Monday, June 22, 2015

Self-Affirmation and Healthy Self-Love


I'm a very loyal person.  I don't trash-talk my friends behind their back.  If we are friends, I consider us to be friends, no matter how long it's been since the last interaction.  I feel a strong sense of duty when I think of those I love.


While I have to be diligent to keep this in check, I am a hard worker.  I'm an overachiever.  If I say I'll do something, my word is good.  I'd rather not let you down.  (I'll pick myself to let-down before anyone else...working on that too).  But, if there's someone you need to get the job done, it's me.  That is, if I'm committed to a cause.  The choice of whether or not to commit to something is where I have to be careful, because if I'm all in, I'm all in.


I like to think I'm aware and sensitive of other's needs.  One thing I strive to do is to respect all.  I am not the most expressively emotional person (INTJ on the Meyers-Briggs system), and yet I'm sensitive to how others feel.  I may not be able to connect with you emotionally, but I hope that I treat all with respect, so as not to cause distress.  I think I'm able to tell how others take comments, so I am careful to convey them in a way that is most helpful (I think, I hope).  This mostly applies to work, where I gauge how another person might react, and I hope to communicate in the most effective way, especially when delivering correction or criticism.

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Part of healing from my childhood is learning a healthy self-love.  It's very difficult and ongoing.  What might seem normal to others is a challenge to me.  I feel selfish when I take care of my basic needs (sleep, eating).  I have a hard time with boundaries, as in - I tend to do everything to the max, over-commit, and feel guilty when I can't "do it all."  All of my siblings also struggle with this.  I worked 2 jobs for 7 days a week for almost a decade.  I was a double major undergrad and graduate student.  I lived life at 110% for so long that I'm recovering from my 20's in my 30's...not that I didn't enjoy some of it, but there was so much pressure to be all things to all people.  I'm over it.  My husband is good about encouraging me to take care of myself.  He doesn't judge when I spend all of Saturday in my bathrobe, reading a book, watching movies, resting, napping, literally doing nothing.  He encourages me to listen to my podcasts, read my self-help stuff, or indulge in what feeds my soul.  It's me who still judges this behavior, but I try to do it anyway.  

Anne Lamott has a suggestion that you think of yourself in the third person when considering obligations, rest, etc. "Anne Lamott is resting today,"  or "Anne Lamott can't come to the phone."  Gretchen Rubin talks about treating yourself like a cranky toddler - sleeping and eating are top priorities.  Others have said you should treat yourself like an Olympic athlete.  Would you advise an Olympian to stay up late, drink too much, not exercise enough, etc.?  No?  Well, then don't allow yourself to do those things either.  Mother Teresa's daily routine shows plenty of time for prayer, rest, and taking care of the poor.  I heard Leila Lawler on the Fountains of Carrots podcast talking about how our strengths are our weaknesses, and our weaknesses are our strengths - there aren't two separate columns.  I like that.  It's the idea of the fatal flaw or the Achilles' heel.  Your strengths can get out of balance and become a weakness.  With awareness, your weakness can become a strength.  

When it comes to self-love, there is narcissism, there is the phony pride of self-loathing, there is the false security in self-esteem.  And, then, there is a healthy self-love, knowing you are beloved of God.  Knowing you have particular strengths and weaknesses.  Taking the whole picture, and putting it into perspective.

All of these examples show that balance, self-care, and a healthy sense of self-love (not really the same thing as self-esteem) are needed.  I came from such an extreme opposite of perfection-based love that I have to be really careful about this, and I'm still learning.  Even when I participate in self-care and self-love, I still feel really guilty for doing it.  I'm hoping someday to be able to love and take care of myself without the mean voices in my head screaming judgment at me.  I'm hoping to see self-care as a way to reach my goals, rather than my goals as a way to destroy my health and sanity.  

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