Wednesday, January 29, 2014
What self-love isn't (I'm learning)
When my lovely friend Kylie Bellard gave me a gentle nudge to contribute a post to her wonderful Unencumbered Sharing Circle this week, I looked at her suggestions and decided to start with self-love. It's been a trying week for me, so what better to than to explore what self-love means when anxiety and self-loathing are reigning supreme?
What came up for me was the idea of unconditional self-acceptance. The type where I stand boldly and allow myself to be seen in all my flawed glory. Perhaps wearing some kind of teflon technicolour dreamcoat.
Self-love is being kind to myself, right? Self-love is not giving a shit what anyone else thinks of me or comparing myself to anyone else, ever.
Self-love is something to be worked towards. It is hard work, daily. It really should be scheduled. It seems to require meditation. And homemade almond milk. And an entrepreneurial yet ethical spirit, usually devoted to following one's passion.
It's a lifestyle choice. A destination. And, in my head at least, seems to be reserved for whimsically-dressed, flat-stomached, fabulously-coiffed gals with luminous skin and the instagram feed to prove it.
Self-love is certainly not being triggered by something as beautiful as the arrival of my exquisite baby niece into the world. It is not recalling the somewhat traumatic circumstances of my own daughter's birth, and playing those old stories of how stupid a new mum I was, on endless loop. It's not clinging to the story that I am an inadequate parent whose cluelessness continually impedes her chance to thrive.
Self-love is not crying because my baby is now no longer a baby and, in fact, is starting school tomorrow. Self-love does not cause one to panic because one has not ironed one's daughter's name into every single item of clothing that she owns. Self-love does not leave room to lament that time is passing too quickly and there is so much that feels lost.
Self-love is not giving myself crap for not realising earlier that this very same now almost-five year old daughter has pneumonia, despite her not having any symptoms other than a wet cough once or twice a day. Self-love isn't present when I panic myself senseless that her antibiotics are not working, that she's going to need another course, that they may make her feel unwell during her first week at school. Self-love would have some kind of definitive resolution on whether to even send her to school.
Self-love is not tossing and turning at 3am with a coughing fit, storming up and down the hallway, unable to find comfort with an eight months pregnant belly. Self-love does not tolerate not showering for more than two days, refusing to leave the house, wearing the same natty top and not brushing my teeth.
Self-love does not eschew well-meaning friends and family who call or email to check in. Self-love does not get defensive about anything, let alone suggestions that help might be required. Self-love does not find the idea of being offered support demanding.
As I said, when I received Kylie's gentle prompt, I was in the midst of marinating in all this. I could barely breathe, let alone stop crying. I didn't know how I'd face the day which included a visit to the doctor with my daughter, an appointment with my obstetrician, then meeting my new niece.
Did I mention we're in the midst of a heatwave here in Melbourne?
In the end, I did what I always tend to do in these situations. I sucked it up and got on with it, smiling with a heavy heart.
Then, as I plodded along from errand to errand, I realised that my definition of self-love... well... sucked. And did not speak of love in any way at all.
I saw that self-love is about seeing all these things happen and not trying to fix them, or the shame that comes from them. Self-love is knowing that these sorts of feelings happen and knowing why they happen and knowing that they suck. And just letting them pass through. And trusting that they will pass, even though it sure as hell does not feel like it at the time.
Self-love predicated on judgement, on outcomes, on comparisons, on shoulds is not self-love at all. But the trick is to love myself regardless of this sucky working definition.