It's the subject of thousands of self-help books. It's what your mom always says... it's what your therapist keeps telling you... "love yourself", or: "you know what your problem is? You don't like yourself!" No shit. Or the classic: "You can't love anyone until you love yourself."
Thank you. I feel much better now... Sarcasm!
We've all heard it, but what the hell does it mean? How does one actually go about loving one's self? Please, put your hand down, Señor Vibrator... that's not the kind of love I'm talking about. I'm talking about unconditional, warm, accepting, I-got-your-back-no-matter-what kind of self love. The kind of love you wish you had with your parents? That's the kind of love you need to have with yourself. But how, when no one has ever loved you that way? Well, it's a process.
I know because I work on this every. single. day. Every single minute, more like. It's the process of learning how to treat yourself the way you would treat a beloved friend. Would you ever call someone you truly loved fat? or stupid? or unworthy? Of course not. Because you love them! You think they're the cat's pajamas (what?). You want only the best for them, and you accept them so hard, that you don't even notice their "flaws". I put flaws in quotes because I'm using it to describe things we perceive as bad, or imperfect. When really, they're neither. They just are what they are (ie cellulite). You don't care if your best friend is a little pudgy, because that's not why you love them. You love them because they're fun, because they make you laugh, and because they're there for you, as you are there for them.
Now, answer me this. Who has been there with you every second of every day since you were born? Who has seen you through the worst of the worst, the "I'm gonna kill myself" moments, and the best of the best, the "OMG I can't believe this is happening to me" moments? YOU. You, you silly person! So give yourself a little credit.
So wait.. How do you love yourself, then? Here are some easy bullet points to get you going:
- Don't Be A Jerk. Simple, right? Well, it's harder than you think. Next time you find yourself staring disdainfully at your thighs, stop it. Just say, "yeah, I got a little jiggle... but I'm still ok. I still deserve to go and live and have fun. So suck it, brain!" Put your pants on, and get on with your day.
- Listen. If you're feeling upset and you're not sure why, take the time to have a talk with yourself. Just like you would if you noticed a friend acting weird and grumpy, go to a quiet place and ask, "Are you ok?" The answer will be a huffy "No!" So breathe, and take the time to talk through what you're feeling. I emphasize, feeling. As in, "I'm hurt that Erica forgot my birthday. It makes me feel like she doesn't care about me." Not, "Erica is such a bitch! I'm never talking to her again!" The latter doesn't help anything, it's merely a defense mechanism to keep you from being vulnerable. If you're angrily insulting someone in your head, take another breath and find out why. It will always lead to your true feelings.
- Honor Yourself. You have a right to feel whatever you're feeling, and it is up to you to honor that. If someone makes you feel bad or mistreats you, it's up to you to respect yourself enough get out of that situation. It's your job to rescue yourself. Be your own hero! You can't change other people's behavior. You can only change your own behavior, so get your heels and get out of there. You're too good to put up with that.
- Live For You. Do things you want to do. Wear clothes that make you smile. Eat some ice cream once in a while. Don't eat things that make you sick (duh!). Put down the ice cream if you're lactose intolerant, for god's sake! Get you some Tofutti. Dance if you feel like it. Do the things you want, even if you're afraid you'll look crazy, or like a weirdo. Other people's criticisms say more about them than they do about you. It says they're unhappy sourpusses. You should pity them, not tone down your awesomeness for them! Poor, poor little haters. They must be so sad inside.
- Follow Your Own Path. Don't ever let anyone tell you what to do, or how to feel, or who you should be. No matter how much they claim to love you. No one knows you as well as you. You should listen to yourself first. Always. Listen to those you trust, of course. Carefully consider their point of view, but if after that you still disagree with them, do what you want. Those who truly love you, will love you still. Even if you don't follow their advice. Even if you do the exact opposite thing they want you to do, they will still love you. You do you. And let them do them. That's what real love is all about.
- Give Yourself A Break. Perfection is an illusion. It is unattainable, which is why so many of us spend our lives relentlessly pursuing it. It's the one thing you can never achieve, because it doesn't exist. You will fail. A lot. But that's not a bad thing. No one ever learned anything from success, I don't know who said that... but they were right. Failure isn't bad! It's just what happens when we're learning. Anyone who is out there in the world, truly living, taking risks, will fail at one point or another. When this happens to you, and you hear yourself saying "God, I suck! I'm the worst. I'm such a failure!" Stop it. You're not a failure, because you're still here. You being alive is success in itself. You're already ok! So have yourself a good cry and try again tomorrow. That's the beauty of it.
This whole self love thing is tough. Especially when we've been taught otherwise. It's way too complex to fix in one blog post. It's an every day kind of thing, something you gotta work at. I'll let you know when I figure it out... I'm gonna leave you with some words I wrote a long time ago. Maybe they'll help you out a little bit, the way they helped me.
Air flows in and out of your lungs without cessation. Your heart keeps beating no matter how sad you are. That, in itself, is hope. Sometimes it’s really difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When you feel this way, put your hand over your heart and breathe. Just breathe and feel your heart working away, always pumping for you. No matter what.
That is the essence of unconditional love. Your heart is there for you, it keeps you alive. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Your heart keeps pumping to make sure you’re there to see.