I love myself. There I said it. Without guilt, reservation or hesitation. I say it with passion and commitment. And I say it with humility and simplicity. Sometimes I say it moment to moment and sometimes, the heart knows and no words need to be said for days. I say it because it’s true.
It took me well over half-a-century to say, “I love myself”. In fact, I’m quite sure there were decades that went by where the thought of loving myself never occurred to me. I knew God loved me, although there were certainly conditions to be met, stipulations that would take me to my grave. I knew my parents loved me but I also knew they didn’t know me.
I was given The List of who to love pre-verbally. My parents' Catholicism was implanted in cellular memory while I was yet in the womb and my arrival gave birth to one who knew that God came first, then family, and third, the unsaved. I don’t ever remember making The List of Those Who Should Be Loved, despite the glow of my Mother’s face when she talked about how much God loved her.
I was a Trooper of the first order. My innate personality and the family motto, “Peace at Any Cost” conspired to make sure that love of oneself didn’t complicate what was needed when a pleaser pursues peace. It didn’t matter that I was also feisty and funny and dramatic and playful. They were imposters posing for the attention of those she loved. As if loving oneself could be passed on by ones who didn’t know how to either.
But I don’t want to belabor the point here. I know why it was so hard for me to learn to love; I spent years in self-examination trying to give my lonely heart comfort with words that didn’t resonate. For me, Love would only come with the passage of time and no stomping of my feet or raising my fists persuaded its earlier arrival. It was as it had to be.
It took me well over half-a-century to earn the tools, the experiences, the adventures, the repressions, the passions, the losses, the joys and the mirror in my children’s eyes as they stretched into the long limbs of adulthood and stood there, right in front of me, and spoke gentle words of understanding and knowing while silently urging me to give myself the permission to love. Myself.
I can’t say the exact moment the Shift happened. It had happened many times, and as shifts tend to do, they like to shift some more. And I would leave the place of Self-Love, acting as if following the call of the cruel voices of Judgment was some kind of calling or mission or simply because I could find small comfort in the familiarity of self-disdain and self-doubt.
Now there is no more fretting. No need to ever be lonely as long as I stay true. “Pfffttt, pffffttt” to you who say I’m selfish or vain because the words of others don’t mean much to me right now, as long as I have me. Some may think I’ve paid a heavy price to love myself and perhaps there’s some truth to that, but nothing seems to come to most of us without the stresses and the strains, the groans and the tears. I’d like to think I was worth it.
It took me well over a century to say, “I love myself”. My desire for you is to love yourself too. With boldness and kindness. With confidence and grace. All the while acknowledging the exquisite beauty of the flaws, the dysfunctions, and the flesh and bones that speak to us of Love.
Say it with me if you will, “I love myself.”
Now...that wasn’t so hard, was it.