Friday, January 8, 2016
On Loving Yourself.
Besides, how do you really love yourself? When you love someone there's a certain polished sheen we give them. We forget the nasty sides of their characters, and see only their glossy goodness. Parents love children this way, often blind to their character flaws, sometimes to damaging effect. And romantic love might be the most blinding of all, sometimes making us vulnerable to a malicious personality, or simply a careless one. Love is blind. Familiarity breeds contempt. Both are phrases coined by the Bard, and they've taken hold in the English language because they perfectly express profound truths about human nature. Don't we all know ourselves far too well to see ourselves through love goggles?
I think what the phrase, "Love yourself," really means is that you must treat yourself lovingly. Think of yourself during that embarrassing moment when you did a social belly flop in front of your peers. Oh, you're probably pretty angry at yourself for the way you undermined your social standing, sure, but try viewing the scene with the compassion borne of love. If your best friend did the same thing, or your child, or your lover, wouldn't you wrap your arms around him? Wouldn't you give her a kiss on the cheek, try to say something encouraging, and maybe run her a nice fragrant bath where she could relax and put it behind her? Instead of those self-punishments, try a little self nurturing.
Or think of the stranger who is being attacked by a group of mean bullies. This type of thing happens all the time in school when you're a kid and at your most vulnerable. Most people walk by, trying not to get involved, and sometimes this is the best thing to do if the situation seems dangerous. (An even better thing is to run and find an adult who can put a stop to it.) But those silent observers are not on the side of the bully. Most of them are on the side of the person being attacked. So if you're the one being attacked, and you have no choice but to be a silent observer in your own humiliation because you're outnumbered, or in physical danger, try compassion for yourself. Instead of admonishing yourself, even hating yourself for being the target of a bunch of knuckle draggers, try being the kid who, when the whole thing is over, picks you up from the ground, gives you a hand, tries to say something kind and comforting, and buys you a chocolate sundae. Because it's not your fault what some troglodyte decides to do to you for some random reason in his own twisted mind. You can't control how he treats you, but you can control how you treat yourself. If you can't love yourself in this moment, at least be loving.
Be your own friend. Never be a bully to yourself.
That's what that silly, touchy feely saying is all about. Maybe you can't love yourself the way you might love that beautiful girl or that handsome boy. Maybe you can't cuddle yourself the way you cuddle your dog, cat, guinea pig, lizard, what have you. But you can be kind to yourself. Instead of being malicious in your internal dialogue, catch yourself, notice when you're repeating some cruelty done to you by a peer, or a parent, and reverse it. Be loving. Give yourself a nick name. Call yourself sweetie. Give yourself a hug. Go ahead and be loving toward yourself.
It's the first step toward a better life. I promise.