Loving yourself is without question the most important and most courageous thing you can do – for yourself, for your children, for your relationships, for your work, for humanity, for the planet, for the world.
Loving yourself when things are going well is hard enough.
But the real challenge is loving yourself when things aren’t going well. When you’ve fucked up, or when you’re being criticized or when you’ve been fired or you’re broke or you don’t know what to do or you’re scared about the future.
We grow up in a culture where love withdrawal is normal. When you do something “bad” as a kid, your parents withheld their love as punishment. Even in adult relationships, it seems like love withdrawal is common – if the guy doesn’t buy her flowers or jewelries, there’s no sex for a week!
So of course we’ve learned to withhold love from ourselves when things go bad. And of course, that’s exactly the right time to pile on the love.
Nothing gets better when love is denied. Nothing.
The thinking seems to be that if we love something when it is not the way we want, we somehow condone it and will be stuck with it forever. But the opposite is true. Only love can melt away the patterns that keep things the way they are. Only by adding love can things start to change for the better. That goes for our children, and it goes for the child inside. When we withhold love from ourselves, we’re just perpetuating the crime.
But loving ourselves when things are tough can be very difficult. The programming is so deep. When I was growing up, it was very clear that love was a luxury that could only be afforded when everything was going well. When someone had fucked up or we were running late or money was tight or the future was uncertain or we were on a plane – love was a luxury we could not afford.
What I do is keep telling myself I love myself, even though it doesn’t feel true at the moment. Even better, look in a mirror and say it out loud. “Calvin, I love you. I really, really love you.” Feels odd as hell, because it feels like I’m lying. But little by little, something seems to seep in there. The more I can be in the present, right now, and trust the universe with the future, the easier it gets. The more I can be grateful for everything that I have in my life right now, the easier it gets.
“God didn’t go on vacation and leave you in charge.” I saw this written on my friend Mercedes’ blackboard in P-town about a month back, and it’s stuck with me. A lot of bad stuff happens when I stop trusting that there’s a higher power in charge and I instead think I have to micro-manage my life. That’s just the scared little child insider trying to play an adult. It’s not pretty, it feels awful, and it doesn’t work very well. When I look back, some of the greatest things in my life came unexpected. For example, I couldn’t have planned on meeting my soulmate when I did. But it happened, anyway.
Loving yourself when you feel lovable is easy. The hard part is to love yourself when you feel most unlovable.