When I first moved to Atlanta,

I didn’t know more than one person, so I was very lonely. I’d made my way 1,000 miles from home to pursue what I thought was “success” — an intense, high-paying job in a big city. This was what the years of hard work were for, right?

I wasn’t unhappy, but there was an underlying feeling of not enough…

not doing enough…

not working hard enough…

not being pretty enough…

not being skinny enough.

I leaned on late weeknights at work and late weekend nights at the bar to fill my worthy-ometer. I’d drink, eat, and socialize with new friends in my new city… Then, I tried miserably to sweat everything out in the gym the next day with a green juice in my hand. I quickly gained about 25 pounds.

I dated men who didn’t give me time of day. When I felt ignored, I would go down a rabbit hole of negative thinking and try to feel better about myself by putting MORE time into my looks. I spent hours in front of the mirror either covering up my acne or throwing a million outfits on the floor before a date night or girls night out. I learned all of my perfect photo angles.

I had made lots of amazing friends, thank goodness! But, I always felt a little left out or not in alignment with drinking, partying, and small talk. What happened to high school slumber parties, laughing in our PJs with snacks and real conversations?

I used to smile and hold it together. But, I was self-conscious and burnt out behind closed doors.

 
 
 

In an effort to find myself again, I began running 5K races and dabbling in eating well. It started with the little things: long runs with music in my earbuds, wearing a FitBit, prepping a couple of healthy meals and taking them to work. The effect was small but noticeable; I was taking back control of my life.

One day, a girlfriend introduced me to “personal development.”

“You probably don’t need it,” she said. “Your life is already so perfect.”

Sister, say WHAT? How was it that my life looked “perfect” from the outside, yet I was hurting and struggling on the inside?

It wasn’t until I enrolled in the Landmark Forum that my world was rocked. My mind was opened up to the idea that I could forgive myself for letting life get this far… That self-acceptance could free me from my burn out.. that building a skyscraper on a crumbling foundation was never going to last…

For months, without my friends knowing, without saying much to family members, I built that new foundation. I showed up every day, every week, every month for a whole year to heal myself, fill up my cup, and create a fulfilling life from the ground up… from the inside out.

 
 
 

Also, I had my “lightbulb moment.” The moment where the lights in my soul flipped on again.

I looked in the mirror one night, after lots of personal development and positive mindset coaching, and said to my reflection, “I love you.” It was the first time I really FELT that love — it was a love despite my imperfections. A love that didn’t care about the number on the scale, the acne on my face, the brokenness of my heart. It was unconditional love — a love that I’d never fully experienced.

After my “lightbulb moment,” the things I feel most helped me cultivate genuine self-love were:

  • Believing in progress over perfection, and defining my WHY instead of being super attached to achieving my narrow-minded goals…

  • Letting go of the idea that being healthy had to be a hard struggle by moving my body instead of working out, eating more real food instead of counting/calculating/restricting, and making simple recipes at home…

  • Listening to my body again… It always knows the answer. I eat and live in sync with my natural hormonal cycle, listen to my cravings and health symptoms, eat mindfully and treat my beautiful self with care.

  • Being kind to body and my mind through self-care routines, letting go of guilt and shame, forgiving, accepting, slowing down, and creating boundaries.

  • Treating food as an act of love, yet also…

  • Understanding and living a life where food is secondary to LIFE food: my relationships, environment, sense of purpose, and spirituality.

 
 
 

Finding self-love was the catalyst that made all of my anxiety disappear… It led me to realized that fulfillment, gratitude, and beauty were always within me.

Everything I’ve ever needed has always been within me.

And it’s within you, too.