Thea and I were looking at some pictures of her on my phone. She took the phone out of my hands and kissed the image of herself, followed by a hug and another kiss.
I hope she always has such a innocent love for herself, I thought.
It was good to see my little girl who so willingly shows love to her baby sister, her parents, and all animals, real or stuffed, also showing herself some love. And my thoughts went back to when I realized I really wasn’t very nice to myself.
I’ve played soccer my whole life. Been a soccer junkie my whole life. I was lucky enough to get a chance to play soccer in college. And I had to make the jump from being one of the best players on my high school team to just another player on my collegiate team. For four years, I struggled to break out of a funk. I could not for the life of me play soccer like I knew I could. I don’t know if it was the fact that I didn’t play soccer my senior year of high school due to a busted up ankle that made it so hard for me to get back in a groove or what, but it was brutal and it was internally one of the hardest times of my life.
There were lots of factors that I blamed for my problem. But truly, the biggest enemy to my progress was me. I could not get out of my own head. Every time I made a mistake, every single time, I got mad at myself. And of course, then I’d make another mistake and I’d get even more mad at myself. And the more mad at myself I got, the worse I played. It was a vicious, wicked cycle.
During my last season, I felt like such a loser for being a senior and still not a starter. It ate at me constantly. I remember going for a walk with a friend of mine who was my mom away from home. After I unloaded my anguish to her, she said, “It sounds like you need to learn how to be a friend to yourself.” It was one of those moments where everything that had been swirling around in your mind just settles in an instant. How right she was!
I was my own worst enemy. I was the first one to criticize me, the first one to chew me out, the first one to give up on myself. I realized in that moment that I had done nothing for four years except make my mind one of the most terrible places to be.
A lot changed after that. I started to be the first one to tell me it was ok, the first one to give me a high five for trying, the first one to tell me I’d get it next time.
And my soccer did improve somewhat then, making big improvements as the years went on. I had a big hole I was trying to dig myself out of. But the biggest improvements were my attitude and happiness, on and off the field. But that lesson to be my own best friend has carried me through everything hard I have tried to do since. I no longer weigh myself down if I don’t meet my own expectations or the expectations of others. I believe in me. I believe in what I can accomplish. Inside my mind has become a safe place for me to make mistakes, to learn, and to grow.
And I hope I can help my children maintain that childlike love of self, so that they, too, can always have an inner haven.