“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”~ Oscar Wilde
As I typed the title of this article, I felt a clenching in my gut and a tightening in my throat and wondered what people would think of that idea or me for even considering writing those words.
Most of us were taught at the onset, that loving ourselves that much was a no-no and yet, if we were born into healthy families, we were adored from the moment we peeked out from our mama’s bodies. Oohed and ahhhhed over, our little baby beings were pampered and our souls nourished.
We explored the world around us with our senses taking it all in. Then, socialization kicked in and in service to being concerned about others, our self-love was sometimes squelched via phrases like—
“Don’t be selfish.”
“Who do you think you are to want…?”
“Don’t be full of yourself.”
If your upbringing was fraught with drama and/or trauma, it deepens the sense of being less than loveable.
Rare was the person who learned that it is not only possible but beneficial to love yourself. It gives us the oomph, the juice, the energy to be there for others. You can’t fill someone else’s cup if yours is empty.
Doesn’t stop us from trying, though, does it?
Consider the biblical concept of “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Never does it say “Love thy neighbor more than thyself or instead of thyself,” even if it is erroneously interpreted in that way. The oxygen-mask-on-the-airplane metaphor—one that most can recite by heart—holds true.
In case you have never flown, it goes like this: the flight attendant will inform you that if the cabin pressure drops and the oxygen mask comes down, you are to place the mask over your own nose and mouth before that of a child with whom you may be traveling. It may seem counter-intuitive to do that, but if you can’t help anyone else if you are passed out on the floor from oxygen deprivation—and yet, many of us do it daily in the name of love.
I did this for too long at my own expense and chances are you have as well. Self-sacrifice and love are not the same thing. Selling your soul and love are not the same thing. Going against your values and love are not the same thing. Neglecting your needs and love are not the same thing. Co-dependence and love are not the same thing. Savior-behavior and love are not the same thing. Remaining in a relationship one minute longer than is healthy for ourselves even if the other person might have wanted us to and love are not the same thing.
What it would mean to do more than love yourself, but rather be in love with the woman or man in the mirror? Think about how you would treat someone with whom you are in love—are you any less worthy of adoration than a lover? Offer to yourself the same kind of deep devotion. Now, if you find these suggestions silly at best and totally out of the realm of possibility for you, at the extreme, ask yourself why that might be.
If you would court and woo them, writing mushy love notes or cards, do that.
If you would give them flowers, do that.
If you would hug them, do that.
If you would speak kindly to them, do that.
If you would take them on dates, do that.
If you would strive to understand them, even if they sometimes puzzled or frustrated the hell out of you, do that.
If you would offer them all kinds of sensual pleasure, do that.
If you would encourage healthy habits, do that.
If you would walk on the beach with them, do that.
If you would gaze up at star sparkled skies with them, do that.
If you would wish upon a rainbow with them, do that.
If you would surprise them with yummy treats and other kinds of delights, do that.
If you would serenade them, even if what you may lack in talent, you make up for in enthusiasm, do that.
If you would read them poetry, do that.
If you would take them on luxuriously lounging vacations, do that.
If you would create a beautiful environment for them, do that.
If you would take time to prepare nourishing meals in which love is a primary ingredient, do that.
If you would be silly with them, do that.
If you would go to the movies or a play with them, do that.
If you would encourage them to follow their dreams, do that.
Love without limits begins with radical self-love, so here’s to that!
Author: Edie Weinstein
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: sibel at Flickr