“To love or not to love… yourself… that is the question!” – Sharing some personal views, and hoping that they may help those of you… who may happen to actually “view” themselves reflected in them.
Someone once told me that I should learn to love myself more. At the time – a time in my life when love happened to be, in every sense, from the very best to the very worst, the word, the topic, the issue and the focus of heated controversy of every single day and night, and most hours in between – I was slightly taken aback… and also slightly pissed, not so much by the advice itself, but by the tone of combined warning and reprimand with which I felt it was delivered. “Wait a minute… what is this person talking about? Of course I love myself!”
Curiously enough, though, my first reaction was somewhat like that of a kid caught red-handed at some grudgingly self-acknowledged misconduct: not to deny what was obvious, but to refute, and rather defiantly (read defensively) so, the qualification of my “act” as a transgression. But then… it suddenly dawned on me; no one had actually “accused” me of any transgression or wrongdoing. I had been the one to subconsciously “point the finger” at myself… for something that made me feel, whether I liked it or not, ashamed and… yes, guilty as hell: I didn’t love myself that much after all!
For a while – for quite a while – I tried to digest this, from that standpoint of shame and self-blame; ok, so I was guilty of the “delict” of not loving myself enough, and, for as far as I could or cared to remember, not willing to be conscious of this had led me to the reiterated, additional “offense” of seeking love in and from others, exclusively – and also so inclusively, that… I could never get enough. Yes, think of it as an addiction; an addiction “triggered” by what you make yourself believe has been, say, a first “taste” of something you came to find you enjoyed so much that you would never want to deprive yourself of it – but sprung, in fact, from a need to fill some void… which, however, is never filled, because you refuse to address its fundamental cause.
And so it was, so it had been, to me; a dependence that grew in proportion to my dissatisfaction, a dissatisfaction that, in turn, rendered me more abject, the more I desperately tried to fulfill that void without addressing its fundamental cause… because I didn’t want to think about it. The “high” of a compliment, of a recognition, of some sort of sign that I was wanted, needed, appreciated, didn’t last long anymore; so, I craved for more, and more, and more… and, as my focus on “quantity” grew, so did my disregard for “quality” – and there came a time when I found myself settling for what was really nothing but…an assortment of rather “lousy fakes”, indeed, or, at best, of well-honed and… highly honeyed fantasies; all this, without a care for any resultant humiliation or hurt - most of all, my own.
Where this would have taken me, should it have continued, I… do know, all too well; to self-destruction, which is where any extreme addiction will, with its toxicity, ultimately take you, me… anyone. But it did not continue, because “something” made the toxic cycle stop… when “it” made ME stop… and think. What was that “something”? Well, it was an “evolving something”, actually:
At first, “it” was that awareness – the one that came kind of like a “slap in the hand”, through that advice someone gave me – that I didn’t love myself enough, and which, in my initial shock, I had taken for the notion of… not loving myself at all.
Then, that awareness – “adjusted” into a perception of loving myself, yes, but… not that much – evolved, as I said, into shame… immediately followed by guilt; whose “fault” could it be, indeed, that I didn’t love myself “enough”… but my own, entirely? After all, and even if I had felt like one, at first, I wasn’t a kid anymore; I was an adult, a responsible, intelligent, discerning human being, and although, as such, I could clearly recognize, in my background, many an external – if close - cause for a rather low self-esteem, indeed, I could always… I SHOULD have found a way, or many ways, around all that “baggage”… couldn’t I, SHOULDN’T I?
And, dear readers… it really was a while, quite a while, before that shame and guilt (read self-bashing) actually evolved into something else:
Yes, forgiveness; that “something” which is misconstrue d as weakness as often as it is mistaken for the actual approval or sanction of something else, previously deemed or believed wrong or bad. And yet, I have come to understand, as many of you may, that… no; to forgive is neither to be weak, nor to condone something we believe is wrong or bad; it is, in fact, quite the opposite. To forgive is to be brave enough, strong enough to bring something that hurts us, frustrates us, angers us… acts like a poison within us, to a closure; and to thus be at peace… peace, mainly, with ourselves. And… don’t say you weren’t expecting me to say this, at this point when I seem to be under the “waxing” influence of some inspirational “moon” (but, believe me, I am not): Forgiveness is also love.
But… is it, really? Well… I have also come to understand that yes, forgiveness can be love, but not always, and certainly not necessarily. It can, indeed, be the most unconditional “form” of love, if it entails the recognition of something wrong, something bad, of some fault, of anything we do not approve of or can’t bring ourselves to sanction… and yet, we find that we actually “love… in spite of”. But then, sometimes, we will find that we do not approve, do not sanction, and that we do not love “in spite of”, or at all, actually, and yet… we still forgive. What on earth is forgiveness in such cases, then? It is… empowerment, that’s what it is; our self-empowerment to let go of something we have come to understand and accept is of no good to us any more… if it has ever been at all.
So, in all this, where did my “something”, in time evolved into “forgiveness”, take me, in this particular issue of “not loving myself enough”? To where I am, now, as I write these lines, dear readers. And where I am, is not a static “place” – it is, rather, an evolving segment of “where only my own steps will take me”(*) and which may be, or not, my wholeness.
You see, so far, I’ve accomplished a lot… but not everything, and “everything” is, much like “loving ourselves”, not an absolute, universal value. Among what I have accomplished, is… my forgiveness of… a lot, too; I have revised my radical anti-victim, entirely self-blaming, “shame on me” attitude. And while I still reject the victim, “poor me”, approach, and therefore still refuse to shift ALL the blame towards any others, or any circumstances outside myself, I have come to understand, and then to accept, that, throughout my life, especially during my formative years, many others and many circumstances outside myself have, indeed, been, responsible, to a certain degree, for a low self-esteem that resulted in… the issue of “not loving myself enough”.
However, I have forgiven them, those others (some I loved, still do, some I didn’t), and I have let go of those circumstances that were of no good to me anymore… or had never been; and I have forgiven myself for being vulnerable to their influence. But, most of all – and here’s the ultimate love controversy – I have forgiven myself for… not loving myself “enough”.
I have become more compassionate, more tolerant towards myself, more flexible. With this, I have come to accept my many flaws, the many things I still do not love about myself… and yet, I have come to find that I love myself… in spite of those things. I have also come to understand that, even if there is much about me that I find wonderful, beautiful, precious, and, most of all, unique and self-fulfilling… it is ok to need and to accept love from others, it is ok to give it to them. I have come to understand it is not only “ok”, but also very important to be able to share… all those things we love and don’t love or are not quite sure we do or don’t, about ourselves, with someone else to whom sharing similar things about themselves is important; someone who understands they are not perfect, but who love themselves in spite of that… and therefore understand I’m not perfect, and still love me in spite of that; someone… who understands, and accepts, that I’m not perfect, but I still love myself, in spite of that.
Now, I’m at this point of the path… where I still don’t know whether “my steps will take me” to loving myself “enough”, indeed; but, guess what… I don’t care - because I have come to understand that “enough” is… like THE END.
So, I’m at the point where I’m actually having the most fun, by finally heeding that initial advice… in MY evolving way:
Yes, I’m having a blast, now that I know I’ll never love myself “enough”… and that I’m truly and gratefully…”learning to love myself more”!
-- © 2007 Alexandra* ~ OneLight*® - (Image © by Aleksiun J.)
(*) Quoting “Black Chant”, by Portuguese poet José Régio.