Learning To Love Yourself
The light from the winter solstice sun pours itself through the opening of my kitchen window flooding the floor, table, and wall space with it's warmth. There in the light is my 5 year old daughter, Rosalie, setting the table while singing some song she recently composed while in her room during nap time. As she sings, she has no reservation, no second guessing if she sounds "good" or not, or any question at all whether myself or my husband are enjoying it, let alone hearing her. She is just singing, freely.
As I bring the food to the table, Rosalie asks if she can help light the candle tonight. It is a ritual we started to commensurate the end of our "busyness" and the beginning of our "sabbath" time. A time where we rest, we play, we sleep, we snuggle, we slow down and notice life and the growth outside of ourselves and within.
We help Rosalie light the candle, then she begins to pray..."Thank you for this food, for my Elias (her brother), for my Momma and Dada, and thank you for myself."
Thank you for myself...
The first time I heard her say that I was taken back. It was something I did not teach her, in fact, no one taught her, she was just genuinely thankful for herself. She still prays this from time to time, always unprompted, and always from the purest of hearts.
Our children have the ability to reveal so much of life and truth to us in the seemingly tiniest ways, ways that could almost go unnoticed if we were not listening carefully. I think about her prayer often. To be honest, I do not think there has ever been a time in my life where I sat and just said thank you for creating me how I am, thank you for me. Have you?
What Rosalie showed me was a true form of self love, which in our day in age is a very ambiguous concept and definition. What she showed me was true gratitude that she was alive and gratitude for just who she was inside. No comparison. No inside pressure to be something she isn't.
Through childhood, into adolescents, in even into adulthood I was not thankful for myself. There was a deep, deep lack of self love. From a very young age I was insecure about my identity. I easily morphed into whatever I needed to be in order to feel love, to feel accepted. After 30 years of this coping behavior (some even call it a survival tool) I could not love who I was. To begin with, I had no idea who I was! I knew parts of myself, namely things I did not want to associate myself with...like the way I think, the way I feel, the way I see the world, the deepness of my mind, the empathetic nature I carried with me always. I did not love any aspect of myself.
Naturally the question is why? I have spent the past few years digging into that question. A part of me believes this type of self-hate comes from listening to what other people deem as lovable and acceptable. When I tried to morph into what others wanted me to be, I had to abandon those innate parts of myself. I had to condemn them. But, take it from my life experience...that does not work. I missed out on so many beautiful relationships, experiences, and just life in general by not loving my self.
Please read these next words carefully. When you do not love the self you have been given, and I mean the whole self including your strengths and your weaknesses, you miss out on the calling intricately placed on your life. Not only that but you also can not love people fully.
So what does it look like to love yourself in a healthy way?
Compassion. Loving yourself takes a lot of compassion. You have to come into agreement and forgiveness with your self for abandoning the parts of you that are needed and crucial. Then, you have to get to know yourself. This is part of the reason I am so ruthless with knowing everything I can about Meyer-Briggs, Enneagram, and Strength Finders...I had to find out how I worked, what the pitfalls might be, and then ways to thrive. After spending a few years exploring these different avenues I really came to an understanding that we are all created so incredibly unique and differently, and different is not to be condemned...it should be celebrated and cultivated.
Learning to love myself in this way gave me the tools to love others in such deeper, more meaningful ways. It gave me the tools to Know and be Known. We are are known, we have freedom. Freedom allows for us to love others as we have loved ourselves.
Loving others, one person at a time is what slowly changes the world, but that journey has to start with you. YOU have to start with YOU.