In the month of February we talk a lot about love. Lately I have been thinking about what it means to love ourselves and (the harder part) how to verbalize that. Why? Because I want my children to grow up without this struggle. I want to be able to teach them. Obviously, though, I need to be at least one step ahead when I guide them. So I spoke with my husband. Let it be known that Mr. Fantastic does not particularly enjoy philosophical or deep discussions. His main contribution to the discussion was this: “What do you think it means to love me? When you can answer that, then turn it around and make it about you.” 🙂 Isn’t he just fantastic? Short and to the point. Also? He is correct. After all, I am a person like him. If I can define what it means to love a person, the definition should still fit for myself.
I took his advice and sat down to write out what I think it means to really love someone. Now, some say that love is just a feeling. I disagree. Others believe love is a verb/action. I disagree there too. I believe love to be a feeling that is manifested in a myriad of ways. Here’s what I have so far.
Love is loyalty.
Love is work.
Love is difficult.
Love is looking back at all you’ve gone through and shouting for joy.
Love is staying.
Love is overcoming obstacles together.
Love is delighting in and seeking each other’s strengths.
Love is accepting and loving weaknesses.
Love is rejoicing in success.
Love is being a cheerleader.
Love is being a safe place.
Love is enduring.
Love is laughing.
Love is gentle.
Love is kind.
Love is empathy.
Love is respect.
Love is patience.
Love is listening.
Love is excitement.
Love is believing in each other.
Love is comfort.
Love is understanding.
Love is the drive to self-improvement.
Love is honest.
Love is forthright.
Love is peaceful.
Love is contentment.
Love is silent knowing.
Love is funny.
Love is trust.
Love is protecting each other.
And the list goes on.
As I reviewed that list, I realized that all of that can and should be applied to ourselves. But…how? Is there a specific way?
I can tell you what I have been doing. One of the hardest points in that list for me is loyalty.
LOVE IS LOYALTY
I have discovered that a lot of pain in my life has come because I have not been loyal to myself. Looking back, I can see that a great deal of the pain I have suffered has come because I betrayed myself. Crazy, right? But I bet you will see it in your life too. I have allowed people to treat me in ways that I didn’t want to be treated because I thought I had to let them. Even simple thing! Something as simple as hugging people when I didn’t want to hug them! They are moments of self-betrayal. If it were my child that didn’t want to hug someone, I wouldn’t force them. Nor would I feel right about forcing someone to hug me. Yet, repeatedly, I have told myself that I have to do it so others don’t feel bad. I was choosing others people over my own sense of well-being. The result? Every part of me was extremely uncomfortable and felt terribly unsafe…resulting in more contempt of hugs and touch. Am I less than everyone else on earth? No. So why treat myself differently? I shouldn’t. I have since stopped hugging people when I don’t want to do it. 🙂
Staying true to myself has meant doing some uncomfortable things. I have said “no” to social engagements because I knew they wouldn’t increase my happiness. As an introvert, the number of social engagements I can attend is limited. Very limited. Instead of feeling a sense of obligation to others, I have been constant in my commitment to myself. It has been uncomfortable to say no sometimes, especially when it is something I am interested in doing. Yet, I am extremely happy now. I feel so much less stress. Another struggle has been to immediately speak up for myself when the situation calls for it. While I like to sing Mr. Fantastic’s praises, he isn’t perfect. One thing he sometimes does is get carried away with teasing that ends up being hurtful to me. Instead of biting my tongue and letting him carry on with whatever, I speak up. I let him know that I don’t appreciate whatever it was. You might laugh or shake your head at this, but I’m telling you…it was a problem! I used to always tell myself that I needed to learn to take a joke. However, I have never been the sort of person who lets others be hurt by teasing. So, why myself? It makes no sense. It shouldn’t be that way.
LOVE IS WORK
Another fabulous way to love you is to be willing to work on the hard stuff. Think about it. In any relationship worthwhile, we commit to tough stuff. Marriage? Well that’s no cakewalk. Parenting? Pardon me while I weep in a corner over these struggles.😒 Lasting friendships? I know mine are not the only ones with differences of opinions. My point is, that we always are willing to do the work for those we love. We’re willing to learn how to improve our relationships. We’re willing to tackle the horrifying issues. We don our work boots, gloves, and hard hats and dive into the troubles. Because, by hell, it’s worth it! We’re going to work it out! So…what about ourselves? Isn’t it a testament of self-love to be willing to do the work? Won’t we feel the increase of love for ourselves after we have worked through something? Maybe we need to work on forgiving others. Do the work! Maybe we could work on our patience for others (and ourselves, incidentally). Do the work! Maybe we could work on our deep-rooted feelings of mistrust, or worthlessness, or anxiety. Do the work! We can and should love ourselves enough to commit to working on the hard things. And in the interest of full-disclosure let me say that I have recently committed to working on patience. Like, for real. Also? It totally sucks. HAHAHA! That patience muscle in me is WEAK! I almost want to weep from the agony! But I am doing this…because I am worth it…and I HOPE that patience is too. 😉
LOVE IS GENTLE
How about being gentle with you? That’s huge. Talk about loving yourself. Being gentle with yourself will definitely increase your love and appreciation for you. I know this is true for one reason. When I am gentle with others that I love, my love grows and so does theirs.
LOVE IS LAUGHING
Oh! And what about laughing? Laughing with others always strengthens our connection! Who says you can’t laugh with yourself? For the record, I am actually solid on this one. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who loves their humor as much as I love mine. HAHA! I’m terribly funny.😂😂I’m also super fun. Ask anyone. 😉
Maybe you can make your own list of what it means to love someone. Then work off that list. One of my favorite scriptures is “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matt 22:39). Jesus didn’t say to love your neighbor more than yourself. He didn’t say to love yourself a little more than your neighbor. “As thyself” are the words. I would encourage you to ask yourself if there is an area that you could improve upon in loving yourself. And let me know!
Take It, and Be Thankful
P.S. I almost forgot to tell you all! My awesome friend, Katie, has a blog that I love. And she specifically talked about this topic the other day! I promise, you will receive so much insight and inspiration after reading what she writes. She’s just lovely. 🙂