We all know how the saying goes. “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” In a lot of ways, I’ve lived that saying almost too well. Telling a perfectionist with trust issues something like this will result in an exhausted, drained wreck. AKA: me, most of my life. However, there is one area of my life where I constantly struggle to apply this. Ironically, it’s possibly the most appropriate area of one’s life to live by this proverb: love & self-appreciation.
At session relatively recently (as in, within the past 2 months-ish), in working through a few things, my therapist reminded me multiple times in the same session, that I can only receive love, and the sensation of being special and treasured, to the same degree that I love and treasure myself, and she used an analogy to describe it. Since I can’t use the hand gestures, etc, that she did in session (because, well, it doesn’t translate that well), I’ll expand into a more visual analogy. Imagine, say, a half gallon pitcher. If I only love myself, say, 16 oz worth, I’ve inadvertently set a barrier in the pitcher that blocks all but the top 16 oz of space. So, even if my husband, family, friends, etc pour gallons of love into my pitcher, only 16 oz worth will find a home. I might feel loved, but it doesn’t last, and there’s still an empty feeling, because I can’t take in everything I need. I haven’t moved that barrier down, and only I can do that.
So, I have homework. When you’re actively healing and in a therapeutic process, it seems like there is always homework. My homework has ranged from thought records to writing anger letters to letting myself feel my feelings to being kinder to myself and not as unforgiving of my own mistakes. My main homework right now, though? Loving myself. My therapist has asked me to pay more attention to when I start feeling drawn to some of my more maladaptive daydreams, and other symptoms of acting out of a need to feel more loved/treasured (even if that need is a subconscious one, since I often struggle to be in touch with my own emotional state). I’m working on taking a moment and treating myself the way I would if my son were acting out in an obvious need for help in co-regulating his big feelings. She suggested at a minimum to take a second, step away, and acknowledge that I can see my own need for feeling loved and treasured. If it’s a good time then and there, I am also working on figuring out what, exactly, I’m needing from myself to feel more loved, more important, more treasured, and then doing something to help fill that need. If it isn’t (like, I’m in the middle of a meeting at work), I can at least acknowledge that I see the need and will come back to it, and then follow through on going back to it.
It’s easy to see a need and then let it fall off the radar when things get busy. It’s easy to say that I love myself. But acting on it, coming back to my own needs so I can be strong, stable, and ready to love and help support others? That’s a hell of a lot harder. And that’s my homework.
Growing up in Catholic school, I definitely learned about the 2 greatest commandments (Mt 22:36-39). I think the harder one is the second: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” One thing I’ve come to realize about this is that, really, there are 2 commandments rolled into this. If you are to love your neighbor/love others as yourself, don’t you first need to love yourself?
I guess you’re never too old for homework, and never too old to learn new things, even about yourself.
Do you struggle with loving or treasuring yourself?