the adventures of a girl, her dog, and two cats.

Monday, June 30, 2014

love thy self

For the past six months I've been running faithfully and tracking every morsel of food I consume via My Fitness Pal. I stopped drinking diet soda, which I think has been a huge improvement both for losing weight and reducing health risks. I haven't been one to drink sugared soda for years. I had hoped to be down 25 pounds at this point but 19 is a great accomplishment and my goal is within sight. While I wish I had the cash to buy a couple new bikinis I covet from Carve Designs for my birthday, the best gift I can give myself is to keep taking better care of myself, not settle, and be the lioness, not the gazelle. But those bikinis will be a belated birthday gift to myself once I have the spare cash. Even lionesses have to stay cool in the heat.

Not long ago a reader commented on my post april showers: "Wow. Your 2nd to last paragraph got me. It sounds so simple, but to me, is so complicated. But how does one change to loving themselves if they haven't been? How do I fix this problem? You don't know me well...but I have learned recently that I don't know me well either. How does one (me) build up self value and self confidence? That's what you need to blog about or write about or something." 

I confess I make it sound easier than it is. I spent far too much of my life with guys who were addicts. It took a long time for me to realize that they could never truly love me because they didn't even love themselves, only the object of their addiction. But then I had to face the harder truth that if I truly loved myself I wouldn't have been with men like that. I wanted to feel needed and birds with broken wings need someone to nurse them. So while I am (I think rightly) critical of those addicts taking advantage of my giving nature, I was co-dependent; on some level I wanted to be with guys who needed me to "fix" them. That's been the case even if they weren't addicts...I somehow always pick the sad-puppy-at-the-pound guy, the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree of guys, ones I feel sorry for or think no one else will repair. That is a tendency I still have to consciously battle, but at least now I can see it and realize that I deserve so much better than what I settled for in the past. No more fixer-uppers! That doesn't mean they'll be perfect, none of us are. I'm just not fixing any more broken wings.

How did I learn to love myself? Honestly, I'm not sure. I starting running and somewhere along the trail I realized that I was strong, and beautiful, and smart, and deserved so much more in life and love than I had ever demanded. I decided to stop carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders and just take care of me. (Well, and my pets). Distance running is, as the joke goes, a mental sport (and we are all insane). Once your legs are trained to do it, getting to the finish is all about being right with it in your head. And that means believing in yourself even when you are more tired, thirsty, hungry, and in pain than you could've imagined. It's that deep belief in yourself that gets you there. So, maybe I learned to love myself through running, but, obviously, not everyone is a runner. I think it takes finding something that you do just for yourself. Many days I head out on a run and I'm tired, it's hot and humid, I just don't "feel" it. I say to myself, "maybe I'll just run four instead of six today." Then I stop myself, and either way I do tell myself this every time I run, usually several times during my run: "This is the single most important thing you will do today." And it is the single most important thing I do any day I run because it is putting myself first, taking care of myself, body, mind, and spirit. Only by truly valuing myself and that investment in myself can I be my best self for me and anyone else (e.g., my beloved pets or some floppy-haired sailor down the line).

There was a point, perhaps even before I began running, when I realized that I had given up everything that was me for my ex. I didn't get to listen to the music I liked anymore. I didn't get to sing anymore. I didn't get stay up all night on art projects. I had to get rid of my books and my art and my records and my oddball stuff. Every day was a challenge to find an outfit to hide my tattoos because I worked horrible jobs in boring offices full of self-impressed corporate robots. Somehow this scared but willful little hippy chick had been sanitized and dulled down and just became a zombie going through the motions of what purported to be life. I became an addict, too. Like many, many women these days I had a shopping problem. The magazines and television and movies really make it seem like that perfect pair of shoes, that perfect handbag, or that perfect eyeshadow will suddenly transform your miserable existence and make you fabulous. Now, I still like nice things. I kept a few nice things. But a sparkly doesn't make me sparkle. That comes from within. From realizing that, flaws and all, (and I have plenty), I'm actually pretty awesome.

I think we've all heard the old adage that someone who cuts others down is just insecure and small himself. Along the same lines, a long time ago someone told me that you can only give honest compliments when you are confident in yourself. I'm sure everyone knows someone who is always fishing for compliments, but never gives them out. I feel sorry for those people. The compliments they strong arm others into probably aren't genuine and will never salve the insecurity inside. Here's a little test: when you see someone wearing a great outfit do you think to yourself how you'd look better in it, or how much you want it? Or do you just blurt out "I dig your shoes." or "You look great in those shoes."? Acknowledging someone else's beauty or success doesn't make you less and doesn't make them more. It's honest and generous and that actually does make you a bigger person. It puts more happy in the world instead of more negativity. Someone told me my natural hair color looked great, but quickly went on about how much better it was than the dye job I had had. So the compliment was entirely undermined and then some by the passive-aggressive dig, which was the real point, to cut me down. Every day when we walk out the door we have the choice to put more happy in the world, or more bitterness. Despite the folks who don't say hello back or scowl at my cheerful dog, I choose to keep putting more happy in the world than anger or rudeness. When I see a girl with purple Birkenstocks I covet I don't sigh and wish they were mine. I tell her, "wow, those are awesome shoes!" Just give it a try. It doesn't hurt, I promise. And when someone gives you a compliment, don't feel awkward or obligated to compliment them back. Just graciously say thank you and smile.

So, yes, I think that loving oneself is absolutely necessary to being able to truly love another and be loved by another. If you don't see the value in yourself, why would or should anyone else? And why would you want to be with someone who doesn't treasure you? Although I twice did it for quite some time, I cannot understand staying with someone just because you know (or fear) they will be heartbroken without you. If you don't love them, you aren't doing them a favor by staying. You're actually robbing them of the chance to find their true love; and they are doing the same to you. We all deserve to be googly-eyed in love with the person we're with. Yes, love goes through its ups and downs, it changes and has challenges, but we shouldn't settle for less than googly-eyed love. Staying with someone out of obligation is especially damaging when there are children involved. Is that the lesson you want to teach your son or daughter? To pass up on their life and love out of some misguided sense of obligation fueled by guilt? That was the world fifty years ago; don't wish that on your child.

The heart wants what it wants. That I'm not attracted to someone or don't love him doesn't mean he's not a good person or that he's unworthy of love. But chemistry and passionate love are there or they aren't. I'm not responsible for anyone else's happiness. You can guilt someone into marrying you or staying with you, but you can't guilt them into actually loving you. If someone leaves you, don't take it quite so personally. They may deeply care about you, but you just aren't their true love. And that's OK. It's much better to be alone than with the wrong person. Scary, perhaps, but in the long run, much better.

I guess learning to love yourself is about embracing your identity and not trying to change it for anyone else. Your hobbies, passions, beliefs, and values are what they are. Trying to be a chameleon, changing politics, religion, hobbies, attire for another will ultimately leave you empty. You may not be "alone" but whoever you are with isn't really with you, because there isn't any real "you" to love at all. You can only find yourself inside yourself, not in another person, not in a religion. It's about having faith in yourself. When you have that, you won't need anyone else, and that is the most attractive quality you could have.


  1. Have not checked in a while and really enjoyed your post.. keep up the positive ;)

  2. I could read your writing all day. There is an honesty about it which clearly shows your confidence in self. I was the one who posted that comment before. I'm struggling through a really low point right now,..trying to find my find my self. I have been dismissing my own feelings for so long that I have become immune to them. I'm trying to resolve this, to increase my awareness, but it's a daily that I fear I am losing. Just when I think I make some ground, I realize I've gone backwards...I hurt someone by ignoring their feelings. I can't will myself into changing this and it's frustrating me to no end. Anyway, thank you for responding to my post. It made me smile when I saw you quote me. I like to run too, and I am going to make that the most important thing I do each day.


Thanks for reading! Have you had a similar experience you'd like to share? Have a link to an interesting blog fellow readers and I might enjoy? Just want to say hello? Post your comments below. I'm a smart, resourceful girl doing things her own way, so I just ask that folks keep the unsolicited advice to themselves.