The Time I Stopped Loving Myself
There was a time I loved myself. There was a time I just lived being whomever I wanted to be. And I could be anything. There was a time when words couldn’t stop me, and life was full of possibilities.
And then time stopped.
Summer. Summer is here, and my two boys and I are exploring and enjoying the long days together. I watch as they are superheroes and ninjas. They play tag, climb trees and hit a ball with a pool noodle (We call it noodle-ball. We plan to trademark it.) I smile as other kids – kids they have never met – become ninjas with them and join the game of tag. These kids are free – unhindered. They love themselves.
I watch the movie Paddington 2 with my sons on a particularly hot afternoon. In the movie, the teenage son loves steam engines, but he hides it because it’s “not cool”. A few hours later, my oldest son, who is nine, asks: “Mommy, when do things stop being cool?”
That’s a good question. When DO things stop being cool? Exactly when and how does an unknown metric determine that something is cool or not cool? And why do we allow a small handful of people to determine this?
“Well”, I say, “It happens when we’re teenagers. I don’t exactly know, but somehow things just aren’t cool, and everyone tries to fit in by only doing the cool things.” Everyone tries to fit in.
“Strange”, he says. “I won’t do that. I really like my Legos and I will just keep building.” Yes! I think.
But the question sits with me – When does being ourselves become uncool? The problem with not being ourselves is that we stop loving ourselves. And when we stop loving ourselves, we start to shame ourselves. Thoughts of “you’re not good enough” or “you’re not worthy of happiness” begin to take root.
We start to apologize for being. We say I’m sorry for not playing sports; I’m sorry for being good at math; I’m sorry for having big hips; I’m sorry for being tall; I’m sorry for liking dinosaurs; I’m sorry for not following Instagram; I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. The list goes on and on and one day, we look in the mirror and wonder where we’ve gone.
We look in the mirror and find our true selves buried under an extra 40 pounds. We find ourselves having aches and pains we never felt before in places we never knew we had. We pushed our true selves deep inside, yet still carried her or him around. Of course we have extra weight and pains – we are living as two people!
Yet change is possible. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist Zen Master and scholar writes that our mind has two consciousness areas: stored conscience and mind conscience. In the stored conscience we are born with seeds of both affliction and mindfulness. Those seeds grow, and our mind conscience gives attention to the biggest flowers, creating a belief.
The biggest plants are the ones you water! Are you watering the seeds of affliction (doubt, judgement, hate, sorrow, fear) or are you watering the seeds of mindfulness (compassion, joy, confidence, and hope)? Your internal dialogue is irrigation for these seeds. What are you saying to yourself right now? What will you say throughout the day?
As a child, you naturally watered joy and confidence: “mommy, look what I can do!”
As a teen, you watered doubt and fear: “mom, no one will like me if I do that!”
As a young adult, you watered judgement and sorrow: “mom, I’m broken-hearted. I’ll never find love.”
As an adult, what are you watering? Love. Love is what I’m watering. Love for myself and for others. Love and compassion with the world (as it fiercely needs it!).
There was a time when I loved myself…and that time is now!