Why my self-love looks different than yours, and why that’s ok- By Guest Blogger Megan Reinbold

Enjoy a blog post by Megan Reinbold, Her Art is Heart’s June guest blogger! I spent a lovely afternoon taking photos of Megan, her baby-bump, and her pupper-dups– Ruby– all throughout her ridiculously swanky abode. I felt like an uber guest, getting pampered with Megan’s pinterest-snapshot-worthy cooking. And of course the puppy love is just that…. LOVE!

See her cook, see her play frisbee! But most importantly listen to Megan’s wise words about Self-Love and how it doesn’t look for the same for everyone.

Why my self-love looks different than yours, and why that’s ok.

By Megan Reinbold

Anyone on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or with any accessibility to magazines knows the basics of what self love should look like, according to these sources: first, the prerequisite that you have long, wavy, mermaid hair, perfect skin, and flowy beach clothes that don’t require a bra. Once you have these, you can set out on your self love journey. It probably involves ridiculously elaborate smoothy bowls, yoga, massages, froyo, iced coffee, pedicures, shopping trips, and stupid-expensive sushi at a trendy restaurant for dinner. After dinner of course is a candlelit bath with your Lush brand (registered and copyrighted) bath bomb, before cozying up in your hygge-approved bedroom with your Goldendoodle before bedtime.

This in theory sounds fantastic, but about 80% of it stresses me out. When I’ve gone for massages, I either get really self-conscious and try to lie still and somehow make my body skinny at the same time, or I feel like I have to talk so it’s not awkward. The feeling of it is relaxing, but I’d much rather make my husband give me a back rub than a stranger. Pedicures are the same way. Whenever I spend frivolous money all I can think about are other, practical things I could be spending the money on instead. Baths make me antsy. So while I’d like to enjoy all of these self-love things, they usually lead to more stress and anxiety than they’re supposed to relieve me of.  If they work for you, fantastic! If you think all day about your nightly bath and it soothes your soul, great. But for the longest time I tried these things over and over trying to force myself to believe that if I tried hard enough, I could feel relaxed (I now know this makes absolutely zero sense). Here’s how I figured out what self-love actually looks like to me.

  1. Whatever it is, it’s not social media. Social media is a huge soul-sucking monster. You can try to rationalize it, but I don’t think it will ever work out. It seems like something that would be a fantastic relaxer- tune out for a while, get lost in streams of pictures of your favorite celebrities, new recipes, and get some proof that your ex absolutely failed in life after you. It really does seem good, but whenever I take time out to browse social media, I end up frantic, frazzled, and stressed out. I have more home projects than I can handle, I have a new idea of what a “perfect” life looks like (and it’s definitely not my current life), and the pretty girl from high school did marry the quarterback and they have an adorable toddler and are not in the least bit fat. They probably ran a 10k then had smoothie bowls this morning. Afterwards I’m very aware of what everything COULD be if I just tried harder and was cooler, and also at the same time am thinking about all the other things I could be doing instead of stalking people and wishing for another life. Even when I do a “cool” thing, the next step of course is to filter it and tag it and share it and hope for all of the likes or retweets or acknowledgement that yes, the thing you did was indeed cool. Social media relaxation is a lie, and it is not my self-love.

  1. Think of things that you notice that you like in the world. Whenever I wash my hands with a pretty soap in a restroom, I can smell it on my hands, and am often that weird person who smells their hands all night. Having little things that smell good makes me more present in the space and time I’m in, and gives everything a little 10% oomph, at least it does for me. So I have fancy dish soap. Not stupid fancy $48 dish soap from Anthropologie, but the $6.99 method soap that smells exactly like the pear Lip Smacker I had in middle school. When I do dishes (usually a chore) I’m not that sad about it, because the kitchen smells like pear and ginger after, and to me that’s good. So while the dishes would get done perfectly well with the $2.99 blue Dawn soap, I mini-splurge on good-smelling dish soap, and also hand soap throughout the house.

  1. Farmers markets. So simple. So hygge. So Goop. Growing up as an only child, I learned to self-monologue a lot. Most of these featured me on some sort of tv show or interview where obviously everyone was really interested in what I had to teach them. Going to a farmers market or farm stand helps me to set the story for these grand adventures so I have a more interesting fake-monologue later. I am insane, true, but it’s one of those little extra things that make simple meals more interesting, and makes me feel like I’m taking part in something just a little bit more special than everyday. It works for me.

  1. Not magazines. Magazines for me are like social media. In theory they’re great, but what actually happens is that I don’t have time to read any of them, and they gather for months and months on end in my entryway, until I have literally 30 magazines that I’m supposed to read in order to make the investment worthwhile. So what actually happens is that I either speed-read through them, desperately searching for a tidbit or picture to rip out, then throw them out, or just throw them out, guilty over the wasted money. Magazines to me are not self-loving.

  1. A good speaker. I’m a music nerd, for sure. I love reading composer biographies and textbooks, and when I do that, I love to listen to music from that composer, to really immerse myself in the experience. When I do dishes, I like to put on good sing-along music to make a drudge-y task more fun. For this, I’m absolutely in love with my wireless speaker. It’s not a Bose, or an Apple, but it was more than $10 and sounds so immensely better because of it. I very much do believe that if there’s something you use regularly, it’s worth spending the extra money on because every time you use it, your experience will be just better enough to make it a pleasant instead of annoying use. That’s why I don’t buy 79-cent shampoo, my mascara proclaims that it’s better than sex, and my speaker was not from the stocking-stuffer bin. Music can so easily set and change a mood, and hearing it through a good speaker is something that matters to me, so being able to give myself that experience is totally worth it.

  1. If there’s any idea that’s pervaded our recent culture other than hygge, it’s wanderlust. We see it printed on Target t-shirts, across journals that we’re apparently supposed to have time to regularly write in, and all over social media. We see late teens and 20-somethings somehow able to jet to Bali and Coachella and whatever city is trendy right now. I even have a few friends from high school who I stalk on social media (see, bad!) that seriously must have been hit by a really expensive car, because why are they drinking out of a real coconut in places where real coconuts grow? How? My underwear comes in packs, how is that life possible for them? Comparison truly is the thief of joy. BUT, I do really enjoy pure travel experiences, so I’d say that is my big self-love splurge. I had a job for a few years that allowed me to accompany my boss to New York City, which I now absolutely adore and can’t wait to go back to, Chicago which wasn’t my favorite but it was cool to say I was there, and Las Vegas. Each time was as a real adult, so any downtime was for me to do things like go on the subway and visit the Met in the afternoon, then see Holly Golightly’s brownstone and hit up Bleeker St. for dinner. It was fantastic, and something that I’m incredibly proud of actually accomplishing as someone who had never before been on public transportation.

I also recently went to Acadia National Park and got to pig out on lobster rolls and climb an actual, real mountain. I visited Toronto, which looks like a scene from a dystopian young-adult book that got turned into a movie. It really does. But I also had ramen in Toronto, which seems pretty cool. Those not-at-all-unattainable trips and a few fantastic concerts are experiences I know are big things for my budget, and aren’t things that happen every weekend, but they’re experiences that I can gather in my head and heart, and remember. Now that I’m pregnant, I know that solo weekend trips like that aren’t going to be possible for long, and while I’m excited for the baby, there are definitely a few small trips I want to take before it arrives. Thinking back on eating wild blueberries along a mountain trail, putting my hand in a real waterfall, and discussing the merits of Warby Parker glasses with my very favorite band are fun stories to tell, but they make up images in the Instagram of my mind (aka my memory) so that when things are hectic and I’m throwing up because how dare I enthusiastically brush my teeth in the first trimester, I know I’ve had a lot of good adventures.

For a long time I felt pressured to experience self-love in the same way I saw it portrayed to me. Wearing tight clothes, because eff your beauty standards! Read a magazine in the bathtub! Get a massage!

For me, self-love looks a bit different, and that’s fantastically ok.

Self-care = Self-love!

Enjoy a blog post by Kimmy Casey, Her Art is Heart’s April guest blogger! I spent a lovely sunny day, photographing Kimmy, her daughter Riley and husband Jerry out at their house, with fancy rain-boots in toe! From witnessing stickers on the walls and furniture, and Riley’s 3 trips to the swing (because it’s just too much fun not to!!) it’s clear Kimmy lives a busy life of mommy-dom. And what’s also clear is the amount of love this family has, and the great memories that reside at their home. Kimmy and Riley gave me the full tour of what brings their family joy, and as you can see from the photos, there’s a lot of love going around 🙂

SELF-CARE = SELF-LOVE

by Kimmy Casey
When I was asked to be a guest blogger and the topic could be anything related to Susie’s passion of self-love, I instantly knew what I wanted to write about because…
the only way to show that you love yourself is to take care of yourself.
So let us dive down into the nitty gritty of what self-care truly is, how to choose activities that will bring you personal satisfaction, and how self-care has the power to drastically change your life.
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of “self-care”, or doing something to take care of yourself?
For me, it’s a quiet hour of getting my nails done with the faint sound of Vietnamese in the background that I don’t have to pay attention to, because I don’t know what they are saying anyways. The ONLY thing I have to do is pick a color.
All day long I talk to people for a living, and then I go home to a two year old. And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of having a toddler, you know that you have to give them 100% attention, and if you don’t, they find ways to command it. So if I can get away for at least an hour, where I don’t have to talk to someone, where I don’t have to “watch this, mommy”, where I don’t have to yell “stop pulling the dog’s tail”, then I am doing some self-care… or so I thought.
 There are several ways to define what self-care truly is. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) “Self Care in health refers to the activities individuals, families and communities undertake with the intention of enhancing health, preventing disease, limiting illness, and restoring health.” In the mental health world, self-care is your ability to take care of your own activities of daily living, also known as ADL’s (hygiene, sleep, eating, etc.).
I want to offer my own spin on what I have learned about taking care of myself. So, according to Kimmy Casey: “Self-care is the activities we do to cultivate our dominant positive emotions as a reward for ourselves”. (sounds fancy!!)
Okay, okay, so let me break this down. It is our basic human need to seek desire and reward. If you want to get into the scientific nerdy side of things, our body craves the release of the neurotransmitter Dopamine in our brain, and our brain releases Dopamine when we do things that reward our body… for example when we eat, brain says “mmmm… dopamine”. And when we flirt, our brain goes “I like the attention… here’s some dopamine”. And when we feel joy… dopamine. When we feel satisfied… dopamine. You get the point.

 Instead of the scientific word dopamine… I would instead insert my favorite positive emotions here. For me, when I get the chance to feel connection and belonging, my brain produces this feel good chemical. Everybody’s primary emotions are different. To find yours, think about 3 of your most favorite memories that you have, put yourself in those moments, and create a list of all of the emotions you experience in each moment. Compare your lists from each memory, and you should be able to see the common emotions. Is it joy, happiness, peace, relaxation, love, connection, belonging, warmth, pride, excitement? You choose! Use your own words. For me, my body craves connection and belonging, and my brain releases dopamine when I achieve these things.
 Let’s come full circle with this. Self-care, at it’s basic, is taking care of yourself. To take care of yourself is to make yourself feel good. The best self-care activities for yourself are the activities that you do that make you feel your primary positive emotions, whatever they may be. For example, where I thought my “self-care” was getting my nails done, this was an activity where I am disconnected and out of place. It was truly doing nothing to give myself pleasure. Fast forward to a time where I visited out of town family… I felt that sense of belonging, and I felt that connection with other people I loved. Or when I took a vacation with my husband at an all-inclusive resort, of course I belonged there (haha) and grew my connection with my husband. Or on a smaller scale, when I network with other people (like Susie!!) to learn of their dreams and goals and how they can support mine… ding, ding, ding! These are the things that truly make me feel alive, and when I allow myself to feel alive, I am taking care of my whole self.
  To maximize your self-care, figure out your top emotions that you love to experience, and do things that promote yourself feeling those things. So if your primary favorite emotions are to feel relaxed and pampered, maybe getting a mani/pedi is your thing. If you don’t know what to do or need examples, go to Google and type in “self-care activities” and the first link that pops up will give you 134 ideas. You see, when you do things to promote positivity and reward in yourself, your brain will automatically want you to do them again. And of course, the more positive you feel, the more you feel good, the more you reward yourself, the better you feel all of the time. And we all know what happens in our worlds when we truly feel GOOD – Our fear decreases as our confidence takes it’s place. Our procrastination disappears as our motivation grows. Our sadness and worry diminishes as happiness replaces it. The best way to show that you love yourself is to take care of yourself, and the best way to take care of yourself is to make you feel exactly the way your body is desiring to feel!

I Saw Myself in a Mirror Today and Judged

I saw my past in another person today. At first I blamed them, judged them… but then I paused. I allowed myself to feel their struggle: unapologetically, unbiased. And in doing so, I saw myself in a new light. I realized I was not blaming them, judging them- I was judging me. Although I lived like I had forgiven my past and the burden I felt I had been- I had not. Not entirely, at least. I tried, as I must every time the chance arises, to forgive myself. I had hurt others by hurting myself- and in the past, instead of showing myself love and compassion- I further beat a beaten man. Own worst enemy? You betcha. That was me.

5But it isn’t anymore.
When I feel myself judging someone and their hurt, their guilt, their shame- I am further beating that beaten man- Still. To this day.

We all judge at some point in time. And during those times, we must follow-up with forgiveness, to promote stability and growth in our own lives. Acknowledging the past and respecting the struggle helps build the belief we have in our own capabilities and perseverance. And since we all struggle, and mirrors of ourselves are all around, we have so many opportunities to build and grow. Forgive ourselves. Love ourselves. Respect ourselves. Cuz’ we dope ASFUQ, and we are all deserving of love and compassion.

If you are struggling and feeling like no one can understand your hurt,
and agonizing even more because you wish they did,
but beating yourself up because you know you are preventing that growth…

You are not alone.
Feeling this way does not make you unlovable, deserving of more hurt, or mean you are incapable of overcoming this. It means you know you deserve more, want more- although you may not know what “more” is.

So why not start with self love? Be your own best friend, especially if you are scared to find one outside of yourself. Why not start there? And when you’re ready, I’m here for Bestie spot #2.

I don’t judge. And if I do? I’m not judging you.

Don’t Make It a Thing

Photo taken by fellow photographer and graphic designer, Sarah Bennett. See her blog at www.bennetttrails.com !

Photo taken by fellow photographer and graphic designer, Sarah Bennett. See her blog at www.bennetttrails.com !

So I wasn’t always this way.

I wasn’t always easy to laugh, easy to forgive, nurturing and patient. I didn’t always have the ability to laugh at myself for the mistakes I make, or even to allow myself a Big Ole’ FAT ugly cry when I was upset. In essence, I used to be young. I used to be 21.

Maybe you’d assume I was a victim of the drink’, being the age at which I can consume alcohol. But no, actually everything got rough when I was 18. By age 21 though, I realized I needed to change something up: I realized I needed to start loving myself. That first step I took? I wrote myself a letter.

Dec 12, 2009. Not any kind of remarkable day with a remarkable story, just a day I chose to sit down and talk to myself. The catch was this letter I wrote? I couldn’t just look at it willy-nilly as I liked. I made myself wait until Dec 12th, 2015 to reveal it’s original contents. I guess even then I realized my overwhelming sense of urgency and noticed I lacked the patience I desired. So I made myself wait. I guess I was also trying to give myself something to look forward to, something personal: A secret- just for me, to myself. I guess that made it pretty special… I needed that.

Yeah… well… about that letter: I had forgotten about it! Dec 12th came and went, and I had the letter openly sitting out, ready for the BIG DAY. But it wasn’t until a good week and a half after the date when I happened to remember,

“That friggin’ letter!”

I wasn’t doing anything remarkable at the time.

You know how sometimes making a space, making something a “thing”, a ritual or tradition, giving it this air of significance makes a moment more momentous?

It wasn’t.

It was an off hand realization. I was running around my room, as usual, cleaning, hanging up clothes, and I remembered…

“The friggin’ letter!”

I believe my exercise playlist on iTunes was playing, bumping out some high-octane fuel. I didn’t switch it to low key, emotional music. I didn’t try to set the stage, center my emotions.

I didn’t make it a thing.

I opened the letter, and read it.

 

Self Portrait taken in 2009

Self Portrait taken during the dark years! 2009.

Now, back in 2009, my life was pretty damn different! I was a lonely, severely depressed, highly anxious college student with no free time because I overbooked myself with classes. I was stressed and decided I was to blame for that stress. I treated my body like it was public enemy #1 because I was the determined bounty hunter. Not an ideal person to be attached to! Every chance I got, I attacked myself, blamed myself, and tore myself apart with the guilt: Guilt on top of guilt, on top of guilt. I had so much anger but was so depressed and lost that I didn’t know where it was coming from. I blamed others and was a very, very difficult person to be around sometimes… especially if you were someone I loved and truly cared about. They took the hardest and most hits. Some stayed with me, some got the hell outta there. I never blamed them, although outwardly it would seem I did. Inwardly, I knew it was all me- but I was the queen of denial, queen of unhappiness, and queen of “I’m a freakin’ loser, woe is meeeEEEE!!!!”

But despite the terror that was I, I always had a spark. I knew what happiness had felt like. I knew I wanted to learn how to love myself better, and to treat everyone with love and respect.

Sadness? Dance it out!

So yeah, I knew vaguely what to expect from this letter. My past has been pretty well recorded. I’ve kept a personal blog since I was 14 and during 2009 in particular I wrote in it up to 9 times a day to relieve my mind of the destructive, obsessive thoughts that were morphing my mind into an all encompassing black hole of BLAH and AHH! And although throughout the blog I would curse myself, blame myself, tear myself apart- I knew it was because deep down, somewhere in the great abyss, I KNEW I had it within me to be better and find the light again. I just had no idea whether I was supposed to go right, left, – wait, did I pass go? I had never been lost before. And I had yet to find a working compass.

Alright, so I didn’t allow myself to think about all this the morning I remembered,

“That friggin’ letter!”

I just did it. I jumped in and didn’t have time to be a judgey-McJudgerson to my past and myself. “I’m sorry Mam’am, the baggage claim is on the wayyy other side of the building.” I was leaving my suitcase behind. All I needed was my ID and wallet: aka identity and abundance!

And so I read:

Dear Susie,

You know how you can be. You’re unbelievably talented and ambitious. I know you’re probably killing yourself right now to make things “perfect” or “just right” in your life. Just think like Eckhart Tolle- and think in the NOW- not the future.

You’re so smart and beautiful. You have so much going for you- so why create extra stress? I hope you’re still writing in your online journal- that’s good therapy. I hope you are where you didn’t expect to be in life- but in a good way. I’m only 21, young, naïve- you’re an uber adult now! What’s that about? Haha

I feel like I’m writing a letter to my older sister- because I just want things to work out for you/me. I hope you can make it happen- and you DID make it happen.

I think that’s all I’m going to say…

I’ll keep it short because I know it’s hard to read my own handwriting.

Toodles Susie!

I hope everything worked out

Love,

your younger self.

 

As soon as I read it, I wanted to write about my reaction, get my thoughts on it out. But life had other plans. Life reminded me that we’re constantly moving forward and not to focus on the past too much. As my mom always told me (especially back in 2009!) Rumination leads to Ruination.

Rumination Ruination

So, I moved on. I didn’t make it a thing.

This morning I wrote a new letter. I won’t say what’s in it- that would spoil the fun for Dec 2020! But I wanted to keep the tradition going: I wanted to have a reminder in the future of what it was like, and what I was thinking here in 2016.

It’s fun thinking how different I was in 2009, how much I’ve grown within that time: What I’ve learned, what I’ve experienced, who I cared for. And I no longer harbor resentment for the pain I caused. I have learned from my mistakes, forgiven myself and I believe that is why I went through this ordeal: to strengthen myself.

And yeah, everything did work out. It’s still working out. I have much to be grateful for. When I was 21, I didn’t know these words: Forgiveness, Gratitude, and Abundance… I didn’t even know

Love.

Now I’m pretty confident I know what love is. I see it all around me, am able to connect with it, I feel it within me. Before, I would feel “love” but couldn’t communicate it, wanted to understand it and analyze it, ultimately stripping it of it’s magic. Now I just let it happen, I go with it. I can cherish others and especially myself.

I no longer need a letter to give myself something to look forward to. I look forward to everyday- but there’s something powerful about getting a glimpse of the past and recognizing the growth you have undergone, subtle or bold. It’s pretty remarkable.

So I’m making it a thing.

 

Photos taken by the lovely Sarah Bennett of www.bennetttrails.com