S’mores Bars { + S’More Thoughts on the Difficulty of Loving Yourself }

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Almost a year ago now, I wrote this post on Defining Your Self-Worth, which received tons of amazing, thought-provoking, vulnerable, and deeply genuine comments from all of you readers out there. Today, in the midst of one of the craziest and most turbulent but also “happiest” periods of my life, I want to continue the discussion by bringing up another related topic: the Difficulty of Loving Yourself.

This is going to be a long post, so if you’re here for the S’mores Bars recipe (which is phenomenal BTW), go ahead and skip to the bottom of this post. I promise I won’t be offended!

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“We accept the love we think we deserve.” This is the catchphrase of that wonderful coming-of-age book-turned-film that I’m watching alone tonight, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Having always identified as a Wallflour/Wallflower myself, that line always resonated with me. We accept the love we think we deserve. Fine. But what if there was no love to accept? What if, at the heart of it all, the problem wasn’t that I wasn’t accepting love, but that I didn’t deserve to be loved in the first place?

At my lowest moments, these are the thoughts that hang over my mind like an invisible but palpable cloud that blocks out all sunlight. Despite considering myself to be a fairly cheerful and positive person, the difficulty of loving myself has been something with which I have always struggled, but exponentially more so in the past six or seven years since all this crappiness happened. What makes the whole experience even more trying is–or at least was, as I’ll explain in a moment–what I perceived as a lack of stable support systems on which I could rely to actually talk about my problems. My blog has provided a surrogate version of that outlet for the past three years, but at some point the irreplaceability of face-to-face human warmth and contact just hits you, and suddenly the whole illusion of knowing what you’re doing and being the person the world thinks you are crumbles, leaving you to reconstruct some semblance of order from out of the rubble.

I know I’m not alone in the feeling–I’m sure all of us have felt it at one time or another in our lives–but there is also something irrationally and pertinaciously isolating about feeling like you’re not worth a shred of the esteem that the world holds for you. Sometimes, when I hear my friends’ reassurances that I “do great things,” have “achieved so much,” will “go far in life,” part of me wants to put my hands on either side of their face and make them see that it’s not what they think it is–that it’s not all as “great” or “wonderful” or “perfect” as they make it out to be, and that by reinforcing the idea that they think my life is great, they’re only doing greater damage. Because one day the illusion will crack and I’ll be left there standing alone, abandoned, unloved.

There is no self-love where the shadow of self-doubt prevails.

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It’s not so much the act of sharing that scares me: it’s what happens next–a day, a week, a month, a year later. I’ve never been great shakes at forming lasting bonds with anyone–which isn’t to say that I don’t have close longtime friends, but rather that I have never had to work to form a relationship (I’m not just talking about romantic ones) that is predicated on someone being completely okay with my sustained vulnerability. Even among my friends, I have a tendency to share only a certain set of facts about myself: there’s a friend for relationship troubles, a friend for academic anxiety, yet another for health-related concerns, and so forth. I guess I figure that if I don’t put all of my eggs in one basket, I don’t have to worry about dropping it somewhere along the long road and cracking all of them at once. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure I would be able to recover from a blow like that.

For the past few months, I have drifted by in a state of constant loneliness, anxiety, and terror: loneliness despite the support of some of the best people in the world, anxiety that I would fail to meet their expectations, terror that I would wake up the next day and realize that everyone around me has seen the truth about my phantom insecurities, and left. None of these preoccupations affected my day-to-day life, and sometimes I would go weeks at a time completely happy with life, until one night I would go home and look around me and realize what a lie I felt that I was living. It took me the better part of this year to acknowledge that this was not okay: and when I did, it took several more months before I was willing to accept–or risk–the idea that talking about it, and sharing these experiences with somebody else who knew what I was going through, might not be the worst mistake I had ever made in my life. That, in fact, it might be one of the best.

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This is the thought that emerged in one of moments of clarity, one of those rare moments when I could stow away the dark thoughts in a small drawer long enough to sneak away and examine them from a distance, and see the doubts for what they are: specters.

I hear the same well-intentioned advice from friends all the time: “Just try it!” “Give it a go, who knows what might happen?” Here’s the bit that nobody ever talks about: there is no easy way to accept someone else’s love, much less your own, when the specters glide silently into your life. I thought I had cracked the secret when I went to bed every night writing down one thing for which I was grateful on my Wall of Smiles–and then, I thought that reminding myself that I’m worth caring for every single day would be the key. And that’s when I realized that the facts had been staring me in the face the whole time: there is no easy way, yes, but there is a way, and it starts with the simplest of gestures.

Accepting the possibility of acceptance.

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At an emotional level, acceptance is scary because it means putting your faith in something that is fundamentally beyond your control and trusting that it won’t turn around or run away when you look the other way. To accept someone’s compliment means to acknowledge its truth value and allow their thoughts to shape how you think about yourself. To accept a new member into the family means to embrace them and pray with your whole heart that they can do the same.  To accept someone’s admiration, caring, or even love means to place a piece of your identity in somebody else’s hands and believe that they will keep it safe from harm.

The funny thing about all of these fears is that they are never, ever contingent on the other person in question. I have met individuals who are surely some of the best, kindest, brightest people in the world, and when the opportunity arose, I have held up my hands quietly and walked away with a smile. I can’t tell how many wonderful, dear people I may have unintentionally hurt as a result of my defenses, largely because it requires a certain level of belief in one’s self-worth to even entertain the possibility that somebody could be hurt by my refusal to accept their love. They’ll see that they’re better off, the little voice would whisper without fail. Don’t worry, you’re not worth dwelling over.

If all of this sounds a bit melodramatic, I’ll be the first to admit that I have an unfortunate flair for melodrama. But I am also in earnest as I type this long overdue confession–because once I was baldly confronted with the fact that the road to acceptance is one that cannot be traveled alone, it was almost astonishing to realize just how many open doors had passed me by in the process of self-doubting. Recently, I allowed myself to really look into someone’s eyes and, for the first time in my life, saw someone else not only looking back, but seeing me for who I was.

The experience was scary, comforting, exhilarating, and completely new. I can’t say I’m any less scared now–if anything, I’m more afraid than ever of losing something I never thought I deserved in the first place–but knowing that that fear is not only valid but worth accepting has, I think and hope, made all the difference.

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I have no good answer to the question of how we learn to accept ourselves or others’ conceptions of ourselves. Sometimes, when I think back to that 17-year old girl who beamed as her prom date slipped a corsage onto her chlorine-scented wrist (they had both just finished winning their respective events at the regional swim meet), I grow a bit wistful and even envious of her evident lack of self-consciousness. If there’s one thing I hope I’ve begun to learn since then, however, it’s that accepting the idea of acceptance is the first step to really believing it. The second is to accept someone else’s help in the hopes of sustaining that belief.

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By writing all of this out in the most open way I know how to do, I hope that I’m also opening up a space and dialogue for being able to talk about these issues more freely, without fear of being judged, rejected, or disappointed. Whether it’s with my friends, family, or loved ones, I am by no means an expert in what it means to learn to love yourself–but I value all of your thoughts and experiences, which stretch far beyond what I could even begin to imagine sitting here in my dark corner typing away.

So what I’m asking is for you to share a piece of insight you have learned in your own way, whether it is a mistake or a state of mind or simply a brilliant moment that helped you realize what it means to overcome the difficulty of loving yourself. Finally, I’ll ask that you look through and see what everyone else has to say as well–because you never know where you might find that much-needed inspiration to keep up the journey of self-exploration on which we have all already embarked.

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As suspicious as this may sound, I actually chose to share this post alongside these s’mores bars for a good reason, because a) in the midst of deep (and sometimes tough) reflections we all need the most beautiful thing imaginable to help keep our chins up, and these s’mores bars are exactly that, and b) we’re always so busy looking for “some more” out of ourselves, it’s hard to see what’s right in front of us sometimes. Well, that “s’more” is sitting right in front of you, at your disposal. And let me say that if you are willing to accept it, there will be no question of it accepting you for exactly who you are, right now, reading, here…perfection.

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 What are your thoughts on accepting love, especially self-love? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Ala

S’mores Bars { + S’More Thoughts on the Difficulty of Loving Yourself }

These s'mores bars are PERFECTION: an unbelievably soft graham cracker top and bottom sandwich a warm layer of melted chocolate and plenty of toasted, gooey marshmallows. Recipe slightly adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 XL chocolate bars (I used Hershey's milk chocolate)
  • 1 (7 oz.) jar marshmallow fluff

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x9-inch baking pan and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in vanilla and egg until smooth.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and fold in until just incorporated.
  4. Press half of the graham cracker crust evenly into the bottom of prepared pan. Place the two chocolate bars side by side in the center of the pan, leaving approximately 3/4-inch border of crust on the sides. (This will keep your chocolate from sticking to the sides and burning.)
  5. Top with entire jar of marshmallow fluff. Sprinkle remaining graham cracker crust in clumps across the top of the marshmallow fluff, spreading it as evenly as possible. Don't worry if a few bits of fluff are peeking through--this is great!
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the bars have just set. Cool completely on rack before cutting into squares and enjoying.
http://www.wallflourgirl.com/2015/05/25/smores-bars-smore-thoughts-difficulty-loving/

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29 Replies to “S’mores Bars { + S’More Thoughts on the Difficulty of Loving Yourself }”

  1. Oh my goodness Ala, what a thought provoking and insightful post. Your words rang true on almost every count. EXCEPT…. I havent been able to except the love that on the surface I know I deserve, but dont actually believe I can have. The gratitude thing works a treat, and I have found regular bikram yoga practice also assists with loving me.

    Absolutely loving the s’mores. They bring me back to one of the BEST times of my life to date, where I allowed myself to be loved. Such fun!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Anna! I *totally* feel you on the bit about not being able to accept love at face value, especially when we feel like we’ve done nothing to earn it. It’s great that you’ve found gratitude and yoga as sources to cultivate acceptance and love–for a while back, I would use guided meditation for the same means, though ultimately I found it difficult to spend so much time with myself. I think what was missing at that point was a real human connection that I could (with a great deal of trepidation) put my faith into. I was told recently that learning to listen to others when they tell us the positive things about ourselves is a good starting point, and I’ve been trying to work hard at doing just that. Baby steps! But I’m totally here for you anytime you need a listening ear. I feel like there’s so much we can all say, if only we knew how to start! xoxo thanks so much again, girl!

      1. I’ve never had much success with meditation, I find my busy minds chatter takes over, perhaps if I added that in to the gratitude, yoga mix. Argh…. How long did it take you to except compliments without finding fault? I have learned to shut up when it happens, but I still think… Yeah right!
        Thanks heaps for your kind offer, isn’t this blog community wonderful. I am so grateful to have connected with you. Hope your weekend is rocking. 🙂

  2. YES! This looks amazing, Ala! Love these s’mores bars so much!! Can’t wait to give these a try! 😀

    1. Thanks a bundle, Jess 🙂 I know you’d love ’em. Please do try them, they are BOMB!

  3. Ala, thank you so much for sharing this post. You’re so right. There is no easy way to go about this. Being vulnerable with others is HARD. It’s scary. I don’t think there’s any magic formula for making it happen either. It’s just little risks here and there. Being willing to say you’re not okay. Answering honestly when someone asks how you’re doing. Not being afraid to cry in front of someone. It’s a process, and one I’m not even close to mastering. This post was a risk, and I hope it results in more and more for you!

    1. Courtney, I read your comment and it meant so much to me–it resonated on all sorts of levels, and you’re totally right that it’s not always about taking a huge plunge; the little risks are just as important. I’ve had a difficult time letting myself be vulnerable in that way, mostly because I’ve somehow come to associate sustained vulnerability with some sort of chronic weakness–but I’ve also had to face the fact that that’s totally not true, too. The response from my friends (I shared this post online) has been INCREDIBLE, and just knowing that they’re as present and involved in my life as they are has been just one of the most amazing experiences, ever–a risk that was definitely worth it. THANK you, Courtney, for sharing your experience!! xo It’s never easy, but I’m so glad we can talk about this!

  4. In the words of the immortal Buckaroo Banzai, no matter where you go, there you are. Takes a long time to accept and embrace that, though. Anyway, terrific recipe — thanks.

    1. Yes, that’s totally true. The immortal Buckaroo Banzai is spot-on!

  5. I grew up with a very critical mother and went through much of my adult life *knowing* I wasn’t deserving because of the false beliefs I accepted. One day I just stopped and kept telling myself none of that was true. It’s not easy to break through false beliefs but they’re just a story. What a great post and I wish I’d had one of these bars to eat while I read. 🙂

    1. Maureen, thanks so much for sharing this! While my parents are critical, I don’t think they were anywhere close to that level of criticism. Good on you for willing to accept new truths about yourself. That’s a bright spot I’ll keep i mind as I keep searching!

  6. I love this post (and these bars, BTW, amazing). This “There is no self-love where the shadow of self-doubt prevails.” so resonates with me, as do so many things here. Thank you for writing this!

    1. That means a lot, Dorothy–I’m really glad you were able to connect with it!

  7. Ala – Thank you for opening up and sharing this post. I really struggled with being vulnerable in college. As an incoming freshman, I had a boyfriend of three years, a best friend who had been consistent in my life for five years, and a loving family who supported me; however, when I went to college and stayed on campus, I soon realized that I had drifted away from my boyfriend, struggled with self-love and body image, and my family was falling apart due to drug problems. I opened my heart to someone at college and trusted this person, yet this trust was used to manipulate me. I was led into a severe depression. I tried to make myself stronger by being in control of things like my exercise and diet, but felt weaker everyday. Over the years, I’ve mended the wounds with this person although we rarely talk anymore. I’ve worked on myself through years of therapy, but I still have doubts and anxiety. I wonder if I’m good enough, and if I deserve the people who are in my life. You are not alone. It does get better. If you haven’t yet, read “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown. It helped me to see shame and self-doubt in a new light.

    1. ERIN–thank you so much for sharing this; I can only imagine how much you’ve been through. I’m putting that Brown book on my list (for real) and am really looking forward to reading it during that this summer. As for some of your situations–I’m so sorry to hear about the terrible ordeals (manipulation is the WORST–having betrayed trust is just such a crappy feeling. It makes you feel like you’re the smallest person in the world). Good on you for recognizing your doubts but also the limits of what we can do on our own–that really resonated with me. I do hope everything is getting better these days, and know that I mean it when I say I would love to talk! <3 thanks so much for your thoughts, girl xo

  8. Ala, I loved this post so much. I think you are beautifully articulating what so many people feel but find hard to put into words, and by doing that you are helping the folks who read this to feel not so alone – and therefore stronger. I too find myself feeling this from time to time, and one thing I started doing a couple of years ago at bedtime was saying – out loud – three good things that happened during the day. Even on really blue days, I could always find three, even something as simple as coming home to an enthusiastic hello from my dog, or getting a text from a good friend, all the way up to things like the day my daughter graduated from college. It’s a simple exercise, but it helps me sleep more peacefully. Thanks for sharing your story…and for the sweet s’mores too!

    1. Kate, thank you SO much for your incredibly thoughtful comment. You’ve put a great thing into practice with the Three Things–I do do a similar thing with writing about one thing every night before I go to bed, but I think I’ll try yours as well so it can become more of a habit. I know I’ll have no trouble finding 3 🙂 that’s a wonderful gift you have, and you’re such a bright ray of sunlight for others. Thank you for sharing this!

  9. Sometimes the ugly messy desserts are the best and these bars are a perfect example. As for your post, I have a friend struggling with the same difficulty and after many conversations I am running out of things to say and none of it seems to help anyway. Maybe I should send this post to her.

    1. Erin, PLEASE do–there’s nothing that would make me happier than to have this message discussed more openly so we know that we’re not on our own. A bunch of my friends have already shared them with folks they know who are suffering from or interested in learning more about mental/emotional loneliness…so please, yes, share!

  10. Oh dear…thanks so much for sharing all this. It reminds me how fragile life is. And seriously, there’s no easy way out. I wish there is. But hey, feel free to give me a shout if you need an ear to listen to 🙂 And I promise to pause eating the smores bars while listen to you, but please make it short because these smores bars are superb.

    1. Linda, that really means so much. I can’t wait until we actually get to meet up and chat our ears off someday 🙂 I’ll be sure to bring these bars with me so you’ll listen, okay? hehe.

  11. I truly think learning to love yourself is pretty much the hardest thing you can do…but also the most worthwhile!

    Also…I need these s’mores bars. Like, ASAP.

    1. You’re wonderful, Joanne–that’s totally true! <3

  12. Ala, thanks for sharing this. . your words are, always, thoughtful and meaningful. “Accepting the possibility of acceptance.” That is it. Learning to love yourself is not an easy task, sometimes it takes a lifetime. . just take each day, one day at a time. . my advice for you? Do something you love, something that brings you joy. . for me, this is running. . if I didn’t have this, I would crumble. Be selfish sometimes and take care of yourself. You need to do it. For you, this might be writing, blogging and baking? anyway, take the time to do what you love. . I feel like this will make you happier, more at peace and centered. Aside from that, surround yourself with healthy, loving people (which I already think you are doing) and the rest will come. You are a beautiful individual, inside and out. I hope you come to accept that one day soon! love you, girl!

    1. I remember you talking about running on your blog, and that’s such an inspiration! I think I’m learning to find that in not only my hobbies and work, but through my friends and other people in my life as well. You’re totally right, though. I do feel most alive when I’m doing that one thing I love, whether it’s swimming or baking. This means a lot, and I’ll be keeping your comment close as I continue searching. Thank you so much, as always, for your beautiful insight, Alice!

  13. I am so glad you’re in a better place now, Ala. I know it took a lot of introspection—and I’m delighted you can now see in you what everyone else knows! We all have doubts, but hopefully most are fleeting. Take good care—I love stopping by and reading your posts. But I shouldn’t be wanting gooey s’mores bars so early in the day!!! YUMMY!

    1. You’ve been just a wonderful support, Liz, unconditionally. Thank you so much–I’ll be keeping your words in mind and close to my heart xo

  14. Ala, your words are always so meaningful, honest and heart felt. There are so many things in this post that I want to comment on but I’ll start here: “I have drifted by in a state of constant loneliness, anxiety, and terror: loneliness despite the support of some of the best people in the world, anxiety that I would fail to meet their expectations, terror that I would wake up the next day and realize that everyone around me has seen the truth about my phantom insecurities, and left” <– I know exactly how you feel. You have written down so eloquently emotions that I struggle with all the time. I know I always tell you what an incredibly positive person you are and in a way, I'm sure you put on a mask for the world so as to hide what you're really feeling inside. I do the same thing. A lot of people tell me that I seem positive, confident and self-assured when I'm anything but. I constantly feel stupid, like a fraud and a total failure. I think we torture ourselves because of the high expectations we place on ourselves. But that's not to take away from the very real pain, sadness, anxiety, stress that we feel. Ok, now I'm just rambling! I want you to know that you will always have my support, my admiration and my friendship. We are all works in progress and know that we can work it out together. xoxo

  15. I think we all struggle with this and I can’t say there is anything easy we can do but surrounding yourself with loving, positive people that support you is so important. Also, finding things that give you joy can bring the brightest sunshine to your day 🙂 Just take it each day as it comes and thank you always for sharing these meaningful posts. Love ya and these bars! xo

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