I've Got Issues...And Peace


Boulder, Colorado,
October 22
Family, marital, and individual psychotherapist. Mother to four who no longer need my services but still enjoy my love as I do theirs. I specialize in stepfamily dynamics and difficult transitions. I try to write from the heart with a sense of vulnerability, humor and a frank look at myself. Art shown: "Four Pots" by Lindsey Leavell


NOVEMBER 14, 2011 10:54AM

I Love Myself

Rate: 26 Flag

heart maze

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.

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What a worthy post . . . and an important concept. I'm still working towards that, I suppose . . . hell, it's not even a question, I'm still working towards self-love. It's easy to look at others and think "well of course YOU should love yourself - look how cool you are!" It's harder to look in the mirror and say that.

I feel fortunate to have people in my life who remind me that I'm lovable, and who encourage me towards self-love. It's a challenge, nonetheless . . . but we are worth the challenge. Thank you for writing this, Mary.
OOoo...that is difficult for me to say. I was raised with a very judgmental mother who is still here on this earth passing her opinion on everything and everybody. It makes me cringe. But you give me hope.
This is a beautiful and relate-able post. May I add that this is especially hard to do with Swedish roots -- a country that practically makes pride in self a sin. Once a mom there even told her kid not to accept a gold medal in the Olympics because it made him seem better than others. Duh, he was.
You are so easy to love. Self love can be a life long journey to fruition.
I am lucky to love you and that you love me.
Big sissy who loves and adores you!
Made me think.

The only way to know yourself is to get out in the world. Experience.

You have to let go of some things and embrace others.

It's in the fine print.
There is a big difference between 'loving yourself' and 'being in love with yourself.' You've found the truth and how wonderful it must feel after all those years. You can't truly love others if you don't love yourself first.

"My parents' Catholicism was implanted in cellular memory while I was yet in the womb..." No kidding. I know exactly what you mean. For a long long long LONG time, it was even hard for me to believe that God loved me, let alone that I could love myself, unclean sinner that I supposedly was.
I'm getting there Mary :-)
This really made me think. I'm not there yet, but I'm glad you are.
Good job, Mary. It takes some of us a little longer to get there.
I think we had that "I love myself" feeling when we were very young, but sometimes our parents or teachers or life in general extinguishes it for a little while. I love you too. ~r
No, that wasn't so hard. thanks for that - a lot to think about.
And Marytkelly, we love you, too! Thanks for sharing.
it is hard, mary, but i'm trying and have come a long way in these last few years, much farther than i ever thought i would. you wrote this *beautifully*, my friend. i've read it now three times. and i'll save it for more.
I love myself, but there are times when I don't like myself very much. But as ought to be the case with any relationship, the quality of mercy is not strained, so I've learned to forgive myself and move on.
good, i like it.
i am learning to love my "self" too.
i am still AT THE SAME TIME hating myself for some
thoughts or actions i have done,
and thus
feeling shame.

but deep down i know that i am of God.
and God breathes through me like my lungs breathe air,
like my soul breathes brain.

your soul is irrevocably YOURS but is made
of good healthy energies that just gotta be loved!
I trace the battle back much as you--to a "paradigm" where a judgemental god was waiting in the wings to smite me for my imperfections. Then, magnify it through the generations of "imperfection" and one arrives at a person desperate for forgiveness for their own humanity.

If god is only going to love us when our souls are pure, we damn well better start loving ourselves.
A wonderful post. It is a difficult thing to do. There are so many others to love, but first self, then others. Then your love is not wasted.
It takes some people a lifetime to learn to love themselves. Glad you learned and are generous with your lessons. r
I love the straightforward manner in which you retrace your path to now.
neilpaul: Yes there is such a human tendency to focus on the negative rather than the positive. You know, nine people can say wonderful things about you and the tenth says something negative and it's all we remember. We tend to be our harshest critics and it' s a bloody shame, isn't it? The ironic thing is when we love ourselves, we have more capacity to love others. I'm choosing to focus on your gracious words and like you, am quite happy I've arrived. Thank you.

Owl: Again, we are so trained to have a hard time loving ourselves, yet if we have children, we ache at the thought that they won't love themselves. It's like the old airplane analogy: We must take care of ourselves (oxygen mask) before we can take care of others but when we're making our"to do" list for the day, how often to we put "Self-Care" as first? And I think we've been taught that self-love = selfishness. And the two couldn't be more different. Thank you much for reading and your good thoughts.

zanelle: The damn patterns that are passed on to us through our parents (ask my children!). I can only imagine that your mother is most likely her own worst critic but it doesn't make it any easier on those she judges. And if you can't love yourself, then your mother's judgment has won. And that would suck. Have hope. You're worth it.

Lisa: You should love yourself because you're so funny! I'm referring to your post of today which still has me smiling. Yes, the Swedish roots are quite stoic, aren't they? Loved the story of the Swedish mom. And you're right, he was better! Double duh. Thanks for reading.

Cathy: You know I adore you and you surely must know that your love for me has helped me love myself. Kisses.

Nick: Yes, so true. Be in life. Experience. Be open, curious. We all have a hard time loving ourselves, so we can help each other out if we can be that vulnerable. "It's in the fine print". Yes it is. Thank you.

Margaret: Love your good distinction and yes, it's very freeing, very wonderful to be gracious with one's self. Of course it's always a work. My wise friend Gail heard me muttering shame to myself when I couldn't find my keys a couple of weeks ago and she encouraged, "Oh please don't be cruel to yourself." It caught me so off guard. Some of this non-self-love is just a big ole bad habit. I did laugh with the "unclean sinner that I supposedly was". It's so true! I went to great lengths to get God to love me and I finally said, "Whatever, your God. You're big enough to handle it. I'm over it." :) Thanks you so much for reading.

Kellylark: You are going in the right direction and I for one can say you are more than worth it. You are a beautiful person, inside and out.

Bernadine: I know you were going through a difficult time awhile back. If you still are, it can be especially hard to love oneself. I'm more than happy to wait up for you.

Joan H: I agree. I think we had it as children and this experience feels like going back to those carefree days, that sense of familiarity, of home. And I love you too, your wisdom and honesty is constant inspiration.

trilogy: Ah, so nice when it's not that hard. Thank you!

tai: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Truly.

femme: Oh that is so great that you are further along this path of self-love than you ever thought you would be. That is the best. And the cool thing about loving yourself, you can keep yourself good company in the darkest of times because you know that you have You. It may sound crazy, but it finally made sense to me. Thanks for getting it, twin. I also know you will.

Tom: I love this, "But as ought to be the case with any relationship, the quality of mercy is not strained, so I've learned to forgive myself and move on." That is so simply yet powerfully said. Thank you.

James: I enjoyed your thoughts. I love this, "i am of God.
and God breathes through me like my lungs breathe air,
like my soul breathes brain." Very cool. Thank you.

Ben Sen: "If god is only going to love us when our souls are pure, we damn well better start loving ourselves." YES! Thank you.

Sheila: I agree, not only is the love not wasted, it expands. Thank you such a helpful comment.

Fay: I'm glad I learned it Fay at all. It was elusive for so long and it's a very content place to be. Thank you.

mypsyche: Thank you my psyche. I appreciate the feedback and your encouragement.
How could it have taken over a half century? You are way younger than that... I remember Erich Fromm's "The Art of Loving", the point of which was that you had to love yourself first before someone else could love you.
This is beautiful MaryT.
You seem to write what I need to read with exquisite timing.
Love to you smart Lady.
This is an outstanding piece. It's layered with shining insights that will be extremely helpful to anyone on the journey of life.

“…They were impostors 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.”

That sentence brims with truth. We’re unable to truly give anything to others that isn’t ours to begin with. It can be “borrowed.” but then it lacks the power that this piece of yours demonstrates so well.

This post is a gem, Mary. I hope, one day, you’ll be able to know just how many lives you’ve influenced for good through your willingness to share what you’ve gained by seeking to live a truthful and loving life.

Rated and appreciated.
It is arguably the highest stage of enlightenment, and it cannot be reached without a high spiritual access. That is, if you believe in God, then God must have guided you to that point. Excellent post. R
"With boldness and kindness. With confidence and grace. "

Mary, this is my new personal motto. Thanks for this! Happy Thanksgiving and, if I don't wander this way again for a while, Merry Holidays!
I developed this thought when reaing your post "God loves me with no conditions, so therefore should love myself with no conditions" We are all to critical of ourselves, and need to feel Christ's love in us and omit love around us
I love myself! Always have because noone else would. Unconditional love is a thing I don't understand. In my life, love is decidedly conditional. It means I have to kiss peoples' backsides and they get to treat me like dirt. No more.
Love without condition is what Jesus gave on the cross, paid in full for us. Could we die for someone, no