a lot of something about a little self-love

 the look of love. essaouira, morocco. 2012

the look of love. essaouira, morocco. 2012

so many of us sing the hell out of the gospel of self-love. professing that we love ourselves to every and anyone who will listen. on social media. to our friends over happy hour cocktails. after that traumatic breakup. when buying ourselves something ridiculous... i could go on. but i'll stop here and spare you the details of all the ways we say it... but fall short of actually doing it.

i can admit that i sang in that choir for a number of years. even had the solo spotlight for a minute. but at the end of the day, no matter how many times i said that i loved myself, my actions screamed something completely different. i can only say this now, with 20/20 hindsight, because i recently made the decision to do it. and by it, i mean love myself. completely and wholly.

it's quite clear that i didn't love myself before, despite my social media campaign that said otherwise... because a person who is in love with their self ain't looking on facebook for approval or acceptance. friends, family, lovers, no matter who we're talking about, a person who loves their self has no expectation of love from anyone. there's no inquiry into whether any of the aforementioned people do or don't love. it doesn't matter. because people who love themselves, love themselves. for reals. without need for affirmation or validation from any other soul.

i'll be the first to tell you how i was looking for love in all those places. mmm hmm, the wrong ones. for a like. a comment. a phone call. a fucking smoke signal... any indication that someone, anyone out there cared. so when folks didn't respond to my desperate pleas, it was like my whole world had fell apart. "oh come on! whachu mean, you don't like my post?" or "why don't you love me as much as i profess to love myself!?"

it was in that last question where the answers to all of my love life's (or lack thereof) issues lay... i can only receive love from others to the extent that i have it for myself. so even if people are loving me at 100%, i can only receive 25, if that's where my level of self-love is. or should i say, was. life had to bitch-slap my remedial ass to make me realize that everything i'd been seeking, could only come from within. a few cheek burning encounters with folks from whom i'd sought love, made me realize that i had to do something different...

and so i sat with all of my feelings about love. about like. about me. i asked myself what it meant to truly love me, yet had no answer. how the fuck could i expect someone else to love me, if i didn't even know what or how to do it? which led me to explore memories of loving experiences i'd had with others. like on a buffet, i went through the courses of my life and picked the things that felt like love (like being carried over a river bed when my bare feet were too tender to take on little pebbles). and let those things serve as mini-blueprints.

then i asked myself the toughest question of all... am i doing those things for me? do i tell myself the truth about the situations i find myself in? do i truly put myself first? do i become too lazy to do nice things for me that i'd do without hesitation for someone i 'love'? do i encourage, support, and believe in myself? do i give myself positive pep talks when i'm down in the dumps? do i love myself? and well, as much as it pained me to answer truthfully: hell, no i didn't.

 image: allgracegrows

image: allgracegrows

i treated myself like trash. hell, even trash sometimes got a better deal. i frequently put myself down. i'd let others do the same. i bit my tongue when i should have spoken up. i befriended people who treated me poorly - even sought them. i didn't like myself. let alone even think about loving me! i'd not felt love for much of my life. i didn't think i deserved it, or as one of my exes so humiliatingly screamed during one of our many heated battles  - that i wasn't worthy of it. and as much as the side of myself i reserved for the public said otherwise, somewhere inside, i believed him. (i said ex. i know.)

the only thing i could do after making such a harsh realization, was to learn to love myself. all the imperfections. all the scars. all the bad decisions. everything. i decided to do for me what i was asking so many others to do. whenever i felt myself longing for outside approval or acceptance, i gave it to myself. if i felt myself demanding that someone do or be something for me, i chose to do or be for myself. everything became about me giving to and receiving from me.

which brings me to that fine man i'd told to fuck off... actually, while writing the article, it occurred to me that maybe i was a bit harsh with him. that maybe it was my fear and my inability to receive more than sex that made me push him away. that maybe he did show up with more than penis, but it was me who'd focused merely on his appendage offerings, than his soul. that maybe it was my lack of self-love rearing its ugly head, wanting so badly to connect with another being. but so afraid of being unlovable, that i pushed any chance of connection away.

luckily, i reached out to him. weeks after i'd cut off contact and in the midst of soul scrubbing self-love sessions. i apologized for my behavior. i admitted my emotional blocks. i asked that we continue getting to know each other... and you know what? he forgave me. without hesitation. without seeking retribution. without mention of the past. he even apologized if his prior behavior contributed in any manner to how i felt... i know right? and even though he's responded as he has, i am still taking responsibility for my needs. still going inside for all the love i can handle outside. still learning to love me... it's quite the process. and i am worth it.