This is such a radical concept, it makes the hair on my arms stand up. Every fibre of my ‘good girl’ self recoils at putting myself first. It is almost an alien concept, so ingrained is the call to be selfless and serve others first. But in the word love, there is not an ounce of vanity, pride, egotism, or selfishness. This call to love one’s Self, is the same call as the golden rule: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy Self.
If you don’t cultivate self-love, gentle, unconditional friendliness, forgiveness and compassion towards your own faults, foibles and flaws, how can you ever forgive or have compassion for others? Some may argue it works the other way : it is in giving that we receive. Yes, I feel the truth in that.
Unfortunately, what women often do, what we have been trained to do, is give give and give until exhaustion. We give at home, we give at the office, we give our life’s blood to ensure our children are happy, that they enroll in twenty different cultural and sports activities to become well-rounded successful human beings. We give our husbands the emotional support they need to feel the warmth and safety and love of a tranquil hearth. We give our bosses and employees the ‘best’ side of ourselves, we work long hours and we feel responsible to keep the peace amongst all those close to us. We give to our elderly parents, we know they need our unfailing attention and support and meals and driving to appointments. That is, until the straw that breaks the woman’s back….and the resentment builds.
Where oh where does it say in the manual for womanhood that we must do all this on zero energy, with lack of sleep, skipped meals, and no time for exercise or healthy walking in nature? But that’s what we do. To be able to do everything we feel responsible for, we cut back on the little pleasures that bring us joy. The sight of new tulip bulbs in the garden should bring joy, instead, we wonder when will we have time to dig up the earth, put in some compost and trim the weeds?
You may be perfectly balanced in giving and receiving, therefore this message is not for you. But if, like most of us, you are feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed and maxed out at mid-life, know this. No one will give you permission to relax and take fifteen minutes to walk outdoors at lunchtime, or make yourself a mini-retreat for one hour in your bedroom. You must be the one who loves you enough to mother yourself. Be your own best caretaker, use those skills you have honed so well and turn them on yourself. It does mean accepting that you are not superwoman and that you have limits.
The belief that we are indispensable and the world will stop turning without us needs to be thrown out. You must not wait for a broken knee, a frozen back, a series of panic attacks, full blown shrieking and losing it, before you grant yourself a little self-love, in the form of down time, time away from everyone and their needs, their demands. Why do I say this? Because I am such a brainwashed good girl myself, that I have to work very hard at taking time off to rest. And an even harder time saying no to volunteer jobs that mean a lot to. I am chronically prone to spreading myself too thin. I usually need to be sick (like right now, head cold and vertigo) to get off the computer, the to do list, the emails, even though I work at home, I am still learning to give myself enough down time to de-stress. This weekend, my cold forced me to get away and just sit in front of the fireplace, play cards with my hubby, buy storebought meals and enjoy them, watch four movies in two days (!), and play hooky from all my things to do.
It felt delicious, it felt wonderful. It fed the creative fires in me. The world was still there waiting this morning when I woke up ….
Self-love may be a new concept, or it may be something you practice irregularly. Let’s encourage each other to slow down and love our lives again, to do the little things necessary, play the soft music, get out the candlelight and journal writing, take the long walks in the woods, whatever it is you need – a night off from meetings and volunteer work and driving the kids to classes…. Let me say it for you: you deserve it. You are worthy of your own love and kindness. The world will be a better place with you at peace at the center.
Ps in apprenticeship to this message.