On Summits and Self-Love
By Melia Shumate, Girls Who Hike Orange County Ambassador
Resilient, radical self love isn't easy. It takes meditated, continuous positive self-talk. It takes forgiveness. Humanization. It takes acceptance and understanding. It takes constant critical introspection about mass media and mediated messages about body image. It takes rebellion, reassurance, and thoughtful resistance.
But it is the best gift you could ever give yourself.
I spent years at war with my own skin and bones. I let my own voice convince myself that my legs were too muscular and my stomach never flat enough. I saw my body as a visual landscape, rather than a powerful force, rather than my home, or my longest lasting relationship. But being in the mountains changed that. I learned to thank my muscular thighs for being my vehicle. I learned flat stomach's are overrated- especially because they mean giving up good food. I learned to love my body for being there through everything. For showing me the world. For its resiliency. And I have to say I've learned to be in awe of what this body can do.
For me self love can means many things, but there's one central tenet to it: show up for yourself.
It's easy to be there for someone else. It's easy to believe and encourage someone else. It's easy to say "you can do it" or "you're gonna make it".
But it's not always so easy to be our own biggest supporter. I never realized how different I "talk" to myself compared to how I talk to other people until I started climbing mountains. I think it's normal to be critical of ourselves, but self talk manifests itself. The more you say you can't, the more you won't. The more you say you can, the more you will.
So over the last year I've made a diligent effort to say yes to myself more: to show up in the early morning to climb a mountain even on my days off and even on days I don't want to get out of bed, to tell myself I'm capable and I am gonna make it to every summit. I started saying yes to the things I wanted, rather than saying yes to things someone else wanted me to do.
Self-care and self-love are important. Sometimes it's as simple as running your hands on your thick thighs and being thankful, rather than critical. Sometimes it's saying "you can do it" instead of questioning if you'll make it. Sometimes it's remembering you got back up and not that you fell down. Self-care is about saying yes to yourself. Listening to yourself. Being your own biggest fan. Showing up for yourself.
Summiting mountains has taught me a lot about self-love. In fact, I used to think radical self love was impossible for me. But I've realized every step is a love letter to every version of me. There is a process of walking away from the woman I was and into the woman I'm becoming, and I have learned that is the foundation of self-love. Forgiveness for who you were, courage for what you are becoming, and humility for who you currently are.