Has someone ever said to you that you have to love yourself before you can love someone else; or even before you can accept someone else’s love? I have heard that many times before, but never really understood how one was to do that. It’s not like you hear someone say that to you, and then suddenly you just love yourself.
I was fortunate enough to find a therapist that I connected with exactly one year ago. One of the biggest highlights of our sessions, whether I talk about my divorce, my kids, my friendships and dating relationships, or most importantly my self (yes I said MOST importantly), what she always tells me is to be kind to myself.
After sharing something with her, and then proceeding to beat myself up for it, she always challenges me and says “would you say to your friend what you just said about yourself if they shared that with you?” “Would you be so critical if a friend was sharing that with you?” Of course my answer is no. But if the answer is no, then why would I treat the most important person with such judgement; that person being me.
Over the last 8 months, I have slowly and beautifully started to understand what all of this “love yourself” means. It started with a conflict between a friend, that I decided I needed some alone time. I got in my car just days before New Years, in the freezing cold and snowy weather, and drove completely across the state, alone. My cell phone was with me for safety of course, but was used for nothing more other than to check the time, and take pictures of myself doing the things I was doing.
I found a winery, and sat by the fire and read with a glass of wine. After that, I ventured into town and randomly walked into church as the service was beginning. The last time I attended a church service I was probably 10. I didn’t even pay attention to what denomination it was. What I saw were dozens of people walking in and a kind man standing out front shaking everyone’s hands as they entered. I went in because something was calling me.
I ended my evening by sitting at a pub, having a meal and a beer, and took a blistering walk down the snowy sidewalk, looking into closed store fronts.
I did not realize it at that exact moment what it was I needed, but it occurred to me over the next few months as I started to make decisions that made ME happy. Spending my free time as I wished, doing things that I wanted to do, old and new, and doing most of this alone.
It took stepping out of my comfort zone to really understand how taking care of myself was the beginning of me loving myself. Everyone says that having kids is the best thing that has ever happened to them, and that they are the most important people in their lives. And while I feel that this is mostly true, I have also come to realize that I need to be taken care of first.
I can always start to feel when it’s time to take an alone trip. My mind and thought patterns start to become negative; I go into the “poor me” mindset, and then everything else going on for me just feels super negative too. But now I love myself, and know myself, and am able to say it’s time to take a time-out from everyday life and nourish my mind and body in a way that I’m not presently.
I just got back from a full day on Block Island, alone. I took the ferry over with my bike, grabbed a map of the island, and just rode. I found a quiet and secluded beach down in the bluffs, laid my towel out, and soaked up the alone time with a book and the ocean.
When I think of this day, I smile. And I smile big. When I think about me and how I feel about myself, I smile. And I smile big. This is me loving me.
Photo credit: Wilder Zandonella