This post was created by an ELIXHER user. ELIXHER Content Collaboration is a place where anyone can post.
Learn more or post your own content!

How would your life be different…if you really loved yourself? If you were your own best friend, rather than your own harshest critic? If you responded to your vulnerabilities and mistakes with self-compassion, rather than self-criticism, anger, fear or blame?

If you’re like most people, you want love in your life. You want friends who support you, a family who appreciates you for who you are – and most likely you also long for one special partner who really has your back and shows up for you, not just when times are good, but when you’re struggling, too.

And you deserve that kind of love! But the unfortunate truth is that if you don’t love yourself, you’re not likely to be able to find or take in this kind of love from others.

In that moment, staring up at the ceiling, I finally realized that I wasn’t the problem after all. Or, I was, but not in the way I had thought. My real mistake was simply in not loving myself.

I remember the morning in 1999 when I woke up on the couch in my home office and stared up at the ceiling, feeling confusion, grief, anger and dread all at once.  I had slept in my office because the night before, I had told my partner that I needed to leave – and she responded by throwing a chair at me.

I had tried for nine years to be the best partner I possibly could. I had given up hobbies and friends because of my partner’s jealousy. I had supported her financially, renovated her house, and tried to be the person she wanted me to be. None of it had helped. She criticized me constantly, and in response, I felt hopeless and unlovable.

Even though you’ve probably fought hard against the negative messages coming at you from others, you may have taken them in at the same time. Most of us do.

Deep inside, I had believed for years that I was the problem. If only I were different – if only I could finally manage to please my partner – everything would be okay. But I wasn’t, and I couldn’t.

In that moment, staring up at the ceiling, I finally realized that I wasn’t the problem after all. Or, I was, but not in the way I had thought. My real mistake was simply in not loving myself. If I had really loved myself, I would never have gotten into that relationship to begin with! And I certainly wouldn’t have stayed all those years, and given up so much of myself in the process.

Audre Lorde said of us, “… we were never meant to survive.” Growing up as queer women of color, most of us got a lot of negative messages. You may have been told that your skin wasn’t light enough, your hair not straight enough, your lips not thin enough, or your body not the right shape. You might have been made to think you weren’t intelligent, or that even if you were, you couldn’t succeed.

You may have been rejected by your family and/or your faith community for being queer and/or gender-non-conforming. Or, even if you weren’t outright rejected, you may just have suffered the pain and confusion of not being “gotten.” For instance, my mother still goes on and on about how cute I was as a little girl in my Easter dress. But I hated having to wear dresses! I never felt like the little girl my mother thought I was, or wanted me to be – and that contributed to my sense of being wrong somehow, broken, defective or not lovable.

As a queer woman of color in a society that doesn’t think you matter, loving yourself is a revolutionary act!  It’s also the way to get to have more joy and fulfillment in your life.

Even though you’ve probably fought hard against the negative messages coming at you from others, you may have taken them in at the same time. Most of us do.

And as my experience taught me the hard way, if you don’t love yourself, you can’t choose the right person to love you, either.  Like me, you may end up telling yourself that an abusive partner is all you deserve, or the best you can get.

But you don’t have to stay there!

The way to change this pattern is by loving yourself. In fact, as a queer woman of color in a society that doesn’t think you matter, loving yourself is a revolutionary act!  It’s also the way to get to have more joy and fulfillment in your life.

You might be wondering, “How do I start?”

You start by cultivating self-compassion. Although you can’t make yourself feel love for yourself, you can choose to respond to yourself compassionately rather than harshly. For instance, let’s say you’ve made a mistake. Will you tell yourself, “I’m such an idiot! Why did I do that?!” Or will you respond to yourself the way you might respond to a good friend? “It’s okay, everyone makes mistakes sometimes. It will be all right.”

I remember one night about a year ago, when my current partner and I were driving in separate cars to my auto mechanic. The plan was for me to drop off my car, and she’d take me home.  But I spaced out and got in the freeway going the wrong direction. Even though we had left the house at the same time, my partner ended up waiting at the auto mechanic’s shop for me for 15 minutes. Neither of us had brought our phones with us.

When I first realized I was heading the wrong way on the freeway, I had the “Damn, what an idiot I am!” response. Then I caught myself, took some deep breaths, and reminded myself that it was okay. This mistake wasn’t fatal. I was still worthy of love. I felt my pulse rate slow down again, and my body relax.

And, because of all the self-love work I had done before I got into my current relationship, I had chosen a much better partner this time.  When I finally arrived at the shop, she was relieved to see me – she’d been a little worried, and was wondering if she should drive home to see if I’d had a breakdown along the way. But she wasn’t at all angry or critical.

When you have more self-love and self-compassion, you’ll also receive more love and compassion from the outside world! (And when someone doesn’t love you or appreciate you, it won’t feel nearly as bad – because you’ll have your own back.)

Teaching queer women of color how to better love themselves is one of my passions. That’s why I’m teaching a four-week online course to take you through some foundational steps and skills for self-love.


michelle3-closeup-238x300Michelle Murrain, Ph.D.received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Case Western Reserve University, and her Certificate in Theological Studies from the Pacific School of Religion. She also studied relationship coaching with world-renowned experts Gay and Katie Hendricks, bestselling authors of Conscious Loving and many other books. Michelle taught Biology at Hampshire College for ten years, and is a long-time practitioner of contemplative spirituality, both in Buddhist and Christian traditions. She is passionate about helping others develop the self-compassion and self-love that have changed her life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.