Self-love sounds like something dirty or new agey. In college, my roommate befriended a 25-year old theatre major who had a YOU ARE SPECIAL sign taped to the inside of his car’s sun visor. We saw it one day when he drove us to the health food store for a terrible meal of split peas on brown rice. Self-love sounds like that.
But self-love isn’t something bad, and I’m starting to realize there’s something wrong with me for possibly not having enough. Lately I’ve heard too many people say “don’t be so hard on yourself” when I report something that just feels like fact. My husband has mentioned more than once “it must be really hard to be you” when I’m berating myself over gaining a pound or not running fast enough. That’s just what I say out loud…thankfully he doesn’t hear my internal dialogue.
Let me be clear that I rarely call myself an idiot and I don’t think I’m a failure. I don’t think I suffer from low self-esteem so much as a scathing case of realism. I know my flaws painfully well, but I also know what I’m good at. I’m wonderful at untangling earbuds, for instance. I have to be because I’m forever throwing them in the gym bag because I’m lazy. See? It’s like that. The good with the bad. It’s honest, I swear.
This type of self-honesty, though, might be self-defeating, and I’m starting to see that. Maybe I don’t hurt my own feelings when I’m being self-deprecating, but I am certainly concerned about what others think of me. Why is it okay for me to call myself lazy but the mere suggestion from someone I love would hurt something terrible? Is it possible I am deflecting, beating someone else to the punch just to avoid real work on my flaws?
I’ve always been good at forgiving myself, which is another reason I thought my self-esteem was healthy. But what about proactive forgiveness in the way of asking for help and not settling for something that isn’t good for me? Forgiving myself after the fact is less of an issue anyway because it’s much easier to make better decisions sober. I have more time and energy for self-improvement. Fortunately or unfortunately, I also notice every time I slip up.
All of this gets easier, I’m sure. If I look back on the last year, the changes in my life have been pretty incredible. I still slip up regularly and eat junk or waste my time or talk trash about others. I do not use this as an excuse to give up and continue backsliding. I do try harder to do the right thing the next time. (most of the time.) This is something I don’t recall doing before. It’s the subtle shift from negative, realistic thinking to positive, realistic thinking.
Sometimes when I think of all the changes that happened in the year since I stopped drinking, I am blown away. Grateful is such a small word, but the only one that comes to mind.