Love Yourself Milspouse
This post is written in honor of the 2018 Military Spouse Wellness Summit: Renew You by InDependent.org. Find out more information and sign up here.
Why is it so difficult to be nice to ourselves? Military life already comes with enough change and challenge: loving ourselves has to become a daily practice we honor.
My journey of true self love began five years ago. A friend of mine hit me over the head and heart with one line that has stayed with me forever. We were marching in the cold, blustery winter wind of South Korea and I was lamenting to her about how lazy I had been lately.
I had not finished the dreams I had planned, I had snapped at my spouse, my jeans were swelling around my swollen too-many-treats-holiday-thighs. My voice bemoaned the pendulum I was swinging on: loving overseas life yet also mad at myself for feeling down and out about missing my culture. I had all I needed, what in the hells bells was wrong with me?
She let me complain, vent, and air this vulnerable side of self-hatred for a few more minutes and then grabbed my wrist. Turning me toward her, she grabbed both of my mitten-clad hands in hers.
“Please stop talking about my friend this way.”
Her honesty made the tears well up to my eyes, my exhausted chest heaved a strangled sigh, and I buried my face in her shoulder for a good sob.
She was right. Why was it okay for me to talk about myself this way? I was not just airing grievances that day; I was belittling my feelings and grinding myself down into the dirt. In no way was I approaching myself with kindness, generosity or the grace that I freely extended to others.
It has been 5 years since we were stationed in Seoul, and 3 years since I have hugged that friend in person. But her words have always sat at my mind’s table, ever present in an honorary seat; never to be forgotten. It has taken a good deal of growing up and the humbling experience of motherhood to make me a friend to myself. I look at my daughter now and shudder to think she could ever carve herself down to bits like I have before.
How can we break the cycle? How can we start treating ourselves with the utmost respect, kindness, and heartfelt curiosity about our feelings/thoughts/actions?
I wish I could give you an easy road to travel or a book to read, a podcast to listen to or a magic 5 step program. But it isn’t about those things. For me, it’s about love. It is about pouring the same love into me that I willingly give to others. It’s easier for me to care about others, and while that is noble, it also means that I’m often leaving myself behind: empty, exhausted, and full of weary sadness and anger.
We don’t have to live this way. Military life is fraught with obstacles most outside our circle cannot fathom how we get through. We find resiliency of spirit, and the amazing experiences offered by this journey can open our hearts and mind to the world and others in beautiful ways.
But there are chapters where we grit our teeth while carrying the load, feet dragging, and armor up. In those chapters is where we must find self-care and self-love. We must acknowledge that we are important and that not only can we get through a tough time and come out stronger- we could also get through it nurturing ourselves along the way.
This is when some of us shrug and say, “But there’s no time.” I was you. I didn’t think I could squeeze one more ounce of anything into those deployment heavy days. But I learned self-care and loving me need not be lengthy. It needs to be a choice.
I choose to speak kindly to myself. I choose to cheer myself on. I choose to call a battle-buddy and let her know when I am flailing, she can help me stand. I choose love above beating myself down. In turn, it helps me love others better. It helps my spouse serve the way he needs to, knowing I am no longer hiding behind the excuses that I’m not worth it/I’m too busy/I can’t.
The only thing excuses do are withhold the love I need from me.
Burn-out, exhaustion, heart sick, anxiety, and depression: these are real emotions and hurdles of military life. We cannot ignore them nor hide them for long. I know we are all doing our best to take the very best care of our families, but we also have to do it for ourselves. Love yourself milspouse- with the same care and kindness you give others.
If you need more motivation to find that self-love and care join me in the Military Spouse Wellness Summit by InDependent.org, a 100% virtual experience that is 100% free for military spouses and first responder spouses. Sign up today.
*Please note I am not a doctor or any sort of medical professional. Please seek professional care if you are feeling like harm to yourself or others.