“I love you.”
That’s what I have to say to myself in the mirror on a regular basis. It’s a technique for developing self esteem that my last therapist taught me and I think it is a powerful spiritual practice as well.
I hated myself for years and years. Internalized homophobia it’s called. It was painful. I dulled the pain with barrels of booze and truckloads of drugs but even that wasn’t enough. What I really wanted was to kill myself. Even after I began the process of coming out that self loathing was still very strong within me.
But the self hatred was just a way of thinking and like all habits I found it could be broken and replaced with new ones.
I will never forget the first day I started the “I Love You” practice. It was really awkward. I felt like someone was pressing their ear up to the bathroom door, listening to me whisper to myself.
“That’s it, I’ve really lost it,” I thought.
But it didn’t take too long to stop worrying if I was crazy or not. After awhile it even started to feel so good that it wouldn’t have mattered if there were a thousand people on the other side of that door pointing their fingers and laughing hysterically.
I did this practice almost everyday for three months. What was the result? For the first time in my life I started to actually like myself. I eased up on the old habits of critizing my every thought and action. Eventually, I learned how to be my own best friend and to enjoy my own company.
I know, this all sounds terribly self centered, narcissistic even. But it’s not. As I found a sense of ease within myself, I found I was better able to pay attention to the needs and wants of all the people around me. I didn’t become suddenly perfect and saintly; when push came to shove my needs were still number one. But I think that’s where I began to open up to the idea that other people were at least (almost) as important as I was.
Today I still do the “I Love You” practice from time to time. I should probably do it more. Yesterday I caught the old self rising up, criticizing too much, trying to reassert control. Old habits can be changed. It just takes a long time.
You can try this practice for yourself if you like. You don’t even have to be a recovering addict or anything like that. It’s just a nice thing to do for yourself, probably better than treating yourself to ice cream or a massage.
Go ahead. Look into the mirror today. Look yourself right in the eyes. Be kind to yourself and say it like you mean it: I Love You!
I promise you deserve it.
hot on elephant
The 4 Stages of a Good Divorce. A Letter to my Children: You do not come from a Broken Home. Mom, can I Call her Mom, Too? These People are Rare Gems—Keep Them, Fight for Them, don’t Give Up on Them. An Open Letter to the Fixers. Jon Stewart makes first appearance since retiring—”it’s not your country.” Waylon shares 10 transformingly beautiful Quotes about Love. 40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years. When your Heart is Wounded, I will Hold your Hand. Dear Woman in the White Car at Margaritas Mexican Grill in West Memphis, Arkansas on July 15th, 2012.