Do you love enough?
This week in my office, I noticed a book tucked away that I hadn’t seen in some while. In fact, I don’t know where this book came from and it doesn’t have my name written in it like all my others. How it found its way to me the first time is as much a mystery as this time. It was half-way down a stack of others that could have called my name instead. But no, this was the book I brought home.
When I Loved Myself Enough (1996), written by Kim McMillen and her daughter Alison, is a lovely little book one might open to a random page and read what awaits. There isn’t any story or linear fashion to this treasure trove of simplicity and profundity, but each page draws us in more deeply.
This evening from 6 to 8 p.m. (CST), I’ll be part of a panel discussion entitled “Self-Care in the New Year,” hosted by The Repertory Theatre of St Louis. The Rep has swiftly accommodated our safer-at-home situation and found a way to bring community conversations online to you. You are invited to join, just click on the Facebook or YouTube links to stream for free; no registration is needed. You can click HERE to read more about the event. I’m mentioning this here because in my reflection of “What is good self-care?” I found myself considering if we love ourselves enough.
Let’s face it, we probably all have a good idea what self-care is and how to practice it. And yet we don’t do it, or at least not consistently. I’m curious about this – why don’t we? Do we think we can get by without doing it “this time”? Perhaps we think of ourselves as selfish for practicing self-care? Maybe we think we’re strong enough we don’t need it? Some of us probably see ourselves at the bottom of a long list of demands and can never really get them all done – especially in the past year!
Whatever the reasons we tell ourselves for not practicing self-care, I suggest at least one element of it might be that we don’t really care about and love ourselves enough. We don’t value ourselves, we don’t see our own brilliance, our unique gifts in the world; we take for granted that we’ll be able to keep pushing no matter what happens – we don’t tend to treat ourselves the way we do others we love.
Be fully present – for pain, confidence and love
I just opened the book to a random page, and this is what it reads, “When I loved myself enough – I could allow my heart to burst wide open and take in the pain of the world” (p. 46). Wow – that’s right to the point! Maybe some of you are wondering what loving yourself has to do with feeling pain? This speaks to being fully present, standing in the truth that exists, feeling our humanity no matter how painful; and conversely, not pretending otherwise. Not adding a sterilizing coating to our world, leaving us feeling disconnected and inauthentic.
Another page reads, “When I loved myself enough – I quit trying to impress my brother” (p.61). I’ll take license here to suggest this “brother” is not only our familial siblings but all those surrounding us. How deeply must we love ourselves to stop making a show for someone else’s benefit? This is true confidence and integrity. The wisdom of this book is worth a read from time to time: These pages carry nuggets to ponder or contemplate for weeks on end.
For me, this book points toward an important question: Can we love ourselves enough to practice self-care? And if not, what is interfering with our self-love? If the obstacle is something from the past that we’ve done or has been done to us, can we leave it in the past and love in the present? If the interference is coming from feedback we receive in our life from others, do we understand the information is another’s opinion and may not actually be an accurate description? Finally, if we can’t love ourselves because we’ve not yet reached a certain milestone (fill in the blank here, “when I lose __ pounds,” “when I finish this job,” “when I get the kids back to school”) which by the way can never fully happen; can we leap into a bit of self-love now even though we’re not perfect?
I invite you to ponder if you truly, deeply love yourself and if you are caring for yourself in a manner similar to how you love others? Be kind as you investigate and if you are interested in joining the conversation tonight, I’d enjoy seeing some of you as we discuss ideas and tips about our self-care.
Dr. Gwin Stewart founded the St. Louis Wellness Center in 2007. Read more about her HERE.