Maybe it's a Valentines Day thing but a great focus of the literature that has fallen from the library shelves and into my lap lately has run a common theme ….Love Yourself. I never question the messenger but the message sometimes trips me up….thought I was.
But that’s easier to read than it is to do. The self is not easy to love and yet every writing professes that it is the most important of loves—that without great ‘self-love’, loving others to the depths of which a human heart is capable is simply unachievable.
Why do we find it so difficult to love ourselves? I’ve been trying to figure this out—watching the way we love others and the way we love ourselves. A sad realization emerged.
We love people like this:
We love our kids because they are a gift beyond comprehension; they continue us, keep us raw with emotion and fill our hearts with pride and our lives with unpredictability. We love our friends for their knowing, the way they comfort us and support us and fill our lives with memories that bubble just below the surface and erupt without warning into a smile or a laugh...a “remember when”. Our siblings too, our oldest friends who share our story; our ‘where are you from’ and can hug us from across the room with only a knowing glance. Parents are loved for their sacrifices and their strength, for their wisdom and their vulnerability for the way they anchor us in the world. Our partners we love with commitment and conviction to share goals and dreams the will carry us through all of our other relationships.
We love others even when the reasons why are not easy to see. We love even when children throw temper tantrums and slam doors to bedrooms and pull away. We love friends when they are difficult; when their opinions differ or they don’t have the time. Brothers and sisters we love even as they borrow our clothes without permission and sell our secrets to save themselves. Our parents we love even when they are unbending and unreasonable and short on attention. We love our partners when they disappoint us and take us for granted, ignore our needs and become too comfortable.
For reasons we cannot always see people are easy to love, because we love the whole of a person. A person’s ‘whole’ is everything that they are and everything that has happened to them, they are the compassion they can muster and the hurt they cannot get over. The ‘whole’ of a person includes the things that bring them joy and the things that cause them pain. The ‘whole’ of a person is the how well they treat you and how much they hurt you. The ‘whole’ of person is everything we know about a person. All those little bits of knowledge slipped on a balance and wrapped up in a box where you can only feel the weight not see its distribution. The whole of a person is what we carry around and love. The ‘whole’ of a person is the empty space and longing that would remain if they were taken from us.
This is not how we love ourselves.
How we love ourselves is how we love things. In the way we love homes and shoes, books and movies, tv shows, wines, vacation destinations, face creams, appliances, songs and cars and the London Fog Tea from Williams (hello, if you haven’t tried this yet to love it, you should probably put it on your to-do list) We love ourselves by measure and appeal. We love the things we like about ourselves and we loth the things we don’t. We love ourselves with judgement and maintain a running ticker board that tracks our good deeds against our transgressions. A glance in the mirror reveals the features we prize and the features we abhor. Our minds are constantly playing our actions and interactions over and over and grading our performance, against people we know, people we don’t, the person we were and the person we would rather be. Never are we the sum total of our experiences—the way others love us.
We take the little bits of knowledge we hold about ourselves, just like we do for others, except we don’t store them on a balance and wrap them in a single box. We sort each bit into one of two boxes labelled “good” or “bad” and pick up the box that weighs the most and carry it around with us.
I think we carry around the ‘crap’ box too often and tote the ‘goodness’ box too little. Maybe this is what all the love yourself messengers are trying to say….
Put yourself in one box.
Love yourself like a people.
Message received....will try a little harder ;)