“You can only love others as much as you love yourself.” – Brene Brown
When this sentence came out of Brene’s mouth while listening to her audio book “Daring Greatly” I hit the rewind button. Again. And again. And again. Since entering into counseling in September 2020 one of the themes that we keep circling back to over and over again is self love. I honestly had no idea what that phrase meant. To the point I asked my counselor “what do you mean when you tell me to practice self love”?
For me, at that point of my depression, it was stuff that should have been easy like eating and showering. For anyone who doesn’t struggle with depression you simply have no idea how hard those two things are in the middle of a really bad dip into the black hole of depression. For those of you who have been there – you know what I mean. Weeks upon weeks of just daily thinking about “did I eat today”, “what did I eat today”, “when was the last time whatever I did eat stay with me”, and “when was the last time you showered” ruled my life. Feed the dogs daily? No problem. Fuss at my kid to make sure she ate? Again, routine. Show even the smallest amount of kindness and mercy to myself? Not a chance.
As I sit now somewhere about six feet above the very bottom of the place I got to in my my mind (but by no means anywhere close to out of the black hole) in the last year I am thankful that showering has become routine. Food is still a daily thing but that has extenuating circumstances that coincide with my ongoing gut issues. Some days eating really is just not worth the trouble. Having gotten somewhere a mile up the road past those issues my brain circles again to “what is self love”? My counselor now talks about thinking about the 8 year old little girl inside me who has been through physical and emotional abuse and how I would have protected her if she was my child. The things I would have done for her to make her happy. Those are the things I am to be working on now. When I get all that figured out I’ll let ya know.
But I think the reason Brene’s statement echoed like a gunshot in my head is I have always given 1000% to those that I love. Or in my mind I did. That one sentence opened up the Pandora’s box in my mind…if I had been able to take care of myself all these years could I have done better? If I could have told myself “good job”, or “it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks if it makes you happy”, or any of those things that we should be telling ourselves when we are happy and whole…could I have done it better?
As I am in a season of my life where maturity and time on my hands has given me reflection it’s easy to armchair quarterback now. To cringe and go “geez I probably could have done that better”. Hell, it’s easy to see why others are judging and re-writing the past with no knowledge of what it was like in the moment. It’s also easy to see where those around me are struggling with loving themselves enough to be happy and whole. My “fixer” nature wants to jump in and share what I’m learning. On some occasions I do, but I recognize now that we each have to know ourselves and love ourselves enough to recognize the unhealthy cycles we are in and make the changes for ourselves. I’ve spent to much of my life TELLING people how to fix their lives instead of just leading by example.
I know I’m not done fixing myself. I also know I’ve always put myself last. Isn’t the best form of self-love now to keep working on ME the way I should have done all along? Will I be able to love those I love most better if I keep on with this journey I am on? The answer is a resounding “YES”. Since I have no desire for the second season of my life to be as pain filled and traumatic as the first season…I’m gonna figure out this self love thing. I’m gonna figure out how to tell the girl in the picture that she is worth something – if not to anyone else than to the creator who made her.