It’s hard to love ourselves. And I’m not sure why.
The reason I question this? If you believe we are made in the image of a Divine being, then that’s miraculous right there. What’s not to love, yes?
But self-love is a tough one. Depending on our upbringing and a variety of other factors, we tend to be at “dis-ease” with ourselves — too fat, too anxious, too old, too whatever. We’ve gotten fairly adept at telling ourselves lies.
And when something comes up in us that we judge as “unpleasant” — we shove it away. Or down. With food. Alcohol. Work. Whatever it takes not to see those parts of ourselves we really can’t love. We don’t make them welcome.
Perhaps this is “the” original sin, the way we treat ourselves as abandoned sons and daughters.
On the other hand, maybe I’m wrong.
Maybe some of you have mastered the art of self-care and self-love and at this point are pretty darned good at it. Your self-love is healthy enough that you accept all of your being, welcome your emotions in all their shades of color, exercise your mind and body, have an enriching spiritual life and community, and when you fail at some life endeavor, you dust yourself off, start again and are an overall terrific self-lover.
Become mentors for the rest of us. Please.
For the most part I believe that many of us struggle with self-love. I know I do. Every. Blessed. Day.
I wake to the same 10 pounds (ok, who am I kidding — 20 pounds) that I want to lose and judge myself for being unable to do that, even though I’m trying.
I get cranky when I’m tired and lately, I’ve been exhausted, and when I’m like that, I’m not only unkind to myself by grabbing that extra cookie (ok, who am I kidding — plural — cookies), but I’m also not too nice to others, by being curt or uninvolved.
The irony of all that is, I can get caught up in a cycle of judging myself. But all those things I mentioned? They are prompts — guides, if you will — to help me — and all of us to learn to be accepting, gentle and welcoming of ourselves.
Here’s a story that might help. In the scheme of life, it’s a simple tale but that I remember it some 40 years later says a great deal.
I had been painfully shy as a young woman — so shy that I couldn’t look people in the eyes. Most of my life, others had criticized me for being so quiet, exacerbating what I already judged to be a character flaw.
When I moved to Georgia to work with the poor, I was 24 years old. And I marveled at a new friend, one who seemed at ease in her own skin. I observed her being true to herself, in her interactions with others, admitting mistakes, accepting whatever came and all of her “self” with grace.
One day in a group setting, someone told me, yet again, that I was too quiet and shy. My friend spoke up and defended me. “But that’s who she is. Isn’t that wonderful?”
She was the first in my life to tell me I was OK — just as I was. It freed me. I started to become more gentle with “me” and all parts of my being.
Sometimes we don’t have that outside person to do that for us and we must dig deep and do it for ourselves. When we feel down on ourselves, not loving and accepting ourselves, we need to affirm, as my friend did for me those many years ago, that no matter our perceived imperfections, that we are indeed wonderful.
The truth is, we don’t need to be anyone else other than who we are. And who we are is holy and good, made in the image of someone who adores us beyond measure.
Am I there yet with self-love? Let’s just say that I’m better at it some days than others. I am, as the saying goes, a work in progress. But that’s also good because it means I am ever-growing into self-acceptance.
In her book Eat. Pray. Love. best-selling author Liz Gilbert had been at her wit’s end in her marriage and needed help. Never having prayed before, she turned to God and said, “I’ve always been a big fan of your work.”
I love the honesty of those words. Because YOU are God’s work. Me, too. Each one of us.
So let’s be a fan. Flaws and all.