Women all over the world are brought up in society with a deep-rooted personal conflict. We are taught to be confident, but not too confident. We are held to a different standard of acceptable behavior than are men. Society’s idea of how women should look, behave, and even think presents many challenges. No wonder so many women struggle with secret addictions, whether it be drugs, alcohol, eating, not eating, sex, shopping, you name it. We must learn to accept ourselves, to practice self-love, but not to the point of narcissism. The line between self-love and narcissism has been blurred and the media and society are usually of no help. Those of us in recovery must find that middle place between the two. So What’s a Girl to Do? In the last few years, there has been an uprising of strong women around the country and around the world. Women have been fighting for the right to be equal, to be valued, and to be heard. In America especially, brave women have been speaking out to be considered equal and to promote self-love throughout the female culture. It is no secret that many men are raised with the notion that they can be and do whatever they want in life. They are admired for their bravado and sexual status, while women are held to a lower standard. Women, however, are criticized for exhibiting the same behaviors. But we are finding our way, despite such thinking and we must continue to learn to like ourselves. My Own Experience I’m not sure when it happened, but over the years, I started to truly and deeply hate myself; not just how I looked, but the way I thought, the way I acted in certain situations. I never felt pretty enough, or funny enough, or stylish enough, except when I was using. That was a cure-all for all the worries and anxieties and fears that constantly swirled around in my brain. It’s funny, my mother always raised me to think for myself, be proud of who I was, and to take no b.s. from any man (or woman, for that matter). This wasn’t to train me to be rude, but she never wanted me to feel the way that she felt, to be controlled by an abusive male figure (her father) or to feel trapped in a crappy relationship (my father). However, over the years, as I became a teenager and idolized whichever pop star and model was popular at the time, I slowly developed this agonizing hatred for my curly red hair, flat chest, and awkward social interactions. So I tried to become someone else, I dyed my hair a thousand different colors, I bought clothes that showed off way too much, and I delved heavily into my addiction. Down the road, my addiction caught up with me, and I crawled into the rooms of AA. I had been burned by women in the past (always by my own actions) so I immediately resented every single woman in every single meeting. I never reached out, I never made friends, and I never admitted I was hurting. I relapsed… a lot. However, with each relapse, I discovered that women reached out to help me, even when I didn’t ask. I have spent more time in the rooms, and have surrounded myself with God-conscious, badass women of integrity, and I have learned about the value of getting to know myself. Self-love has been one of the most rewarding and enriching areas of my sobriety. When before, I would feel vain and narcissistic for wanting to do nice things for myself, today I welcome any and every chance I get to embrace the opportunity to enjoy myself. Another thing I have learned from these women is that “I am an independent woman who doesn’t need any man (or woman, depending on what you’re into). I can enjoy myself by myself, or I can go out with the girls, or sit on the couch with them, and feel more love and support than I ever could in a forced relationship. Self-love can only really become a dangerous entity when we do it to the extreme, just as with everything else in life. If we place ourselves above others, or our feelings over others, we can become narcissistic. The line, however, is not a thin one. As long as self-love is being practiced by doing the next right thing for others, and for ourselves, we are aligning ourselves with our higher power. Why Do We NEED to Practice Self-Love? Again, the better question is why don’t we?! Let me tell you something sister, you are a bad ass. You have been through hell, and have come out the other side. You are here, getting sober, taking huge, scary, exciting steps to change your life, and you are going to tell me that you are not a bad ass? No way! If we don’t practice self-love and if we don’t love ourselves, who else will? We come into these rooms alone, isolated, and afraid of other women, and afraid of being ourselves. However, when we finally admit defeat, and become ready to let other women into our lives, we begin to learn to love ourselves. Self-love is important to us because it teaches us how to be loving and tolerant of others. Valuing and appreciating ourselves aligns us more with the will of our higher power, who, if yours is anything like mine, loves us endlessly and without judgment. Practicing self-love teaches us patience, and understanding, and tenderness. We are our own worst critics, so when we can stop in moments of self-doubt, and thank our higher power for allowing us another day, we can learn how precious we are. Getting Help at Wayside House If you are a woman struggling with addiction and mental health issues, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare, as well as programs for medical professionals and veterans. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.