Valentine’s Day wasn’t going to sneak up on me again this year. I was determined.
So a couple weeks ago I started making my “list” – names of all the people I really love. My intention (get this), was to send each person on my list a personal note, handwritten of course, in my most elaborate script; penned with my one-of-a-kind handcrafted glass quill, on rolled parchment paper (specially ordered).
But wait! There’s more! I would stamp each note with an appropriately colored rose – red, pink, white or yellow.
Sounds so romantic doesn’t it? Real fairy-tale stuff. Well that was my intention – until I found myself broadsided.
At about the eighth name I started thinking, ‘maybe my name should be on this list too,’ and that began an avalanche of doubts.
‘Would that be acceptable? Wouldn’t that make me vain and conceited? But am I not supposed to love myself?’ The real question was, ‘do I love myself enough to make my own list?’
I didn’t like my honest answer to that question. Having doubts about whether or not I should be on a list of people I love, was the first red flag. All kinds of other red flags followed.
I added my name at the top of the list – where I now believe it should be, then set about making it a truth.
Learning to love yourself.
The simple trick is to treat yourself the same way you would treat someone you love dearly. But that is not as easy as it sounds.
Accepting that you are not perfect.
Accepting that you are not perfect frees you to be the imperfect you that you are, trying new things and making bold decisions because you can forgive yourself for your mistakes and try to do better next time.
With all my malfunctioning body parts I always knew that I was not perfect but knowing and accepting are two different things. Making up for my imperfections meant that I had to be the ‘good little girl,’ the ‘top student,’ the ‘best-loved teacher,’ the most ‘dedicated wife.’
I never gave myself permission to be imperfect, so failure was always devastating – like when I failed fourth year at secondary school (being in hospital for most of the school year was no excuse).
I think I was about 20 years old when I ‘surmized’ that because I was not perfect (normal/healthy) my life was not worth as much as everyone else’s. It was another 20 years before I truly understood how self-destructive that mindset was but I didn’t know how to change it.
I’d always been willingly overlook the imperfections of loved ones and continued to love them even when they fell short. I am learning to do the same for myself.
Being kind to yourself.
Be gentle with criticism and plentiful with praise.
No problem being gentle with others but when it came to myself???? Aim high and set rigid standards: that was my motto which was alright to some degree, except that I always expected more from myself than I would from others, and for that, harsh criticism was necessary. Being gentle with myself was not one of my first considerations.
Changing that is hard. Maybe it is because I am trying to break a life-long habit. Maybe it is because I never really appreciated the woman I see on the other side of the mirror.
But I am learning; learning to tell that woman of the things I like about her, instead of only the things I do not like. I am learning to look past the dark circles around her eyes and the purple blotches on her arms; the paper-thin skin and distended abdomen she tries to hide under loose fitting blouses.
I am learning to tell that woman that it is alright she can no longer go off to work every morning and contribute what she believes to be her fair share to household finances: to tell her that it is alright she couldn’t do the laundry or the cleaning on a regular basis for the last year.
Being kind to yourself means focusing on your positive qualities, your strengths and talents; the things that others admire about you. It means acknowledging and accepting compliments instead of dismissing them with the thought, ‘she is only saying that because she is my friend.’ Being kind to yourself means taking time to acknowledge and celebrate your achievements – no matter how small.
Everybody needs somebody sometime.
Supporting yourself means asking for the help and support you need it and accepting the help others offer.
During my last year at work, I struggled with myself to accept help colleagues offered and I struggled even more to actively to ask for help. My excuse, I didn’t want to impose on anyone. The real truth – I believed that accepting help was a definite sign of weakness and a show of my imperfections. That takes it full circle – accepting that I am not perfect.
So is it alright to love yourself; to put yourself on your own Valentine List? Definitely. As a matter of fact loving yourself should be your default setting. Scripture doesn’t even command it; it assumes and expects that you already do.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Matthew 22: 37-40.
The bottom line, treat yourself the way you would treat someone you truly love. And don’t forget your Valentine’s Day gift.