not cured of self-loathing that day nor was the war I had waged on my body anywhere near over, but I was free that day. I was me. And so began my life as a girl in the wild.