I used to wake up most mornings feeling like I’d spent the day before inside of a Looney Toons short—where anvils and pianos dropped on my head, I fell to the bottom of several canyons, and sticks of dynamite kept exploding in my face. What I’d actually been doing the day before was nothing so glamorous.
I was drinking—and even though it made me feel beat up in the worst way—for some reason I kept doing it over and over and over again.
This behavior did not inspire tons of self-love. Why would any person with even the slightest hint of intelligence keep repeating this ridiculous pattern, especially when the solution was so obvious?
My mental state echoed my physical state. I was compounding the damage alcohol was doing by constantly berating myself for using it. It was not a great place to be.
I quit drinking for good a little over two years ago. Not long after that, I started paying attention to how I was talking to myself. I began shifting statements like why are you so stupid and you’re a terrible mother to I’m doing fine and getting better all the time.
Eventually, I started to really believe myself. It wasn’t always easy, but my sobriety opened the way for self-love, which opened me up to a host of amazing things. Here are five:
You get happier
Having someone inside your head who’s constantly telling you what a jackass you are is a pretty big downer. That would make anyone sad. On the flip side, when that voice is complimentary, you’re lighter and more free. You smile more. And when you let go of all that internal weight, you also make space to have more fun.
You can truly care for others
Yeah, we’ve all heard the cliche to put on your own mask first in case of a loss of cabin pressure. I hope to god that none of us have ever been in an actual airplane emergency, but I can tell you a couple situations we have been in, though:
- We’re so busy getting things together for everyone else—lunches and laundry, homework help and dish duty—that we skip eating because we don’t have time.
- We’re so constantly on the run — doing and driving, picking up and putting away—that we don’t stop until way too late and we don’t get enough sleep.
The results? We’re hangry and cranky and honestly not very nice, especially to those people we claim to love the most. When we love ourselves enough to eat, sleep, and care for ourselves in other basic ways—and understand that we deserve those things—we are better equipped to care for others.
You gain confidence
Loving yourself means giving yourself credit for the things you’re good at. And when you believe you can do things well, you’re inspired to start doing more. Bonus: confidence is sexy.
You’re not as defensive
Loving yourself also means being more understanding about your past, and more patient with yourself about mistakes you make in the present. You learn to accept all of it as part of being you, and part of being human. (Humanity is seriously one of the most flawed conditions, isn’t it?) When you reach that point, when someone brings up something you know is a weakness of yours, you’re less likely to let it trigger you. You’re less sensitive and better able to either accept it as feedback or ignore it. This feels magical.
You connect better with others
How we treat other people is a direct reflection of how we treat ourselves. It follows then, that the kinder you can be to yourself, the kinder you will be toward others and the kinder they will be to you. The more empathy you have with yourself, the more empathy you will have for everyone else.
These results are awesome, of course, but how do you actually start loving yourself?
Get started by forgiving yourself. As sober moms, we carry tons of guilt and shame from not being there for our kids in the way they deserved when we weren’t sober. It will take some work, and maybe some therapy, but it’s crucial to work through it and let your past be in your past. Brene Brown’s book, I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame, is an excellent resource.
A few other helpful actions:
- Notice your negative self-talk, and start correcting it.
- Make a daily gratitude list.
- List your daily accomplishments, even if it’s just getting out of bed and making a sandwich.
- List the people who love you and depend on you, and understand that these are the people who deserve you at your best. Reread this list whenever you feel discouraged to strengthen your resolve to love yourself for them.
Learning to love yourself takes time, but it’s worth every step.