At the end of 2020, while writing down my goals for the new year, I promised on paper to be nicer to myself and lean into radical self-love. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what “radical self-love” looked like, but it was clear that my current state of affairs had to change. Love is interesting that way. For me at least, it’s always been much easier to love on and pour into others than it was to do the same for myself. I spent most of my adult life trying to give people the kind of love I always wanted. The type of love that is unconditional, without anterior motives. I have tried to give that kind of energy to a lot of people. Most were deserving, others took what they needed and left. But, no matter how hard I loved or how much I gave, there was always something missing. It took a pandemic, and some very honest personal conversations to realize that the piece missing was in me.
While I would give those around me, everything I had, I wasn’t prioritizing the most important person in this equation, me. That lack of prioritization happened for a lot of reasons, but the truth that rings the loudest is that I didn’t like myself. I would look in the mirror and count the ways I fell short, and because I never felt like enough, It lead me to believe that I didn’t deserve love. That lack of love leads to a lack of attention to my mental, physical and spiritual health, and as I continued to de-prioritize my needs, everything around me fell apart.
Usually, when someone goes through such an aggressive effort to deprioritize themselves, it’s a sign that there will soon be a crash. Thankfully, I haven’t had one. Instead, I like many people during the pandemic watched as my body broke down from a lack of activity. The shame in not recognizing the person in the mirror, and the desire to break old cycles, snapped something in me. I realized that if I were to expect love, I had to be willing to love myself, flaws and all.
The next challenge was answering the question of how to “love yourself audaciously?” With 2020 coming to an end, I decided to find ways to invest in myself. That has translated to a more health-conscious version of me who makes doctor appointments and actually shows up, recommitting to the gym, and finally, stepping out of my comfort zone with a photoshoot.
It wasn’t something I planned to do, instead, after some encouragement from a friend and colleague I decided to take a leap of faith. With his fantastic photography skills, and my newfound commitment to loving all of me, I did my very first photo shoot. This isn’t something Pre-Covid Stanley would do. To be honest, Post Covid Stanley was scared to death. But as I look at these pictures, flaws and all, I can’t help but feel proud of the progress I made and the big steps I took. So yeah, I did a photoshoot because I love myself, radically.