On self-love

Recently, a friend shared this article with me in a discussion about self-love, and it got me thinking about the world, the culture in which I live, and myself.

I don’t have a great self-image, and my self-love is rather lacking as a result.  I have times when I feel so low that I ask the few close friends I have to “tell me something good about myself”.  And while their words cheer me up, can I honestly say that I take them to heart and believe them?

I don’t feel like America takes self-care and self-love very seriously.  The impression I get from corporate culture is that it’s one that asks for constant sacrifice from us:  “Give 110%,” “Work through your breaks, your lunches, your weekends,” and “Put the company first.”  I feel like these words are rarely spoken, but often implied.

And while these work ethics are helpful in staying ahead of the corporate curve, constantly sacrificing yourself to any greater cause inevitably martyrs us.  You can’t give 110% if you’re skipping all of your downtime.  I’ve even heard from people who play video games as hardcore hobbyists preach about the importance of taking breaks every two hours or so.  And when the people whose hobbies are practically a second job stress the importance of breaks, I take the advice seriously.  It’s OK to work hard, but there has to be a balance.

The critical take-away part of the article for me was in paragraph two and said that developing self-love requires the support and assistance of others.  No amount of positive self-talk can replicate the benefits of having others tell you that they think you’re the cat’s pajamas.  Love, respect, and confidence have to be nurtured, and by those closest to us.  Those feelings do not spring, fully formed, from the void.

But nurturing each other in such a way also feels rare in our culture.  People are guarded, and moments of intimacy – genuine, real, you-can-get-hurt intimacy – are sparse.  I think many would agree that confidence is sexy, but how many of us are willing to be vulnerable enough to build that confidence in ourselves and others?

The only solution is to take a leap of faith.  We cannot expect trust from others without extending trust first.  Intimacy will only come from others only after we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with them.  Feeling love requires that we first offer it ourselves.

So be kind to others.  Tell them that they’re important – that they mean something.  Tell them you miss them when they’re gone.  Praise their virtues over criticizing their vices.  Help them to cultivate a positive voice within themselves.

Personally, I want to make the world a better place.  And helping people to love themselves seems a good place to start.  So let’s get started.

Be your own best lover

I write this on Sunday, the 18th of January after spending the past three-and-a-half days at home recovering from a cold.  I am officially sick of my stomach-friendly BRAT diet (Bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast), and cabin fever has settled uncomfortably into my bones.  And as I sit here, idling reading another book, watching another online video, playing another game to fill the moments until I’m finally well again, I keep coming back to the same feeling, the same question:

What the hell is wrong with me?

I scheduled a break from my writing for the month of January to work career goals:  looking for a job to better pay the bills and training for the next job I’d like rather than just resting on my current skill set.  But in the past few days I have done very little of that, almost none.  In fact, I’d wager I could probably count the minutes I’ve spent doing that with my fingers.  Today is the fourth day of this cold, but a tenth of the month of January, and what am I doing to improve my situation?  Nothing.  Three days off and I’ve done nothing?

What the hell is wrong with me?

I have a writing blog I want to return to after my write-cation, but have I spent time these past four days working on that?  Excepting the post I’m currently writing, no.  No I have not.  I haven’t written any new poetry, nor have I worked on the short story I began in December.  For somebody with the goal to be a writer, this brings to mind a question:

What the hell is wrong with me?

This past Sunday I enjoyed coffee and tea with some ladies from a local meditation group I’d visited.  One of the ladies in particular told me that she wanted to be a writer to be an inspiration to others, and I admit being a little starstruck by her.  I left that coffeeshop thinking, “I want to be a man worthy of a woman like her.”  That feeling was what got me up before work the following morning and back at the gym to run for the first time in months.  Now a week later I sit at my computer at noon with unshowered bed-head and wonder if one day’s worth of effort was all that I had in me.

What the hell is wrong with me?

But then I get to thinking, what does it mean to be “worthy of someone” in the way I meant for her.  There’s a physical attraction, yes, but I meant more than that.  I want to be financially able to support myself, with enough to spare and share with another.  I want to be skilled, talented, and successful so that I have a rich mental, spiritual, and social life to bring home and share with someone.  I want to be passionate, energetic, optimistic, confident, and a myriad of other traits that people look for in healthy partners.  Instead, I have spent half of the past week locked in isolation at home, hoping and praying that this cold goes away.  I feel frustrated and pathetic.

What the hell is wrong with me?

And as I sit here wallowing in self-pity, I remember lines from a song I’m fond of listening to:  “I want to love myself the way I want you to love me.” (“Love me” by Katie Perry)  And so I turn my perspective on the situation and ask myself a few questions.

Would this person you want to be worthy of want you to work yourself to exhaustion when you’re sick?  Well, no.

Would they want you to burn the midnight oil toiling away at an uncut story when your body is fighting off a cold?  Of course not.

Would they want you going out to the gym or work or anywhere else and risk passing this to anyone else?  No – actually, I think they’d be proud of me for staying home and trying to take care of myself the way I have been.

They would want me to nap and rest instead of working.  They’d want me to go to bed on time.  They’d be proud I’m considerate of others and refuse to spread this cold any further.  The person I want in my life would not want me to criticize myself for being human, being imperfect.  They’d want me to relax, love myself, and be happy.

So, I’m going to make a healthy lunch.  I’m going rest on the couch and nap and watch TV.  I’m going to read books and go to bed at reasonable hours.  I won’t work, and I won’t push myself.  And the next time that voice in my heart asks me that question, I now have an answer.

“What the hell is wrong with me?”

Nothing.  There’s no reason to feel guilty.  I’m taking care of myself.  I’m caring FOR myself, the way someone who loves me would care for me.  Because that’s what they would want.  And that’s what I want – for me, and for them.