Michelle shares her story on loving herself first.
Last Updated: November 30, 2022
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Love Yourself First
**Trigger Warning**: This piece discusses suicide and suicidal ideation. If you are feeling thinking about hurting yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or the Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), or in Canada, 1.833.456.4566 or call 911.
Forget about The Best, I just wanted to be good (enough). I had no concept of what it meant to love yourself first. I thought I needed to get love from others before I could give it to myself.
I was constantly seeking approval from others. Love and a sense of belonging were sought from family/friends or whoever I thought might throw me some nods. I had to show up differently depending on who I was trying to please at any given moment. No matter what I did though, of course, it was never enough.
This was a prevalent pattern in my childhood and showed up as lying or overexaggerating behaviors or stories to get attention. Although my parents did the best they could, they too brought their suffering into the family dynamics.
They were often exasperated with my behavior and didn’t always show up as their best, either. I recall my childhood being very painful and terribly sad.
As I headed into my tumultuous teens, I was troubled with frequent suicidal thoughts but tried to put on a happy face to hide my pain. Thank goodness, I had my best friend, Katie with me all those years.
She literally helped keep me alive.
Looking back, I feel incredibly heartbroken to have put that burden on her. I needed adult support yet she carried that load with fierce love. I will always be forever grateful to her for carrying me with the love and strength she did.
Once I was a “free” young adult, things got risky. I made all sorts of reckless decisions because I could. (Who’s going to stop me?)
Baby, I’m a Real Wild Child
I’m just out of school like a real
Gotta dance like a fool
Got the message
That I’ve gotta be a wild one
I’m a wild one.
REAL WILD CHILD (WILD ONE) | IGGY POP
Thank goodness, I found more amazing friends that kept me somewhat steady for the first half of my 20s. Alongside Katie, these people became my family.
Spoiler Alert …we are all still the best of friends today
with the best ever twist of events…
I dated someone from this core group of friends on and off for 5 years. We were better friends than we were anything else. This group, though – they were (and still are) my family. Everyone ended up marrying each other within the group except for me, this guy I dated, and his best friend.
Even with this amazing support system, I struggled immensely. I was incredibly impulsive, which worked out about half the time for me during those days. Until one night, my impulsivity nearly cost me my life.
Something put me over the edge one night and I made the horrific impulsive decision to try and end my life.
If that wasn’t a big enough problem on its own, many (not all) people around me were shoving it under the rug like it never happened.
Like it was an accident and let’s just move on.
I felt like I didn’t have the money to pay for counseling to “fix it”, so that’s just what I did. Shoved it under the rug and moved on. I never truly tended to what brought me to those dark depths.
I was desperate for safety and security.
At this point in my life, I was pretty fragile. I had been through dysfunctional and painful family and personal relationships. Nothing was steady for me. I was skipping around from job to job, house to house. I was desperate for solid ground.
Around this time, I met an incredible man named Andrew. He was a true gentleman. He would put everyone’s needs before himself, and here he was – taking care of me, who felt she didn’t deserve a second look.
I was so blown away by this man’s ability to take care of others, not just me. I’ve never seen anyone put everyone before himself in the way that he did/does. I was his biggest fan. Even though I always felt those feelings were not reciprocated, he assured me that love takes time to build and we were right for each other.
We were married and off on a new journey on safe, solid ground…
I struggled with seeking his approval for years. It was a classic co-dependent relationship. I wanted help. He wanted to help. He was the Knight, I was the Damsel in distress.
I started to understand that I needed to love myself first before I could feel the love from him. So that’s what I did. I set out to figure out how to love myself first.
Once I became a mother, it became even more important to love myself first because I didn’t want to pass the pain of not loving yourself along to them.
From the moment they were born, I gobbled up all sorts of content in hopes of helping me feel, be, and do better: webinars, courses, conferences, books, apps, podcasts, techniques, masterminds, retreats, therapy… I took little bites out of everything.
I even became a Certified Solution-Focused Life Coach to feel like I was on solid ground as a parent.
Life Coaching felt way too out of reach for me. I knew I wasn’t capable of holding space guiding exploration at that time, but I I knew there were other moms out there like me, trying to love and understand themselves better so they could be “good mothers”.
So I created the opportunity for us to find each other while bringing in other experts to guide us.
(I did this in 2005 and I am still doing it today. That’s a clear calling.)
It takes a village.
In 2005, at the age of 32, I started my first business to support other mothers in living a life they loved. I was in my element, I loved creating community and content to support moms (and myself!) to live an authentic life, full of grace, passion, and purpose.
After a while, however, I became so focused on growing the business that I stopped growing myself. I returned to abandoning myself more and more. I just kept on keeping on along the superficial surface until I couldn’t swim anymore. I started to sink while living an unlived life.
Early in 2017, I realized I had completely lost track of where I was headed on this journey.
My marriage, now into its 17th year, although as kind and functional as it always was, is still often disconnected and diametrical. I still had no idea why. Is something still in the way of me receiving love? Why are we so disconnected? Is this my fault? His? Neither? I had no answers.
My business had lost sight of its original vision. I was filling my time with other projects that weren’t as meaningful as my original passion.
I packed on 30+ pounds while numbing my pain in wine and Netflix. I thought for sure something was seriously wrong with me health-wise because I felt like shit all the freaking time.
Something had to shift.
True change needed to happen. This life I had always imagined was not going to wait for me to catch up. Not only did I need this for me, but I also didn’t want this to be how I modeled life and love for my kids.
My light switch moment came from reading, “Finding Your Way to Change” a friend recommended: I needed to trust that change was possible for me, that I could actually feel vibrant and aligned.
I never trusted myself with anything. I had no idea what I wanted, thought, or felt. I just knew it was ‘NOT THIS’ as Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her essay.
I spent two years deep in analytical therapy with an incredible therapist to guide me into clarity and wholeness.
Finally, 30 years later, I started to heal the parts that brought me to the depths the night I chose to take those pills.
Love Yourself First
With the help of Anne, my amazing therapist – I slowly discovered my voice and how to trust it. I became wild (natural) in the wild (nature). I wandered along the beautiful Okanagan trails and the wild held and healed me as I hiked and hiked and hiked some more.
Slowly, I found my footing and became more rooted in my self and my soul. I started to recover and restore pieces of myself that I buried so long time ago that I didn’t even know existed or were possible. It felt like I went to hell and heaven and back again. And again. And repeat.
My fragmented self became whole again. I started to feel things again. I started to know things again. I started to laugh again. I found pleasure and passion and desire and devotion. I felt vibrant and full of vitality. I felt absolutely alive, terrified, and full of sheer bliss. I knew and trusted myself for the first time.
The biggest shift came while hiking one day. Throughout my work with Anne, I was tending to a lot of inner child stuff. One day, I invited this little girl to join me for my hike and I asked her how we could truly move forward and heal. Here was her answer, loud and clear:
“Stop wanting me dead.”
I literally stopped and sobbed on that trail for a good hour.
All those times I wanted to disappear when I was younger or talked horribly to myself as I grew older, I imagined her little self shivering, cowering in a corner begging me to stop. I made a promise to never, ever speak badly to myself again and to promise I would give as much care to myself as I would her, and my own children.
It felt like a true soul retrieval. It was finally safe to come back again.
I made these tangible changes …as a reflection of loving myself first
Lost 25 Pounds
All through my life, I had been “the skinny one”. I was always teased about being anorexic but I wasn’t. I only broke 100 pounds after I was married. For most of my marriage, I was around 115 pounds, so this weight gain was new to me. Exercise was never part of my lifestyle, in fact, I was always pretty lazy in that way. Exercise and weight loss scared the crap out of me. But I just had to do it.
I have always been an all or nothing person. I couldn’t just have one glass of wine, I needed 3. Or 4. So, I quit drinking alcohol for 6 months. I cut out sugar, wheat, and dairy. I pretty much ate glory bowls every day only changing up the protein (chicken, salmon, or beef) and the dressing. My favorite is the Chopped Leaf Evil Peanut dressing, which I would buy in bulk.
I hated exercise. But I was taking hikes that averaged between 12-15K between 2-3 times per week that didn’t feel like exercise at all. It felt like me wandering through the woods to find my soul.
Completed a Marriage – With Unconditional Love
The kind of fulfilling, emotional love that I was aching for from the beginning of my marriage never seemed to arrive no matter how much inner healing I did. Yes, we loved each other. Very much, so. He was and always will be my family.
I discovered the answer to my question when I was seeking therapy was that we were meeting each other from very different places and perspectives. I came to accept that we were incompatible in the areas that were important to me within a marriage. We had an incredibly functional and familial love for each other, but we struggled to connect emotionally as husband and wife.
After many failed attempts to find our way to one another, I suggested we complete our marriage and he agreed. It was a very loving and kind separation, although it was never even close to easy. We had built a life with a family that now needed to be pulled apart and put back together in a different way. This was terrifying, but we did it, with all of its challenges.
Remember that core group of friends I talked about earlier? Steve was actually the guy I was dating’s best friend. And he was also my very good friend. Outside of the guy I dated, Steve was the only one that fell away from our little family. With good reason, he had been on his own journey.
Well, we found our way back to one another, in a much different, deeper way. Short story? It has become clear that we have lobster love, as one of our other friends in the group references what we have from Friends.
We have a pretty incredible love story which he shared parts of in his story. I will be sharing that soon and will update this page to share that link then. But the point I want to share here is that there is no way I would be able to give or receive love in the way I do with this man if I hadn’t done the deep work I did or had the experiences I have had.
Sold My Business
I owned that first business for 13 years, together with my fantastic business partner. It was my version of an MBA. Many, many mistakes that bled out buckets of cash ended with a few wins that brought us back to even. I took away what works and what doesn’t. Most importantly, it must be driven by passion. This business needed to be liquidated because of the above divorce. Thankfully, we were able to sell it for a healthy exit (nearly 30x multiple) at 100% of the list value within a few weeks of listing.
Started a New Business
For a while, I had floundered around consulting and designing for others. Which, although I loved and had amazing clients, the work didn’t provide the passion I was missing. Also? I wasn’t that efficient. My client’s loved my work. But I was always turning off my timer because I thought I should be faster, better. I was serving my clients but not myself or my family. I was loving them, before loving myself first.
Now, I’m ready. I am so excited to share ideas that help us feel alive – to me, that is the Best Ever. Because goodness knows, life can be damn hard. We created this site to help us remember the Best Ever parts of being alive.
I now know that everything is always evolving, nothing is ever perfect(or easy) and I still show up fully for all of it – even and especially the hard stuff. I try not to hide when shit hits the fan, and there will always be shit hitting the fan somewhere along the road.
Life is a messy mystery full of ups and downs. I’m here to meet all the moments with tenderness, grace, and curiosity. I trust myself to have the capacity to handle whatever comes my way and the courage to go where I am called.
(*That might mean medication, more therapy, or even hospitalization. When a recent trauma occurred in my life, I knew the level of anxiety I was experiencing would be better managed with medication. You and your doctor can decide what’s best for you.)
My Best Ever Is…
For me, The Best Ever, simply means trusting myself, the mystery*, and staying true to who I am – however that looks in each moment.
Best Ever Lifestyle Guide Inc. is an independent lifestyle guide for British Columbia based in Kelowna, BC.
We recognize and acknowledge that we live, learn, play and work on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan people.