How I Achieved Authentic & Radical Self-Love
By Danielle Dailey
To put it simply, before I came to do this work, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
I traveled through life like a pinball, spinning in whatever direction that I was sent reeling and bouncing off of every nearby wall. Sometimes I experienced small glimpses of happiness; but the truth is most of the time I was living in my own personal hell. But the journey that came out of it—my beautiful, beautiful journey—took me from randomly spinning through life to living life with purpose and intention.
It has been like stepping into the light for the first time in my life.
As I reflect on the last thirteen years of my life, a flood of emotions fill my heart. Who knew that one day I would be able to have such appreciation for my experiences? Certainly not me!
If someone would have told me that I would not only be teaching about self-love and acceptance, but also living a life today filled with healthy relationships, an incredible marriage, unconditional self-love, freedom, peace, joy, abundance, trust, and pure appreciation, I would never have believed it. In fact, where I started is so far removed from where am I now that when I look at pictures of me from that time—while I have so much love for that girl—she seems like a shadow of the me I know so intimately today.
I grew up in a suburb of South Florida where I was raised by my father, his mother, her husband, and my father’s sister. It was not the typical family picture but “ordinary” was never my style anyway. My aunt was only a few years older than me so—in my heart—I felt we were more like sisters; yet, my grandma often reminded me that I was not her daughter. This was so painful for me and went a long way towards making me feel like I didn’t belong in my own family.
The most important relationship in my life at that time was the relationship I had with my father. I was the typical daddy’s girl. I was totally and completely in love with this man. It didn’t matter to me that he was a heroin addict. In truth, I didn’t know anything different. All I knew was that he loved me in the absolute purest sense of the word.
But my father’s addiction wasn’t even close to the darkest secret that my childhood home held. We had even darker monsters living among us that lurked in the shadows of the night. And as much as my father loved me, as much as he was a shining light for me in the dark, his addiction and his own demons of childhood abuse did not allow him to protect me from the ongoing emotional and sexual abuse that I suffered at the hands of other family members.
It was a secret we chose never to speak of and, while we did a good job of sweeping our dirt under the rug, it never stopped everything from feeling dirty.
Don’t get me wrong. I love who I am today. And through years of healing and forgiveness, I have come to understand that holding on to anger and blame only creates a hell for me. We were all doing the best we could with the resources and awareness that was available to us.
But, looking back, it seems that each adult member of my family was so deeply settled in their own journeys, they were unable or unwilling to help me navigate my own. I guess it makes sense then that I moved out when I was sixteen years old. And it also makes sense that, as a daughter of an addict and a victim of abuse, drugs were the natural next step for me. I felt like it was me against the world and drugs both calmed my anxiety and fueled my self-hatred.
Before long, I packed my bags again and at seventeen years old headed off to Chicago to be with my mom. I had spent my formative years with my dad and, while my mother was always a part of my life on some level, she wasn’t a part of my day-to-day. This was finally an opportunity for us to get to know each other in a totally different way.
We finally had a real connection and I loved it!
Before long I was working in clubs, drinking heavily, partying with friends, and making really crazy decisions. Through this time, my mom never judged me. It was amazing! Chicago was wonderful for me in many ways, gifting me with proximity to my mother in a way that I had never known before and with the birth of my beautiful son, Taylor… which, by the way, was planned! Crazy, I know–especially for a twenty-one year old.
My intuition was bang on! … I didn’t know why at the time.
Little did I know that Chicago was only the first of what was going to be many moves to come. In fact, I was often accused of running away from my problems. However, in my heart of hearts, my intuition always told me that I was running towards something. And, I am pleased to say, with every new experience came earth angels into my life (you know who you are ~ thank you!). When I look back, I can see that each move was instrumental in the journey to becoming my authentic self.
During one such move in 1994 to New York City, I learned that my father—my hero, the man whose love was like gravity to me, keeping me rooted to the earth—had passed away from AIDS. My world was rocked. I felt as if in that one moment everything became unhinged and I spun off into space.
It was the darkest moment in my life.
I was surprised to see the sun come up the next day. I never expected to see it again. But through this darkness shone the small but steady light of a soul that was ready to do it differently and this was the first time that it truly made its voice heard. I wanted to honor my father and the best way that I knew to do this was to get clean. His death was my birth into sobriety.
But there was more work to come. While I was now sober, I still continued to fill my life with drama, negativity, fear, and low self-esteem. I also made decisions to support that behavior. It was all I knew. Doing anything differently to me at that point would have felt as foreign as instantaneously speaking another language.
Sobriety was my first step towards learning this new language of self-love. The next steps came in 2001.
I finally opened my heart to self-acceptance at a time in my life that should have been the happiest but which was, in reality, a very fearful time. I had moved to Los Angeles with my son and we were living with my late boyfriend Chris, a wonderful man who truly loved us both. I was pregnant with my second child and the three of us were really happy to welcome what we knew was going to be a little girl into our family.
My happiness, however, was laced with darkness that just seemed to continue to grow. While most women are excited about their pregnancy and celebrating the birth of their child, I was riddled with almost paralyzing fear. I couldn’t argue with the facts in front of me. We were broken and struggling just to keep our heads above water. Hell, some weeks we were completely under water. When you think of LA, most people think of the glitz and glamour associated with Hollywood. We were living a life that was a far cry from the stuff of movie stars and millionaires.
We shared a 400-square-foot studio apartment in Korea town, better known in LA as “The Hood.” There was a lot of gang activity and interestingly enough, but certainly not surprising to me now, it was where I thought I belonged. The space we had only allowed for us to sleep in bunk beds: Taylor in the top bunk and Chris and I sharing the bottom bunk. Not the most reassuring feeling for a pregnant woman.
This was the lowest point in my life. I felt like a deflated balloon being dragged behind a moving car. No control. Just hitting every bump and crack along the way. The voices in my head were deafening and getting louder by the second, constantly dragging me down every chance they could with the horror stories of what they assured me was soon to come.
I was exhausted. On top of my reality, I was also really invested in making sure the fantasy stayed afloat. Out of embarrassment and pride, I slapped on a smile for the outside world, even convincing my friends that I was happy living in a studio because (I lied) we were saving so much money. In reality we didn’t have a penny to our names.
I was so good at not allowing anyone to know my truth, justifying all my decisions, and getting everyone to believe me. I was so ashamed. How did I end up here? I was a 30-year-old mother of one—soon to be two—and I was living in terror. I secretly wished I could crawl under my bed and fall asleep forever.
I used to say to myself, “You are taking up space for someone else who deserves to live here.” It was that bad.
I could not for the life of me imagine how we were going to take care of this little girl when we were scarcely taking care of ourselves. But I knew I loved her already. And somewhere inside myself I knew that I also loved me.
I had no idea that I could do it any other way. But I was about to find out just how different things could be in my life. Sure, I had read some of those supposed “life changing” books … which, by the way, only made me feel even shittier about myself because I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I was just that far gone.
One day one book landed in my life that I didn’t start reading straight away. As a matter of fact, it was about five months later, on a trip with my son to Dallas, that I finally opened to the first page of Louise Hay’s, You Can Heal Your Life.
This is where my journey to my authentic self started and what a ride it has been.
They say when a student is ready the teacher will appear and that’s exactly what happened in my case. It is a book written with such a spirit of joy and with such beautiful simplicity, that it spoke straight to my heart. The concept—that my inner thoughts were actually creating my outer experiences—was something I had never before considered.
My story — the one that I had on auto repeat — was in my power to change? Really? And in that change, I could create a totally different life? I was hooked!
This concept — that what I am focusing on I am creating more of — absolutely blew my mind. It really resonated with me; in fact, it was something that I felt in every cell of my body. It suddenly made sense why my life looked and felt the way that it did.
If I beat myself up each and every day, then life was going to beat me up every day.
It was the first time I understood that I had created my life with my thoughts and, as much as that freaked me out, it also made me accept responsibility and with that came real hope and empowerment.
This was heavy stuff and not the easiest pill to swallow at first but I finally understood that if I had created this so-called 'shitty' life, then it was up to me to create my 'kick ass' life.
This new awareness of “loving and accepting myself” was the key to my change and I never looked back.
The victim suit that I had worn most of my life started to dissolve right in front of my eyes and now I had to create a new suit of empowerment. It was like learning how to walk again. I fell down, I got up, I fell down, I got up… it was a process.
In order for me to start creating and living the life of my dreams, I knew that I needed to start somewhere. I decided to commit to a daily practice of journaling, reading, meditation, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), forgiveness, Mirror Work, daily gratitude, focusing on what I really wanted and letting go of focusing on what I didn’t want, digging deeper, and calling my ass out (with love)!
I can already hear some folks asking, “Who has time to do all of that?” Well, in truth, I’ll bet for most, it’s being done all day, every day…but approaching it from a negative perspective. It is something that most of us are almost programmed to do and practice with abandon without even realizing it.
If I asked how often we beat ourselves up, criticize, and judge our every move, the answer would likely blow us away. It’s amazing how much headspace is used on negativity. It’s exhausting!
If we spent as much time infusing positivity into our lives as we do allowing negativity to take the wheel, we could literally create an entirely new world for ourselves.
Yes, this takes time. And, guess what? There is no rush. It’s more than okay to enjoy the entire journey. The twists and turns can be exciting. We live in a loving universe that is limitless and once we have decided that we deserve to have the love and freedom that life has to offer, there will be no stopping us! I am holding the space of love for everyone, and I know that if I could do it, anyone can do it too.
My wish for everyone is the life that I have now.
Today I am doing it differently. With the love, support, and complete encouragement from my husband, I am now teaching and coaching others to live the life of their dreams.
I have learned to choose words that lift and support me. I no longer kick myself when I am down.
It is an ongoing journey of peeling back the layers of my old beliefs and really becoming the greatest, most loving and supportive best friend anyone could ever ask for. It is unconditional, like the love I have for my children, Taylor, and that beautiful baby girl, Luna Blu, whose impending birth lit a spark in me that I know now she was meant to deliver.
Danielle Dailey is a Certified Life Coach from Quantum Success Coaching Academy (QSCA), which bases its curriculum on the Law of Attraction and was certified in 2011 as a Licensed Heal Your Life® teacher based on the philosophy of renowned motivational author, Louise Hay. Through her company, Dailey Life Coaching, Danielle leads workshops and works with clients one-on-one to help them manifest their best life through positive visual imagery and self-acceptance. She lives in Austin, TX with her family. For more information on Danielle, visit Dailey Life Coaching.