So, any of you who know me even just a tiddle know how incredibly much I like the film “Rocketman”. I think I’ve watched it at least 20 times, because the music, and the inspiration of the story is just so damn good. My favorite song is the final one called “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” by Bernie Taupin, and here are my fave lyrics from it:
Singing, I’m gonna love me again
Check in on my very best friend
Find the wind to fill my sails
Rise above the broken rails
Unbound by any ties that break or bend
I’m free, and don’t you know?
No clown to claim he used to know me then
I’m free, and don’t you know?
And oh-oh-oh, I’m gonna love me again.
Here’s why I was thinking about these words today: one of my sweetie students wrote me and asked me how you go about loving yourself. She said she has always heard you can’t love others unless you love yourself which is something she struggles with, and she was scared she’d never be in a relationship because of that. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about loving yourself. How can you learn to do it, and why isn’t that love already there? Also, is it really true you can’t love anyone else if you don’t love yourself.
I don’t know about you, but my love for myself fluctuates…it waxes and wanes based on what’s happening in my life. I think it’s much more fragile than the love I have for others. Much more conditional based on my standards. Much more unforgiving based on my ideas. I wonder why that is? Why it’s such a challenge to love ourselves as openly and non-judgmentally as we do others? Why is it I can quickly forgive another person and my love never wavers, but I just as quickly berate myself and lose self-love in the same situation?
Maybe some of it, or all of it, has to do with being bipolar. I’m a ruminator. An overly sensitive person. An empath. But the last 2 of these wonderful qualities (🙄) seem to only be for others.
I can hate myself so easily. Years and years ago, I had a mutt named Scooter and he was 15 when I had to put him down. For a few weeks prior to that, his kidneys were failing, he was deaf and going blind, and he had cancer. Because of all of this, he had a lot of difficulty with bladder control and he was quick to snap at me since he couldn’t hear or see me approach before I touched him. I had to crate him when I was gone and it was a horrible and stressful time. One day, out of frustration, I got angry (and I’m not going to tell you specifically what I did…it wasn’t terrible but still wasn’t right) and scolded him too harshly. It’s literally been 17 years since that time, and I still haven’t forgiven myself for it. Seventeen years. If someone else had done it, I would have forgiven them in a heartbeat. Understood the frustration, the stress, the fear. But not me. After little Scooter was gone, I went over it and over it in my head and truly hated myself for making those couple seconds in his life crummy.
I can think of so many other things I’ve done in my life that I’ve hated myself for, that I would have accepted in others with no loss of love at all. I’m the first person to say that love isn’t a ‘switch’, if it can be turned on and turned off easily (meaning I love you today, but don’t tomorrow) then that’s not love. Love is supposed to sustain us through the bad times, not suddenly go away. It’s supposed to grow during the ‘worse’ while celebrating the ‘better’. If it doesn’t…if it disappears when there’s a bump in the road…how can that have actually been love?
So, is it really love I have for myself if I do turn it on and off based on my behavior? My words? Even my thoughts? I don’t think so. When I’m in bad situations, that ‘love’ leaves me at a time I need it the most. When J cheated on me, I continued to love him. But I started to hate myself. What was in ME that compelled him to cheat (I know this thinking is wrong NOW, but that’s what was going on inside my head at the time)? Was I a bad person? Ugly person? When Hubby 3 left, I hated myself. I would spend hours doing ‘reruns’ in my mind about fights we had and issues we should have worked on, and I criticized myself harshly and was convinced it was my fault he walked out the door (which I have since painted and it looks awesome).
It’s sad to me how hard we are on ourselves. My sis is the curvy one in our family and I think she is beautiful…I truly do. But, she’s so hard on herself when she gains a pound or two. I guess I’m the same way too though. We tell other women that no matter what, they have a unique beauty all their own and they are special just the way they are. Then we look in our own mirrors, and catalog our flaws one by one and say things like “Oh Lord, I hate the way I look” or “Dammit…if I didn’t have these thighs I’d love myself so much more.”
So, if I’m hating on myself or at least not totally loving myself, can I not love others? See, you may disagree, but I believe you can. No matter how I’m feeling about myself, I still love others. When I was married to Hubby 2 (keep up…I know how hard it is to remember all of these) I had periods of depression and didn’t like myself as a result of what I couldn’t do. Hubby also disliked it when I would say how awful I felt…how down…how helpless I was. It was hard for him to understand the organic basis of depression and in his family, when you aren’t feeling ‘right’, you hear “Get to work…it’ll help!” or “Ignore it…it’ll go away!” But through it all, I loved him. Very much. How I feel about myself might affect my interactions, but I never stop loving. Ever.
Maybe talking about having to completely love ourselves is unrealistic. Maybe it’s simply that we should be more LOVING towards ourselves. Maybe the key is forgiving ourselves like we forgive others. Letting go of things and consciously catching ourselves when ruminating on them. Allowing ourselves to make mistakes, with the understanding this is something everyone else does as well. Talking kindly to ourselves. Looking at our bodies and saying, “Yes…I have a belly, and thank the Lord I do. It carried my baby boy!” Accepting our mental illnesses that cause so many of us to feel shame, self-doubt, less self-worth, more guilt, and feeling we are less than because of them.
In other words, being as loving to ourselves as we are to others; I guess I’m just not there yet. But I’m thinking that might be OK because I see this as a process. A day by day challenge. And no matter how ‘loving’ I feel towards myself at any particular time, I still accept me for who I am. Someone who tries their hardest, does her best to make the world around her just a little bit better, and can’t help but to see only the positive in people.
So, Bernie…I love what you wrote, and I’m working on what you ask. I’m gonna love myself again. And again and again and again. But just understand, it’s a lot harder than we might think.