I have spent the majority of my life focusing on the good. Although I was sucked into toxic relationships, friendships, and engaged in my own toxic behaviours, I was always one to look for the bright side. I have always believed that everything has a purpose or a lesson. When dark times struck, I found it in me to dig deep and look for the blessings in disguise.
At the age of twenty eight, I hit rock bottom. Life was dark, I lost the ability to look at the bright side, and I began to feel hopeless. I will never forget the day I sat in the main lobby of the boxing club I was working at. I was sitting in complete silence as tears ran down my face. I lost myself in thoughts that were so dark, they scared me. Instead of allowing the thoughts to completely overtake me, my inner voice told me to reach out for help. That's when I began researching local therapists. I called one of the first ones I found. She was listed as a psychotherapist. The title seemed fitting as I felt I was losing myself to crazy thoughts.
Therapy changed my life, my outlook, and most importantly, it changed how I spoke to myself. As positive as I always was, I never believed what I was preaching. I was so hard on myself all the time. Everything I failed at became an obsession. I hated failing. Instead of accepting that sometimes failure is essential to success, I would beat myself up over it. I would say things like
"You didn't try hard enough."
"You aren't good enough."
Relationships were always my biggest weakness. I allowed men to treat me like shit. Instead of setting boundaries, I let my boyfriends cross them. Instead of dealing with problems like an adult, I acted out of anger. This is where I engaged in "toxic behaviours".
My therapist taught me to recognize my own behaviours. Instead of placing blame on the men in my life, I started to work through my own issues that stemmed from childhood, and I started to recognize patterns. The only way to break patterns is to do the work. You have to be willing to let go of the anger towards others, and yourself. Understanding where anger came from was essential to my healing. Anger is a secondary emotion. (Refer to "anger iceberg")
Setting boundaries played a huge role in my healing process. Once boundaries are set, you do not allow others to cross them. Family, friends, relationships... No matter who they are, it is unacceptable to allow others to cross your boundaries. If you are going to set boundaries only to allow people to cross them, you are teaching yourself that you cannot stick to healthy standards that you have set out to better your lifestyle.
Between my relationships with employers, to friends, to boyfriends, I spent many years allowing these people to cross boundaries with no consequences. The quote "what you allow will continue" could not be more true for many of us. Looking back, I realize that I was treated bad by the people I loved and trusted because I allowed it.
I started writing mantras, and posting them to my wall. I would read them, and allow them to sink in. My therapist would catch me putting myself down, and she would stop me dead in my tracks, and have me repeat what I said, and then ask me, "What is a better way to talk to yourself? Instead of saying _________________________________________________________, what could you have said instead?"
My therapist always had a way of making me understand how important it is to have a positive, and healthy dialogue with myself. It wasn't long before I was catching myself going down the "beating myself up" road, stopping myself, and changing directions. I was slowly breaking toxic patterns, and behaviours. I didn't realize it then, but I was teaching myself how to love myself.
Not only was I practising self love, but I was also being given homework. I had a very bad habit of reacting to anger. As soon as someone made me feel angry, I would react. This was a major problem that led me to not liking myself even more. I knew that I was such a kind person, so when I would say things out of anger, I found myself disliking who I was. I would calm down, and my thoughts would be along the lines of:
"Why did you say those things? You're such an idiot."
"You have anger issues."
"What is wrong with you?"
Do you see how dialogue can effect how you feel about yourself?
Understanding where anger comes from helped me have compassion for myself instead of beating myself up. I began to recognize my feelings, triggers and patterns, and I was able to stop, and ask myself why I felt that way. My therapist would tell me that when I felt a negative emotion, I should sit with uncomfortable feelings, and then find the healthiest solution to the problem. The more I began doing this (it was very hard at first), the better I felt. I was no longer reacting negatively to anger, and I no longer felt ashamed because I was controlling it. Instead of feeling shame, and guilt, I started to feel proud of myself which led to positive dialogue with myself. I started thinking:
"You have come such a long way."
"You are so strong."
"You beat one of life's toughest challenges. That is so amazing."
I portrayed myself as a positive person for years. I knew the rules of positivity, and I loved the idea of being a good person. I wanted to be a good person. I desperately wanted to help others. I spent a lot of my time and energy on giving to others. Behind closed doors, I was angry with myself, and I hated myself for allowing people to hurt me. My anger came out in my relationships, and I used boxing to help ease the pain. No matter how bad it got, I still tried to be positive.
It wasn't until I met my therapist in 2017 that I started to understand myself. I spent almost two years talking with my therapist. In typical Kylie fashion, I wanted to make her proud. She was the most intelligent, elegant, and classy woman I had ever met. Her words, wisdom, and strength were beyond admired. She changed my life.
There's a difference between being a positive person, and not liking who you are to being a positive person, and loving who you are. Everything I preach means so much more to me now than it ever has. Life has more meaning, and when I give others advice on lifestyle choices, I come from a place of knowing.
I know what it's like to want to be a certain way, but not having the tools to do so. I so badly wanted to feel good about myself, and help others, but there was one problem getting in the way of doing that... I didn't love myself. I wanted to, but I didn't.
If there's one piece of advice I can give others, it's this...
Life is tough. We all go through our fair share of pain, and darkness. When you begin to heal the parts that hurt, you start to build this shield. When you overcome your demons, that shield becomes an armour. Once you accept who you are, and you live life by making healthy choices, you are unstoppable. Nothing will ever take you down. Self love is not something we get overnight. It's something we must practise for the rest of our lives.
If my therapist were reading this right now, I would want her to know that she is the one who gave me the tools to be who I am today. Without her, I would not be the woman I am now. I would not have the healthy relationship that I always dreamed of. I would not be surrounded by kind hearted people. The vision was always there, but I would never have gotten there without her. My therapist changed my life, and I will always be grateful for the tools she gave me.