What does it mean to love yourself?
This blog began as a quest to learn to love myself. I’ve been searching for what exactly that means over the past few days. I’ve asked a few friends and family members what they think that means and I really haven’t gotten a clear answer. Perhaps that means that I’m on a quest in search of something that I cannot define. This seems promising 😦
As I’ve reflected, I first had to recognize that a core belief that I’ve diligently lived out has been wrong. My father was a “shirt of his back” kind of guy. He instilled in his children a strong work ethic, love of God, and faith beyond measure. However, he also raised us to produce. While his love for me was never questioned, I can now see that part of my value as his child was closely aligned to what I could produce. This pig farm girl learned to work! Everyday I produce … for others.
This level of work ethic is not limited to my career. It encompasses every aspect of my life. I give selflessly to others to the point of self denial. I forego health insurance (and a need surgeries) so that my son can attend private school. I worked insane hours while my ex stayed home with our child. I create elaborate gifts for my family and friends. I spend hours and hours helping those that I work with … well past 5 pm. I do this so that these people will love me. I once became a wedding planner so that a former student of mine could have a fabulous wedding on a $500 budget. I made flowers, prepared food, and conned family members into service. The wedding was beautiful and several people commented that the venue had never looked so nice. I did this so that she would love me.
A couple of weeks ago I drove from Texas to New Jersey and back so that my best friend could avoid getting on a plane for her grandfather’s funeral. She has fear of flying and of leaving her 3 year old in the care of just about anyone. So, without hesitation, I got in my car and went. I missed valuable work time and time with my son to do this. I did this so that she would love me.
Keep in mind that none of these people have ever indicated that they would love me any less had I not done these things. I made that decision all by myself. And this is the reason that I am not ready for a romantic relationship. If I were to engage in one, such as I did with “him,” I would lose myself again. I would do anything to make him love me.
In an effort to change this cycle, I have begun to try to discover what it means to love myself. I began with trying to think of evidence that I do love myself. I could only come up with one thing: I left my husband because I loved myself enough to stop the damage. Of course I told everyone that it was because I saw my son learning terrible lessons that he’d be doomed to repeat. But the truth is that I had reached a limit. I loved myself enough to get out while there was still some shred of me left.
I was encouraged by this discovery. If I could love myself once, then I could do it again. I began to think of other ways that I could begin to show that I love myself. At first I thought of buying myself things that I’d always wanted, but would never allow myself to enjoy. Boots! And I did go buy one pair on sale! However, I learned long ago that things won’t make you happy. I believe that people are what they do and not what they say. So what are the behaviors that would show that I love myself? How does someone who loves themselves behave? Here’s what I have come up with so far:
- If I love myself, then my physical needs are important. I need to see the dentist and get this cavity filled. I need to call my doctor and discuss a possible change in medication rather than just dealing with the side effects. I need to sleep 8 hours a night. I need to work towards getting health insurance so that the more expensive medical needs can be taken care of. I need to exercise and eat healthy so that I will feel better. My physical well-being is important.
- If I love myself, then my emotional needs are important. I need to rethink my relationships with friends and family. I need to limit my time with people who are negative and draining. I need to maximize my time with people who bring me joy. I need to let some people go because in the long run, the ones who really love me already do, no matter what I can do for them. My emotional well being is important.
- If I love myself, then my financial needs are important. I need to make an a plan to get debt free and begin saving for a home. I need to make sure that my son will be provided for if something were to happen to me. I need a living space that fits by budget and my needs. My financial security is important.
I don’t really make New Year’s Resolutions, but I guess this list would suffice as such. I’m making a commitment to begin behaving in ways that reflect self love. I better get in bed if I’m going to get those 8 hours in tonight!