When I look at this photo, I am reminded of a wonderful day full of laughter and open-hearted sharing, connecting with old and new friends. We had breast cancer in common, and are all living without reconstruction. One of the highlights of the day was when Marianne Duquette Cuozzo painted our scars on our bare chests in the privacy of a NYC bathroom. She highlighted some aspects of our personal journeys, in the form of hearts, birds, swirls, and simple words. “This is cancer,” she wrote above some of our scars. On mine, I asked her to change the “is” to “was.”
While walking together in Central Park, we considered the idea of finding a relatively quiet area to take a photo together showing the body art Marianne had painted on us. I’m not sure that there is much in the way of privacy in Central Park. We found a beautiful spot, and scoped out those passing by with the hopes of finding someone who would be willing to capture the moment for us and (hopefully!) not be put off by our request. I asked a woman who seemed like she might be a good fit, telling her our wish, and she consented. We pulled off our tops and posed together with a mixture of laughter, shyness, and pride. Once the photos were taken, the people around us began clapping. Completely surprised, all of our eyes filled with tears. It was a beautiful moment. We hadn’t expected that boldly accepting our post breast cancer bodies would impact anyone other than ourselves.
This picture speaks to me of self love, as well as sisterly love. In this intimate and carefree moment, we honored our bodies, our scars, and our stories. Although our scars are part of who we are, we took a stand together, refusing to define ourselves by our scars alone. Supporting one another, we recognized the common bonds between us, despite our differences.
One of the greatest forms of love is self love. There is a practical aspect, essential for our longevity and well-being. Truly nurturing and caring for ourselves goes far beyond that, however, setting a precedence for greater personal satisfaction in life. Why is self love such a difficult concept to grasp? We—especially women— are all constantly fed messages that we must put the needs of others first. Subtly or overtly, we are told to make sacrifices, to do more, faster, and better. There is a tremendous amount of pressure to keep smiling, look great, and be of good cheer at all times and at all costs. This mentality is neither healthy nor sustainable. In reality, taking time out to care for ourselves helps us to feel happier and—ironically—function more efficiently.
What is self love?
Self love is something we can each define. It involves taking time to attend to our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs, regardless of the external demands in our lives. We often put off self care, saying we will get to it later, imagining that it will take up far too much time to “indulge” in it now. In reality, this sort of personal attention is something that can take just a few minutes at a time. Self love is one of the most worthwhile investments we can make in life. If it hasn’t been your strong suit, don’t despair! The beauty about nurturing yourself is that you can start small, and can begin integrating little positive moments into your life at any time.
How can I show love for myself?
One of the most effective forms of self care is to push the pause button in life. Throughout the day, take a moment or two to stop whatever you are doing, and check in with yourself. Simply noticing how you are feeling physically and emotionally is enough to take the edge off any stress you might be experiencing. Give yourself permission to savor small, regular precious gifts such as a deep breath, a sip of water, stretching, noticing something beautiful around you, or something you are thankful for. These simple acts are yours to claim whenever you choose. Integrating any of these new options into your day takes some conscious effort and practice, but is well worth the effort! May you allow yourself to relish these and other simple expressions of self love. After all, it is only when our “cup” is filled that we can truly give to another. Shine on!