I’m writing this letter because I hope it will help trigger healing in your life that isn’t necessitated by a crisis like mine was. There’s a better way, and it all starts (as many good things) with a question.
There was something that I needed growing up. And it wasn’t discussed.
It wasn’t until nine years ago at the age of 39 while on a retreat in Sedona when asked the question, “do you love yourself?” I found myself fumbling with my response.
My first thought: of course, I love myself!
But as I sat back in deep thought for a moment, and really reached for an honest reply, the answer that rang true was: I don’t know. I really don’t know if I love myself.
This was the first time it had crossed my mind because no one has ever asked me that question, not even the therapists I sought counseling from in my late 20’s.
My parents have always poured so much love into my life. Everything they did was through love. They are how I learned how to give and pour love into everything I did and everyone around me.
And Pour I Did
I poured myself out until empty again and again– reaching out to others, always being there to lend a hand (and putting my stuff on the backburner) was like a reflex for me. And though I’d often find myself feeling depleted, a little spark would help me bounce back each time I hit a wall.
It wasn’t until nine years ago that I couldn’t seem to relight the spark. I had a breakdown. And a breakdown it was, that I called it the Big Kahuna. Usually, whenever feeling depleted and hitting a wall, I was always a champ at bouncing back, but this time was different.
It was like the Universe was saying loud and clear: it’s time, Jenny. It was time to unbury all the things that I tucked away for so long.
But Back to That in a Moment
Though, as I mentioned, I’m blessed to have the most loving and supportive parents, and it’s with a heavy heart to say that my mother has passed away 8 months ago.
Every family has a story, and within that story, sometimes there is a lot of pain. And the pain there was.
You see, I wasn’t so fortunate on the grandparent front. I had one set of grandparents since my mother had lost her parents earlier on. Each time after being with my grandparents, I’d have the distinct feeling of never being good enough. I’d feel as though I hadn’t made them proud, and I yearned with all my heart for their approval.
I knew they were capable of giving this kind of loving affirmation because I’d seen it all channeled, only and always, to my cousin who was my age. Everything was always about her, never about me.
So I did what us doers do when we have a goal: I took action.
I thought if I could get into real estate and buy fixer-uppers like my grandfather that he’d see me in a new light and realize how proud I made him. So I bought a house when I was 27, fixed it up, and made a substantial profit when I sold it. It wasn’t enough.
Then I thought that if I moved to Italy to connect with where my family came from, surely they’d find that deeply meaningful and would finally love me. Wrong.
So then I took the LSAT and nearly went to law school because I thought they would be proud and love me. Wrong again.
I remember taking nursing classes after college in my grand crusade for their love. I even started my own company at 35 and grew it into a multiple six-figure business, and thought they would finally give me the love I craved. Instead, they put me down.
I kept trying to be “somebody,” anybody that they would love.
This refrain of “not being good enough” played through my relationships. It was like dating the same guy five different times. Although they were intelligent and successful, it was the same storyline, and I kept giving what I kept not getting, thinking it would fill my cup. Wrong again.
So like an unstoppable, ambitious woman, I pressed down the hurt, and I buried myself in work. When I was working, I wasn’t thinking about the lingering throb of pain–not feeling good enough and hungering for love.
Work was my drug. My numbing agent. My escape. It was my addiction.
Back to the Big Kahuna Moment
I was tired, and I was lost and feeling disconnected from God. I knew I needed to find my way back home. I needed to heal. But it wouldn’t be the instant, flashy kind of microwave generation healing.
I’ve learned that self-love is a process.
The work that healed me was to peel back the layers and until I reached the root. When you get to the core, you can finally end patterns that have been repeating themselves in your life for as long as you can remember.
You have to know where the pain started and heal from that place.
My pattern started as a child with my grandparents, stretched into my adult life, and overflowed into my relationships. I was trying to be somebody someone would love, and continually giving what I wasn’t getting and still getting nothing in return.
At the heart of it was this: I just wanted to experience a loving bond with my grandparents and true love in a relationship.
All of us have experienced some emotional or physical pain—the pain from a trauma or from having a broken heart, pain from having someone make you feel unworthy or not enough, or even pain from placing conditions on loving yourself. And take it from me, finding unhealthy distractions from these hurts will only leave you empty again and again.
The problem is that as long as you ignore your pain and place your wholeness in the hands of others, you’ll never have wholeness, and you’ll always have the pain.Jennifer Taormina
But to take out your shovel and dig up that big weight and be ready for the tears that flow as you throw it off, is the most liberating gift you can give yourself.
So is forgiveness. So is cultivating a heart that’s open to love, despite the hurts. That’s what keeps us whole.
I often wonder if we’d learned more about self-love earlier on, how different our journeys would be. If I were able to talk to my younger self, I would look her in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry, please forgive me. I love you, you are worthy, and you are enough.“
To all you beautiful women out there, please know that you are worthy, you are enough, you are loved, and you are somebody very special.