January 3, 2009

Resolving to "Love Thyself"

I'm not sure I love this photograph of me yet, depicting new haircut and distorting eyeglasses.

Which brings me to our topic du jour, resolving to love oneself...which to me seems a pointless endeavor.

I used to be one of those people who resolved every year to change myself...always failed...and always ended up beating myself even more. In other words, I wasn't merely fat, broke, single, squinty-eyed, etc.; I was also a hopeless failure at keeping my word!

I was using New Year's resolutions as a motivator. It looked something like this: "Change, and then you can have the life you want. Only then, after you have changed, do you have permission to love yourself." Today, it seems silly to wait for happiness and self-love until all my ducks are in a row. Now that the pressure is off, I notice I'm pretty happy most of the time, whatever is happening.

It's very easy to say "love thyself," and not so easy to put it into practice. I've come to see that I can't force self-love any more than I can stick to a resolution to change myself. Try making yourself love what you don't love! "Oh, what beautiful thunder-thighs!" "I accept and love my learning disability." "Hello, unemployment, I love you!" It doesn't work; affirmations never fooled anyone in their unquestioned, "I know" mind.

What I can do, and what I have done for many years, is question the beliefs that stand between me and self-love. "I don't have a husband; it must mean I'm not lovable or attractive." "I haven't progressed in my career as much as So-and-So has." "I'm too old to start a new career." "My body is too flabby." "I need to make more money." "I should be further along in life than I am." "I don't deserve happiness." "Everything I touch turns to mud." "I'm not good enough." "I should have been more careful."

When you hold self-hating thoughts up to the light of inquiry—that is, when you question the validity of what you are thinking, examine how you live your life out of these beliefs, notice how you would feel if you didn't think these thoughts and see if their opposites are as true or truer—you call the punishing mind's bluff. Eventually, you don't have to resolve to love yourself; you just do.

©2009 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

Someone I am interested in told me that she loved me. and wham. I should tell her I love her. I should know if I love her.
so I had been feeling very codependent for several days and hating it. And I had been doing the work on it (quite a bit this one day) and wasn't really seeing it as I thought I should see it. But later in the evening I was reading from Who Would You Be Without Your Story and the whole sense of failure about being codependant turned around. It was the damndest thing. My success was being codependant. Most counter-intuitive thing I think that has ever happened to me, but possibly one of the most freeing.

Anonymous said...

Nice article Carol, I like it.

Rings true for me - in fact, I find the work almost encourages an opposite approach to trying to self-love - turn the volume up on the self and other-judgements, get pettier, nastier, really scrape the barrel - and inquire.

I'm reminded of cleaning out my father's rainwater collecting barrel last year - it was covered in algae and at the bottom was thick sludge - if we'd stopped before the bottom, that would have been OK, and it would have had plenty of stuff for the algae to feed and build on again much quicker again.