How Your World Changes When You Begin to Love Who You Really Are
When I delivered my first TEDx talk, Become Who You Really Are, it opened a can of worms for many people! The message of owning your real identity and embodying your true wishes for your life, whatever that means for you, is something that seems like an unreachable goal for many.
It’s sad but true that so many people feel they can’t be 100% authentic without losing approval, status, or worst of all, love.
The contrasting message being broadcast loudly from the personal development world is to focus on loving yourself and the right people will find you.
I think that’s totally right – at the end of that personal development path of proclaiming, “I am who I am” is not only self-acceptance, but love and support from your tribe. But I do have to balance that with the very real concerns of people who are teetering on the edge of making that leap.
For those people who are stuck in their current lives of putting on a mask for approval, being authentically themselves is at the end of a long and winding road. It’s daunting to say the least!
If you are stuck right now, then you may well be wondering how the journey to authentic self love and begins.
So where might you start?
I can tell you where I started. For me, self love began with my sense of identity.
Really knowing and loving who you are is a great foundation to build upon. When you strip back all the masks you wear and the roles that you play; parent, boss, sibling, partner, survivor… then who are you really?
I’m talking about who you are at your core, your essence. You are more than your body, status and occupation or role.
Personally, I didn’t always know who I was, and figuring this out was a big part of my journey to real self love. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide, “Okay, I’m going to love myself today.” I had to get to know and really accept myself first.
That meant letting go of a lot of stuff, such as the masks I had been wearing. I had to move on from perfectionism, and from trying to please others.
A pivotal moment in this process for me was a near death-like experience that led to my understanding of what had been causing my depression symptoms for so long.
It was on a vacation to the south of France, where I now live, that it all came to a head. At the height of my TV career, there was a moment in the US where my audience were seeing me every day. The Discovery Health Channel was in about 90 million homes at that time, I was both anchoring the news and hosting documentaries. I was on TV more than once every day, and for a lot of stay at home moms, I was a part of their daily viewing.
It got to the point where I was being recognized in the street. But it felt strange because I was being recognized as a stuffy, ‘know it all’ doctor – and that’s just not me at all. But that was my brand and the persona or mask that I was wearing.
So I was in Europe where nobody knew me, as Discovery Health wasn’t available over here at that time. I set my intention to be who I wanted to be while I was here, and if you believe in the Law Of Attraction, then you know how quickly these things could manifest. I decided to leave Dr. Andrea at home, and just be Dreah, the artist. Sure enough, people accepted the authentic version of me straight away, and I had all these new people talking to me, but I knew it couldn’t be to do with my TV fame, as they had never seen me before.
Having told somebody in conversation that I sing jazz, I instantly got an invite to perform on stage at one of the hottest clubs in St. Tropez. Enjoying shedding my mask, I wasn’t going to back down now, and so I accepted.
That night in the club was an absolute dream come true. But as we all know, when you ride a rollercoaster, an up is typically followed by a down. And I really crashed down after that night.
Having had a small but very real taste of what my life could have been, I had the most intense realization of how unhappy I was. Knowing that my holiday would be over in just a few days and that I would have to return to my old life, I flung myself onto the bed and cried out to God to take my life. I just knew I couldn’t go on living like that.
This is when I had my out of body experience. I’ve shared this in detail before, but for the point I want to make today, suffice to say that this is what opened my eyes to the importance of self love, self acceptance, and simply allowing yourself to be exactly who you are – your whole self, authentically, and with no apology.
My whole world began to change from that day, because I couldn’t possibly go back to living behind my mask. I was out now.
It’s almost magical how one very personal change leads to so many shifts outside of yourself. When you start telling people who you really are, you have different interactions, meet different people, and have new opportunities open up for you.
Over time I made significant changes to my career, so that today I embrace all of my skills and interests in my work. I still love my nerdy, medical side. I also embraced my spiritual side and developed my clinical work to incorporate Chinese Medicine, taking a holistic approach.
Later I extended my love of the spiritual world further as I worked more in branding and publishing, mentoring Lightworkers and helping them to grow their businesses and share their light with the world. As for my performing, it’s still a work in progress, but I’m doing my best to make time for music in my life too, as it makes my soul happy.
Making your soul happy and doing your dharma, the work you came to planet earth to do, is what it’s all about in my eyes.
From your relationship with yourself to your relationships with others
Some of the authors of my previous group book projects have shared that finding their ‘one’ only came after first learning to love themselves. Going into a new relationship from a place of total self-acceptance and authenticity, put them in the position to be loved for who they truly are, right from the beginning.
I think there is a lot of wisdom in this.
Starting a new relationship with the self love and confidence to share all of yourself, and with the self respect to say what you do and don’t want in a relationship, rather than to make allowances out of a fear of rejection, makes a fundamental difference to the type of relationship you could have.
Currently as I’m accepting applications from new writers to co-author my upcoming book on Manifesting Love, I’m again reading stories that reinforce this connection between self love and happy relationships.
We’ve all heard that you can’t love anyone else well until you love yourself first, and equally you can’t be loved by another person until, you guessed it, you love yourself. Whether this is 100% the case all across the board or not, and there often are exceptions to any ‘rule’, the concept certainly has a lot of logic to it.
I believe there is much of life that we can’t fully enjoy and connect with while we aren’t fully embracing who we are. That authentic connection we all crave must surely be a two-way street. The people in your life can’t read your mind, and therefore can’t truly know and love you for everything that you are, unless you are brave enough to share all of you with them.
I know that could be a daunting prospect, especially if you are at the start of your journey to loving who you really are. My personal story, as you’ve just read, had a big catalyst moment that propelled me forward. But what I really want you to know is that might not be how it happens for you. You might need to take your time, and that is completely okay.
So be gentle with yourself and go a step at a time for as long as you need. Stepping into self love doesn’t have to be a great big leap from a tall building. You can dip your toe in the water and do it at a comfortable pace.
After all, consider the mismatch between loving yourself and scaring yourself by pushing towards a big goal with full force. Love is kind, so be kind to yourself. Start there, and before you know it, you are already starting to love yourself.