Wednesday, November 28

loving myself

For years I have grappled with the concept of loving myself. 

I baulked at people saying, “I just need some me-time”, or telling me to be “kind to myself”. I have always disliked ads on TV saying that you deserve this or that, “because you’re worth it”. These concepts didn’t sit with me at all, because they seemed so self indulgent, so selfish, selfish, selfish. It was the kind of post modern I didn’t like. My self-critical nature and strong protestant work ethic struggled to view this kind of self inclusiveness as right or wise. It made me squirm inside. I ridiculed these statements. Yet the longer I was sick, the more I bumped into these phrases; not only in the media, but also from the people I looked up to and respected the most. 

Everywhere I went, I was told that learning to ‘love myself’ was one of the first steps to healing. Really?!

An inspirational woman who I really love told me many times to be kind to myself, and understanding of where I am right now. 

After doing something courageous, my psychiatrist asked me how I had rewarded myself. I avoided the question by saying that I was glad I’d had the courage to do this hard thing – because I squirmed with the idea of ‘rewarding myself’.  He picked up my avoidance and pressed me to begin to acknowledge myself and really celebrate when I achieve something. 

I was more comfortable with words like self discipline and self control. Surely that is the best way to deal with self? By rallying oneself to push on, to be strong, to be better, never give in. (all dangerous things in the case of chronic illness). 

In one session with my psych, he asked me what I thought the most important thing is. I replied that it was to love God and love others. 

He looked at me in shock. “No! You’ve left out something absolutely critical. Come on! You should know this!”

I was totally blank. What on earth had I missed out?

Love your neighbour, AS YOURSELF.

And then it started to click, as we talked it over. How could I possibly love other people or be a role model, if I didn’t know how to love myself? If was willing to be forgiving, and kind, and understanding of others, how hypocritical to be a self tyrant in my own life. If you don’t care for yourself in such a way that you are in decent health, and a good mental state, you can’t even begin to give to other people. You can’t always say ‘yes’ to people and events because if you do, you might burn out. Who said that everyone else is more important than you? Your needs are equal to theirs. It’s not selfish, it’s self inclusive.

Self inclusive.

And how is this the first step to health? Well, it’s a chain reaction. If you are caring for yourself, giving yourself time to exercise and eat well, resting after exertion, doing things every day that you enjoy e.t.c. you will cultivate a positive frame of mind. Research has again and again proven that being positive and happy gives the body the best chance to harness its resources to heal, to function at its optimum.

So three months ago, I decided to be more self inclusive than I have been in the past. I decided that I would everyday try to do things which I love, things which are nurturing to my mind and body so that it has a good chance of healing. For me, it’s been taking my dog to the park and watching him frolic while I let the Vitamin D soak into my skin. I took days off flute when I didn’t feel like practicing. I let myself drink chai tea with honey in it. I rewarded myself for not pulling out my hair. I stopped feeling bad for skipping events when I was unwell. I went to yoga every week. I started to filter out all those awful cruel things I chant to myself.

It’s not self indulgent. It’s about being gracious, forgiving, understanding and kind, to yourself – while still challenging yourself and changing. 

And if my improved health is anything to go by, my body likes it too.

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