I want to know what the hell is up with the human condition and why on earth life itself has to basically be a tragedy with some comedy thrown in here and there just to make us keep hoping for more?
No holds barred on this one. I’m sick and tired and it isn’t anyone’s fault. And I KNOW I’m not alone in this.
I recognize that not everyone grew up in a safe, happy home with two parents who paid the bills, taught and modelled values and integrity, protected, nurtured, advised, sacrificed, and LOVED their kids. But I did. And my kids did. And many people I know also did.
So how is it that we could have all that love and encouragement and security and STILL NOT LOVE OURSELVES?
The sheer number of books, articles, psychological and therapeutic efforts available today to help us LEARN TO LOVE OURSELVES makes it painfully clear that we’re all messed up.
Well, at least those of us who are actually willing to see the truth. I’m sure there are some “I have all my shit together and I always will” people walking around out there, and if denial works for them, great. I don’t believe them.
It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with money or success or fame or having the “perfect job” (like that even exists!), or having a great family. Many people have some or all of these things and they still don’t know how to love themselves. Does Oprah even love herself enough yet? (and I’m not joking when I say that)
I can envision a bunch of very aged seniors right now, sitting and discussing this blog post and rolling their eyes (well, not really, because they probably aren’t online).
This is not to generalize; I just happen to know that many of the older generation balk at talk of such things because they were taught to just suck it up and work hard and do what you have to do and then when it’s over, it’s over. They might say they never had time to worry about their emotions or whether or not they were happy or fulfilled in life because they were too busy living it. And maybe they were. Maybe the depression and the wars and all the concern that those world events caused did give them enough to deal with and the emotional things were buried and left alone.
However, at the risk of being bombarded with criticism over what I have and have not experienced and what I could possibly know or not know at my young-to-them age of fifty-one years, I would like to suggest that just as many things in our society develop and change, so do our lifestyles, our stress levels, our expectations, and our understanding of things that weren’t topics of discussion even fifty years ago.
Most of us don’t seem to have a problem loving others and wanting to help them love themselves. Perhaps the compassion we feel for others is somehow related to the love we wish we had for ourselves. We give them advice and post pretty little pictures on Facebook with words about how great we all really are inside and that the most important thing is to love ourselves.
And for a few minutes here and there we can digest those words and they inspire us to do little things for ourselves, to “treat” ourselves and make ourselves feel better. But it doesn’t last because it isn’t real. WHY ISN’T IT REAL?
We’re all broken. But why and how? Were our hearts ever really as they should be? Did we love ourselves EVER and then somehow we lost it? If so, that’s not true love anyway.
Bible readers or not, we would likely all agree that:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
OK, so wait just a minute here! Sounds great when we’re talking about loving others, doesn’t it? Makes sense. But let’s see how this fits with loving ourselves:
- Patient and kind: Nope. I’m trying to learn to be more patient with and kind to myself and it’s coming more with age, but seriously? Fifty years of not patient or kind?
- No envy, boasting or pride: Hmmm. I guess the envy and boasting parts are more about how we treat others – although if we’re envious of others or “boasting” about their accomplishments and comparing ourselves to them, that’s certainly not loving. And pride? Yup, got that pride. It shows up when I think I can handle things on my own and forget that I need other people and that needing them DOESN’T make me weak, or stupid or helpless. It makes me human.
- No dishonouring or self-seeking: (throat clear here) how about that negative self-talk? I talk about being stupid or call myself an idiot when I make a mistake, brushing it off as a joke – but is it really a joke? Not a funny one. How about the infamous “I always mess that up” or “why can’t I ever do it right?”. That’s dishonour all over the place. Then there’s the confusing one “self-seeking”. We can see how it applies to our treatment of others, but why is it harmful when we do it to ourselves? Because in the moments that we have that attitude, it isn’t usually to help ourselves, it’s usually leading to some form of self-gratification that is just going to make us feel worse in the end: eating too much of something we want, drinking too much, shopping too much, whatever. And often we’re doing it because we feel crappy about ourselves or just in general and we want to fill a hole.
- Keeps no record of wrongs: YEAH, RIGHT! I think I can leave this one right here. WE are our own worst critics, every day, all the time, and our most accurate memories are of our faults and mistakes which we can list ad nauseam.
- No rejoicing in evil, rejoice in truth: again, calling ourselves down when we do something wrong and making sure we never forget that we were bad isn’t helping. But to rejoice in the truth about ourselves, we have to face it and accept it and sometimes it isn’t pretty.
- Protect, trust, hope, persevere: Sometimes the thing we most need to protect ourselves from IS ourselves, our self-deprecation, our constant interior reminders of every time we failed to live up to our own or someone else’s expectations. Trust ourselves? The person we are most critical of and about whose judgment we have the most doubts? And then hope we’re on the right track? OK. That’s gonna take some perseverance …
I know this bible passage has always seemed to be about how we treat others, and ultimately how we love God. But we have to be able to apply it to ourselves as well or it doesn’t count, in my opinion.
Quite frankly, I’m not looking for more reinforcement or lists of reasons that I SHOULD love myself; I want to know why I don’t. Why most of us don’t. I’m looking for answers that aren’t there. They aren’t anywhere.
In my experience, our lives can be filled with love, filled with good people who love us and tell us often and give us reasons for why they love us, and we still don’t get it. It doesn’t sink in. And then we get to therapy where we learn tools to deal with our issues so we can cope going forward and that’s very helpful but I do have to wonder sometimes if even the therapists really love themselves or if they’re just very good at helping others? Of course, they can still do their jobs and be very effective – if we all waited until we were perfectly good at things we would never help anyone! – and I’ve personally benefitted from counselling more than once over the past few years, but it’s an interesting question, isn’t it?
We crave appreciation from others, to feel needed, to know that we are loved. Yet, to this day, just as was the case all through my childhood, I am uncomfortable receiving praise, even when I know I’ve done a good job. If I don’t get it, it hurts somehow. But when it comes, I don’t know what to do with it. I usually end up minimizing it somehow because, really, am I worth it? Others are, but me?
Life is definitely worth living because somehow the good parts are enough to keep us moving towards the next one. We know it’s going to come, it always does.
Sometimes I just tire of what feels like a board game, where sometimes I get to roll the dice and choose the next move, but most of the time someone else is rolling the dice and throwing me in a direction I don’t want to go, skipping all the cool spaces I hoped to land on and landing me in jail without the get out free card. And by the time I do get past the current obstacle, the cost of going around again will have doubled or tripled from last time and I’ll be treading water just hoping to keep my head up until I pass GO again.
There’s a risk in me putting this out there: when I write personal things about myself that anyone can read, I make myself vulnerable to their judgments of who and what I am, whether they find me completely off my rocker or someone they can relate to.
At this point in my life, with the experiences I have had, I just don’t care anymore. I don’t care if someone sees my inside self and tears it apart. They can do no more damage than has already been done there, by life, by loss, by me.
I honestly believe there are many, many others out there who feel this same way so this is for all of us. If one of the “I’ve got all my shit together” people stumbles upon this post, please be “loving” and refrain from offering your T.E.D. talk version of a life plan. I’ve probably watched it already.