Last week I was reading a blog that I follow. The author went through a shocking breakup around Christmas that really left her devasted. I am watching the rise and fall of her recovery and the process of her finding herself again. It totally caught her off guard – which breaks my heart. I empathize completely… I think all of us have been there at one point or another and the journey is gut wrenching… and personal… and empowering. Last week she said she knows she is supposed to love herself rather than look for it in other people and has heard you can’t truly love someone else until you know how to love yourself. She said she isn’t sure how… how does someone love themselves she wanted to know… That really pulled at my heart. I wanted to reach out and give her inspiration, but I stopped myself…. All I could think of were sappy Hallmark card type sentences.
My mind has gone back to her question many times this week… honestly, I did not always love myself. I have been there… I realized that if I didn’t love me – how could anyone else really love me? Afterall, I was showing them I wasn’t worthy. If I didn’t love myself, how would I know what it felt like when someone else was loving me? It actually isn’t someone else’s job to make me feel loved… when in relationship, two people who respect and love themselves automatically spill love onto each other, but it’s not reasonable for someone else to be your whole source of love.
When you watch a puppy, or a kitten… or a small child, they aren’t looking for validation from an outside entity yet… they are just being joyful and loving themselves. They are playing and napping and eating… and being happy. When we are children, our sense of “self” gets contaminated because we get taught that our worth is tied up in what others think of us or some small accomplishments we achieve that reflect nicely on those raising us and give them external validation they are doing a good job. We are taught to disengage from our inner selves and look at what is reflected back at us by the people around us for our sense of value, worth and love. We are taught we aren’t worthy of good things or love if we aren’t pleasing everyone around us or accomplishing great and significant “things”. We are trained to perpetuate the search for external validation. I sure hope I did better with my own children because it just isn’t accurate, healthy or well-rounded.
To love yourself, you have to remind yourself you are a piece of the divine that creates worlds – the spark of the Universe in everything living … you are born worthy of all good things – you just forgot. Then you have to treat yourself the way you would treat someone you loved. It can be challenging at first when you’ve been taught to “earn” your worthiness of those around you. You have to decide… I am worthy. Worthy of love, worthy of kindness, compassion, trust, joy… happiness. You have to stop what you are doing and say to yourself “what would I do… how would I respond to someone I love?” Then do it.
The more you do it, the more of a habit it becomes. If you show yourself love, you don’t have to do it at the expense of someone else… you feed your own soul and as a by-product, you have more to give others. Some of the ways I show myself love are feeding myself fresh food, resting when I’m tired, lingering in a bubble bath when I want to, spending a day reading when I need to recharge… it’s a million little things… doing yoga is a way of showing myself love, giving myself something that brings me joy (even if it seems dumb to someone else)… allowing myself to indulge in random things that make me happy. Today was the first full day of summer – the weather was beautiful – and I decided I really needed to just lay in the grass and appreciate the trees and the grass and watch the world go by… I was being kind to myself and indulging in a kind of childlike activity that brought me joy – it was loving myself. Signing up for a class about something that interests me, allowing myself to be silly, or focusing on things that make me happy, are other ways I love myself.
I imagine some people would perceive it as giving in to every whim… like eating ice cream for dinner every night… you wouldn’t encourage someone you love to do that – it isn’t healthy – but you would encourage it once in a while – if it brought them joy. So it isn’t over-indulgence or spoiled-ness… it’s loving kindness – there is a difference. I can save up for a spa day, take that trip to Europe for the joy of the experience of it, buy that expensive handbag – but tempered with responsibility because you don’t want to harm someone you love either.
So Libby… I will have to go find your post and tell you it’s a million little things. It’s honoring your body, your mind and your soul. It’s honoring your relationship with yourself and with the rest of the world. It’s being kind and gentle with yourself… and following your joy without worry of what it looks like. It’s remembering what other people think really doesn’t matter. It’s treating yourself like you would treat your most important love and soulmate of your life. It’s allowing yourself to be happy regardless of your circumstances. That’s really your biggest job in life… to be happy and love yourself. Everything else good in life flows as a result of that.