This year, my worst fear came true. I was 36, a mother of two very young children, a wife, the Director of a successful nonprofit organization, about to pursue a lifelong dream of becoming a life coach, and BAM! I was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on my kidney. Let me tell you how one of my biggest fears coming true, ended up becoming one of my greatest blessings.
My entire life I have always strived for perfection. I wanted to be the prettiest, have the fittest body, live the coolest life, go on the most amazing adventures, work in the most glamorous jobs, date the best looking and most fascinating men. I wanted to be the best mom, a fantastic wife, a successful life coach with a booming business. Many of you know where this is going. The pressure I was putting on myself was enormous. Having such unrealistic expectations only sets a person up for the exact thing they are trying so hard to avoid. Failure. My inner critic absolutely ripped me apart when things didn’t go perfectly (which was all the time), and despite everything looking incredible from an outsider’s perspective, I was torn up on the inside because I wasn’t “perfect” at anything.
And then it happened. I was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on my kidney and my world as I knew it came crashing down. I was shocked, devastated, absolutely terrified. I cried. A lot. I held my babies long after they fell asleep. I prayed for time. 4 days later, I had major surgery to have it removed. Surgeons were able to save part of my kidney, but had to remove a piece of it. Recovery was long, and far more brutal than I had imagined. I now have five 1-inch-long incisions across my right side from my stomach around to my back. My body is more imperfect than I ever thought it would be. And you know what? I never thought I would be so grateful for something so physically destructive.
When your mortality is questioned, you have no choice but to surrender. I was on my knees. Everything fell away. My heart, for the first time in my life, was wide open. I was vulnerable. I didn’t care one single bit about being perfect. I just wanted to live. To love. To be.
Five days after my surgery is when my entire life’s perspective began to change. I was reading through my Facebook newsfeed and saw a sponsored post by Louise Hay. I clicked on it and it was all about self-love. Self-love. People are really supposed to love themselves? I think I may have laughed out loud. This was the most foreign concept to me but I felt compelled to pursue it further. I found a Louise Hay self-love meditation and started listening to it twice a day, and as I fell asleep at night. I began listening to her self-love affirmations throughout the day rather than listening to the radio. Things began to shift inside of me. I genuinely started feeling love for myself. I really started to FEEL love.
A few days after I started these meditations, I looked in the mirror and for the first time in my life I saw beauty rather than fat, or wrinkles, or imperfection. When I went to reach for something to eat, I had an innate desire to choose something that would nourish my body rather than food that would “make me skinny”. When I wanted something to drink, I craved drinks that made me feel warm and fuzzy inside like herbal teas, rather than trying to escape my reality through a glass of wine. When I felt like I needed movement, I chose long walks in the woods, or beautiful yoga, rather than killing myself on a painful run or 30 minutes of dreaded cardio. And one of the biggest things for me was that I genuinely started to enjoy spending time with my children, rather than constantly being distracted and bombarded by thoughts of what a terrible mother I was because I didn’t do things perfectly.
I no longer criticized myself. The negative talk in my head was now filled with warm, loving, compassionate thoughts towards myself. I stopped scaring myself by letting my mind run wild with stories about what could happen. I stopped beating myself up physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I started living life from a place of genuine love, rather than constant fear. After 36 years, I felt peace. As much as it hurts to say this, I truly needed the cancer diagnosis, and the constant reminder of my scars, for me to kick my ego out of the way, and live a life of joy, love, and genuine happiness.
I am now able to look back and see clearly that all of that striving to be perfect, and working hard to be perfect, created constant chaos and paralyzing fear in my life. I was desperately seeking love, but looking in all the wrong places. I have learned a hard, yet valuable lesson. Making this small shift years ago would have saved me so much heart ache, physical turmoil, periods of suffering from depression and anxiety, the near breakdown of my marriage, and a 15-year long unhealthy relationship with food. Loving myself could have even saved me from creating cancer in my body in the first place. Negative thoughts create a perfect environment for disease in the body.
If you don’t feel love for yourself, those outside sources of love won’t hold your attention for long. You will always be on to the next job, or the next relationship, the next adventure, the next city, state, or country. You will always be on the go, searching, and will never feel content. You will reach for food, alcohol, drugs, anything to give you just a moment of peace. You must turn your focus within. Feel love for yourself. Genuinely love yourself. Be love. Your life will miraculously change..
An excerpt from Erica's story.
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Made Beautiful By Scars...