Loving yourself doesn’t mean changing who you are, it means knowing yourself well enough to do what can be done for a better life.
You can’t open up Facebook without seeing some kind of inspirational quote extolling the virtues of loving yourself. But how exactly do you do that? From the pictures that go along with these quotes, I was sure I needed to master yoga, become vegan, meditate 20 hours a day, completely change my lifestyle and basically transform myself into a different person. So, being the lazy bitch that I am, I kept on scrolling. I would say to myself, “Self,” because that’s what I call myself, “I love you.” End of effort.
It wasn’t until I took a good look in the mirror one day that I noticed how tired I seemed. I saw the lines on my face and finally noticed my age. I’m early 30s, I have one gray hair, sometimes my back hurts and sitting on the floor is no longer a pleasant option. I have been raising one small human for the last 6 years. My child is one of the easiest, most pleasant, well-mannered kids I have ever known and there are still some days that I just want to HULK SMASH! everything. This was when it hit me, love yourself. Could it be that easy?
I began by thinking of little things I would like done – I wish I got more sleep at night. POOF! 9 p.m. is now bedtime, because I know it takes me an hour to get settled and fall asleep. I wish I had clear, soft, smooth skin. POOF! I got some facial cleansers and lotions and made a daily routine for myself. I really hate when people ask me to do stupid things or go to stupid events or ask for stupid favors. POOF! “No” is now one of my favorite words. I felt like I had too much shit to do in my house on a daily basis and I never got any time to myself. POOF! I put the kid to work and chores are now a daily activity that we do together. We have so much fun and sing and dance and laugh!
Loving yourself is just taking something from your life that you wish was different and saying, in your best Captain Jean-Luc Picard voice, “Make it so!” Loving yourself is becoming your own parent, making rules for yourself to prevent regret and resentment. Loving yourself is as simple as making yourself a cup of tea, sipping it on the couch in your house coat without any electronics and mentally preparing for the day. This scenario is SO much better if you are surrounded by fur babies. Who needs cable when you have cats and dogs?!
The other half of loving yourself is knowing yourself. Knowing yourself involves practice and patience. I had a friend once who hosted a lot of events. I enjoyed going, but I didn’t want to feel useless, so I became a constant helper – always staying to help clean up, offering to grab a few last minute things at the store, cooking/preparing elaborate dishes to share, always doing the dishes, being the first person to volunteer to help carry the heavy things.
I like helping. It makes me feel good, mentally and physically. The moment when you establish yourself as “the helper,” though, is the point where it typically starts to go wrong. When someone consistently does nice things, you begin to appreciate it less. You get used to the idea so much that you expect it. What began as a nice thing that I enjoyed doing quickly became my currency. The rate continued to rise but the benefits didn’t.
We went to a festival together. At this festival, you had to trek everything you wanted for your site down a muddy road, through the woods and into wherever you decided “home” was going to be. By hand. Did I mention the mud up to your ankles, alongside hundreds of others, all while being attacked by mosquitoes? I knew what to expect, so I packed light. My tent, my sleeping bag, a box of food stuffs to last a week and a bin of extras that would make life a little more comfortable and fun. Nothing too heavy.
I easily transported everything by myself. I was set up and comfy within 2 hours. I was just about to get in my tent to lay down for 10 minutes when my friend said, “OK time for you to come help with our stuff.” I didn’t want to, but we were all camping together and it’s not like saying no was an option, so I helped. For 6. Fucking. Hours. They brought a TRAILER full of shit! Heavy shit! Bulky shit! Shit that no one would ever think would be a good idea to bring into the woods with them. Back and forth and back and forth. Then I had to help set all the shit up! Granted, it was a super dope set up when everything was said and done but WHY the fuck would you pick a spot SO FUCKING FAR from your car if you are bringing that much SHIT with you?! Thankfully, I didn’t stay for the whole week, so I didn’t have to help bring it back to the trailer.
Along with the same friend, I went camping with a group in the mountains at this super cool place with different kinds of handmade lodgings. 3 days. Again with carrying all the shit, this time up a massive hill and in the dark. I didn’t stop working the whole weekend. I did the dishes. It was the only place where I could be alone. The only sink was in the outhouse.
The last morning was the worst. It started to snow halfway through the dishes from breakfast. It was cold and no one offered to give me a break; they just kept coming with dishes. Piles upon piles of dishes. Once I was done, I was freezing! I didn’t bring a winter coat because I was sure it was too early in the season for snow and the weather report said nothing of the sort. I ended up getting very ill and was in bed for 2 weeks, except not really because I still had to walk the kid to school and home again. I had to keep doing all the house chores and the cooking. They knew I was sick. The message I got was, “Are you still sick? Because there’s an event tonight and it would be super cool if you could come help out.” This message was received on a Tuesday. I have my child during the week and made it clear several times that I was only available to make independent plans on weekends. Also, I was VERY sick and they didn’t give two shits about it. No offers of help, no well wishes, nothing. It was with these experiences, and other like them, that helped me learn about myself.
I know that I am a nice person and I like to help others. I give my time and energy to people without expecting anything in return. That being said, I don’t help as much anymore, because I don’t want to be used or kept around just because they know that I’ll do shit they don’t want to do. I still help a little, but I pick and choose my moments, because I love myself. I am building an empire, brick by brick, and those bastards are heavy as fuck, but I continue because I love myself. I will put myself to bed early, pamper myself in the bathroom and say “No” whenever the fuck I want, because I know myself and I know that is what I need to do to love myself properly. What do you need to do to love yourself better? Pick one thing and start there. I promise you’ll never look back.