...NOT "in spite of," or "even though," or "no matter what."
I recently read Glennon Doyle's book Untamed. In the Concessions chapter she talks about watching a TV show in which a teenage girl is about to tell her parents that she's gay. The girl says, "I have to tell you something. I like girls." And the mother replies, "We love you no matter what."
Glennon goes on to say that she knew the program was trying to be progressive, to prove that the parents embraced their daughter's gayness just as much as they embrace her straightness. "I wondered though," wrote Glennon, "if this girl had told her parents that she liked boys, would the mother have said, 'We love you no matter what?' Of course not, because 'no matter what' is what we say when someone has disappointed us."
"No matter what" is what we say when someone has disappointed us.
That's how we talk to ourselves. With low-level chronic guilt, shame, self-loathing, and disappointment in ourselves. At least I've been known to...as recently as last weekend. Of course we do, because that's how our mothers talked to themselves and to us. They were not taught to love themselves unconditionally and they were not taught to love us that way, either.
Collectively, if we are taught to love ourselves at all, it's only acceptable under very specific conditions.
This isn't because our mothers are/were horrible (their horribleness, just like ours, is the result of low-level chronic guilt, shame, self-loathing, and disappointment in themselves).
It's because it wasn't conceivable to them that loving themselves or their children unconditionally was even a thing...that it was possible and even preferable. They didn't know what they didn't know (although I daresay we ALL know on some level waaaaaaay deep down inside where it's barely accessible because it's been nearly programmed out of us...nearly, but not all the way).
I don't know about you, but in the past, whenever this self-love thing has come up, I appreciated the concept of it, practiced it (conditionally), but also had weird images in my head of what it was supposed to look like (divine goddess kind of stuff or roses and rainbows or things I'd want to roll my eyes at), not to mention what I thought the result would be (perfection, ha ha).
But after the experience I had last weekend (where I realized that yeah, sometimes I love myself, but when I deem myself a spoiled brat? No love for you! said in my best Soup Nazi voice) and remembering what I read in Untamed, something shifted. Deeply. I decided to start a practice of "loving myself BECAUSE" (not in spite of, not even though, not no matter what) and it looks something like this:
I love myself BECAUSE I'm envious and want things I don't have. I love myself because I am spoiled brat. I love myself because I blame others, I love myself because I want to be seen as good white woman, I love myself because I ate a whole bag of potato chips the other day, I love myself because I worry about whether people like me, I love myself because I was annoyed at my husband because of the way he was breathing, I love myself because I am so good at sabotaging myself, I love myself because I am selfish and don't take the time to appreciate others as much as I could, I love myself because I had a temper tantrum about my work, I love myself because I am needy and desperate, I love myself because I was prickly and mean in my head, I love myself because I'm a people pleaser, I love myself because I am a show off, I love myself because I like to be the center of attention, I love myself because I am disorganized, I love myself because I worry about reviews of my books on Amazon, I love myself because I am petty, I love myself because I am a hypocrite...
That's just today's list. This isn't a confessional. It's what I came up with having scanned my thoughts about myself over the past 24 hours...the things I say TO myself, ABOUT myself, and am usually disappointed in myself for.
I know what it's like to feel love in my body and I really enjoy it. I can feel it as I write this. A warm, welling, expansiveness in my chest that is rising into my throat and making my eyes prickle with shining tears.
So now, when I think about being a spoiled brat, instead of feeling chronic low-level guilt, shame, self-loathing, and disappointment in myself, I will choose to feel that warm, welling, expansiveness in my chest that rises into my throat and makes my eyes prickle with shining tears.
Please join me. Doing this for yourself will have ripple effects. Instead of modeling what our mothers (and their mothers before them) modeled for us, we will be changing the emotional resiliency of future generations (whether they come through our bodies or not).
Here are some prompts to get you started:
What stops you from being willing to love yourself unconditionally?
What are the conditions (if any) under which you allow yourself to love yourself?
What would it take to love yourself unconditionally, not "in spite of" or "no matter what" or "even though" but simply because of who you are and because you deserve your own unconditional love?
Make a list. I love myself BECAUSE...
Much, much love,