I didn’t know how to love myself until I was in my late 20’s. If you had asked me before then if I loved myself, I wouldn’t have really understood what you meant. My answer would have been something like, “Well yah, I have days when I think I’m pretty cool, but there are a lot of things about me I would change. My stomach isn’t flat. I think my life would be easier if I was more outgoing and less introverted. Ugh. I’m so awkward at times. I hate how when I’m overwhelmed my first instinct is to wrap myself in a blanket and crawl into bed instead of actually doing something. I just seem to screw myself over.”
No one loves those things. Right? How could you LOVE those things? I mean I guess there are sort of passable. I could put up with them, but LOVE them? No. That would be… it would be saying that they are okay when they aren’t. It would be saying that I should be that way when I shouldn’t. It would be saying that it’s okay to stay that way when it’s not.
That’s how I used to think, but none of it was true.
I remember the first time I felt the love that makes it possible to love these things. The sort of love that makes these “flaws” that we have not really flaws at all. The sort of love that makes us feel whole and free and like we can do anything. The love that helps us see how these “flaws” are just a sign that we aren’t giving ourselves something that we need.
I always thought I’d find that sort of love in a romantic relationship. The kind of Disney fairy tale princess where the love of a prince wakes you up from a deep sleep and you’re suddenly the person you always knew you would be. But the first time I felt like this was with a close friend.
I was sitting with her on her couch, crying with Kleenex in hand, telling her about some awful behaviour I’d had around a breakup. This wasn’t exactly the first time I had been crying to her about a relationship. I felt shameful and embarrassed that this was happening yet again.
She just listened to me as I talked and cried. There was no judgement. She wasn’t trying to fix anything or give me advice. She didn’t try to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do. She just listened and saw me.
“What do you need?” she asked.
I didn't need to fix anything. I didn't need to fix myself. That love wasn’t dependent on how I looked, how successful I was, or how I handled (or didn’t handle) my emotions. It was just love – an unconditional acceptance.
Seeing me for exactly who I was without needing me to be different.
It’s the kind of love that changes everything, especially when we learn how to give that kind of love to ourselves.