During the week of flowers, chocolates, stuffed animals, and incessant advertising by jewelry companies, I thought it might be an appropriate time to sit back and consider what this holiday of love means outside of commercial pressures. Sure, it’s a blatant opportunity to remind those in our life that we love and care for them, and a glaring day of loneliness to those who may feel unloved without a romantic partner… but isn’t it more? Can’t it be more?
I think it should be. And is. And so is every day. It’s an opportunity to truly turn inward and showourselves the love and care we need and deserve.
Have you ever hated yourself? Or, if not hated, perhaps berated? Chastised, verbally or mentally abused, physically abused through harm or guilty, angry eating? I know I have.
I know I’ve done a poor job of actually treating myself with the same love and respect I treat others. I have been a poor friend to me, been abusive and degrading, and really loathed my very existence on occasions. I’ve felt unlovable, beaten down inside, and unworthy of happiness. I thought that if I punished myself enough for my failures and ineptitudes it would somehow motivate me to improve, to suck less, to be a better person.
What I’ve learned over the last several years is that hating myself and dishonoring my body and mind has done no good at all. In fact, it’s only held me back, and made bumps in the road feel like mountains. When I started to honor myself, to love and nurture and pamper the internal and external me, I realized I could be a better person. I felt worthy. I felt like I was competent and resilient, and that I DO deserve happiness.
I have been thinking a lot about these things lately, particularly after I was feeling overwhelmed and overstretched with my to-do list, and posted a facebook status wondering how parents handle it all with children. I immediately got a whole chain of responses by parents saying things similar to “your children become your life” and that it’s all about “putting yourself second to them.” When I expressed my understanding that yes, children do become and ARE a main priority, but I think it’s important to balance the self in a life with children, I felt immediately “mommy-shamed” (and I’m not even a mom yet!), as if my admittance that self-love is still important somehow made me a selfish person and unfit to be a good parent.
Something occurred to me when I was pondering this interaction and social norm – self-sacrifice for the good of others: Loving yourself less does not mean you can therefore love others more. You do not better the world or others around you – be they your children or strangers in another continent – by self-sacrificing, self-deprecating, and self-abusing. Love is not a tangible thing (like money), where you give less to yourself and you have more to give to others. Love is endless, intangible, ever expanding and conceiving. The more you give, the more you have.
And the more you honor and love yourself, the better person you can be to others.You will feel valuable. You’ll feel honored and respected. And when you feel that way, you want others to feel it too. So you share of yourself, your time, your possessions, and love.
Now, I’m not saying that you should love your children less or love others less – I hope that’s clear. And I’m certainly not saying that you should put your “beauty rest” or personal pampering wants before the immediate needs of a baby’s diaper changing or tending to hungry children (i.e. being a responsible and loving parent). But what I am saying is that there is a way to keep self-love in our lives without it being selfishness. These things are not the same at all.
Self-love is about honor and respect of life. It’s about seeing God within you – precious and good – and allowing that light to shine forth to others. It’s about modeling a behavior of treating your SELF the way you want others to treat you, and you want to treat others!
Selfishness is about denying others and seeing no value outside the self. It’s a callous armor of cowardice, a refusal to open and be vulnerable or share with others. It is not love, and it disrespects the value of others in your life.
Can you see how these things are sooooooo not the same thing?
When you make a practice of including time and activities in your life that honor your talents and interests, and nurture both your body and soul, you can truly be a better person/parent/sibling/friend/etc. You earn no medallions and save no lives by disrespecting and belittling your self and your own worth in your life.
So, I ask you this today: Will you be your own Valentine? How can you choose to honor and love yourself in a way that makes you a better parent, and a happier, more conscious person? What gift will you give yourself this week—and next week, and the week after –to renew the love you have for you? For many of my clients, even a simple 30 minutes set aside for a bubble bath or a designated activity they enjoy just for them can be the perfect way to nourish and refresh the body, mind, and soul.
I would love to hear what you’re going to do this week as your act of self-love and care. Please comment below, or share on facebook or in an email. You are worthy of love. Even by you.