By: Leanne Lindsey Photography by: Deun Ivory
Recently, on Twitter, I shared one of my top intentions for 2018: "To grow unconditionally and irrevocably in love with myself."
I followed it up with: "my ridiculously youthful looks, my time-consuming, elasticated, single-strand-knot-loving hair, my casual "choose trainers over everything" personal style, my ambivert personality - the whole package!"
All of which are aspects of my personal appearance or personality that I have rejected, resented or tried to repress over the years.
I am a super supportive and encouraging daughter, sister, cousin, friend and colleague. I'll be your biggest cheerleader and believe in you before you even believe in yourself. I'll constantly remind you of what you have achieved, how far you've come and what you're still capable of. And when you feel like giving up, I'll be there to keep you moving forward.
In a relationship, I love hard. I make sure you always know how deeply I love you and I show you in words and actions. I go above and beyond and often put your needs before my own but willingly, without resentment, because I love you. To see you happy, makes me happy.
Yet, for so long I struggled to be this person for myself.
I'd look in the mirror and see all the things I disliked. The blemishes on my skin, my bloated stomach and the often dry, undefined and uncooperative curls on my head.
I'd look at my goals, intentions and to-do list and see everything I hadn't achieved or completed and tell myself over and over again what an unreliable and uncommitted person I was.
More often that not, the image I had of myself was shaped by my self-limiting beliefs and even though I'm a life coach and know better, it did not automatically translate into doing better and many times, self-love was an afterthought.
Self-love should be the easiest thing in the world. But let's keep it real, it's not. It's hard. Especially when you're born into a society that insists on making you feel inadequate, undesirable and unworthy, particularly as a woman of color.
Not having, being or doing enough has been my most potent self-limiting belief and it is closely tied to a lack of self-worth.
In almost every endeavour, I'm plagued by a constant feeling that I lack enough time, money, knowledge and experience. But really, when I dig deep and I'm totally honest with myself, my underlying belief is that I'm not enough.
At my core, for much of my life, I didn't truly believe that I deserved to live a life I love and regularly felt guilty during the times I was living my best.
Because I lacked self-worth, I felt that my contribution was irrelevant and added little value. And believing that I did not matter meant I felt unable to ask for help. I also thought that any failure or mistake I made was a direct reflection of me and my ability.
But over the past year, something significant has changed. I've felt a shift and it led to me setting the intention I shared at the start of this post - to grow unconditionally and irrevocably in love with myself, in 2018 and beyond.
I’ve achieved many things in my life and I've been on my journey of self-discovery, personal growth and transformation for years, but the real shift that has enabled me to move forward in love with myself, is genuinely acknowledging my worth and accepting myself, as I am.
And being able to see myself in other women who are doing the same is what has made that possible.
Listening to podcasts and affirmation and meditation mixtapes by BGIO, Tracy G and Shelah Marie. Reading books by women such as Maya Angelou, Zora Neale Hurston and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Watching talks by Oprah, Iyanla Vanzant and Lisa Nichols. Seeing so many WOC pursue their dreams, thrive and do so unapologetically without diluting anything about themselves or shrinking to make others feel more comfortable.
And the more positive reflections I see and messages I receive, the more I am given permission to shine and love myself as I am, unconditionally.
Because seeing those WOC step into their greatness and live their best life fills me with pride and joy. I am proud of them and therefore I am proud of me, because I am them, and they are me. I see those women and I know that I can achieve anything. Yes of course I may come across obstacles, but I no longer have any excuses not to keep moving forward in the direction of my hopes and dreams.
I've come to realize that it is impossible to live my best life and experience true peace, joy and fulfilment, if I do not love and accept myself fully.
No matter what I achieve, without self-love, there will always be a void in my life and I'll always be looking outside of myself for permission or approval as well as someone or something else to complete me.
So let 2018 be the year you and I grow unconditionally and irrevocably in love with ourselves.
Let go of any self-limiting beliefs you have about not being good enough, smart enough, attractive enough or committed enough because the truth is you already have everything you need right now to move closer to a living a life you love.
Your self-limiting beliefs are lies that you've been told or inherited that keep you playing small and fearful of stepping too far out of your comfort zone.
Give up the belief that you, your needs and your dreams do not matter. Know that you are special and have a unique gift that the world needs and is waiting for. And your gift may not have an audience of millions but it could save one person's life, job, marriage or friendship.
Detox all areas of your life and remove anyone who makes you doubt your worth or ability, requires you to dull your shine or makes you feel guilty for being your true authentic self.
Remember that no-one is entitled to your time, attention or energy so set and protect your personal boundaries. In the words of Nikki Giovanni, “Deal with yourself as a individual, worthy of respect and make everyone else deal with you the same way.”
Finally, find, align and surround yourself with people who you can truly see your best self in and who reflect back to you what you're truly capable of and what you deserve. Ensure your life is overflowing with these inspirational people so that on the days when your self-limiting beliefs try to cripple you, you remember who you are and the love you have for yourself keeps you moving forward and living a life you love.
Leanne Lindsey was born and raised in London but currently lives between London and Tenerife. She spent her early twenties being all things to everyone, her late twenties learning the importance of self-care and her early thirties shedding the guilt of prioritizing her own needs. As a certified life coach, she now supports women on a similar journey by promoting self-care, self-love and wellness. Leanne's go-to self-love practices include journaling, getting lost in a good book and baking. Connect with Leanne in The Self-Love & Wellness Lounge, at www.leannelindsey.co.uk.