I heard a story the other day that really made me think. A young child asked her mother who she loved more, the husband/father, or the children. The mother thought for a moment, and then answered, “Myself.”
As mothers, it’s hard for us to say that we love ourselves more than our partners or our children. We’ve been indoctrinated to believe that the best mothers — even the best people — are selfless. Mothers, especially, should be martyrs, willing to literally lay down their lives for their loved ones, most of all their children.
But what if we really did love ourselves more? What would that look like?
If I truly loved myself more, I would:
1. Do something that brings me joy every day.
Most days, I feel like I’m just making it through. I’d started to loathe every part of the day — the waking up tired, the frustration of getting three kids out the door, the ridiculous commute, the coolness of the weather. I wasn’t having any joyful moments at all.
Then I started drawing again. I derive so much joy from being creative. I love to take nothing — a blank canvas, a white sheet of paper — and make it into something beautiful. My art is my soul, and my soul speaks when I draw. When I don’t have words, I have that. I’m not great at it (maybe a little good) — but I love it anyway. It’s not about the final project, really, but about the process; enjoying the moments of concentration, single minded focus.
2. Pay myself first.
Folks often say that if you want anything in abundance in your life, you need to pay yourself first. When it comes to saving, some financial gurus suggest that you start saving a little at a time, on a habitual basis, even if you have debt. The point is to make saving for you the first thing you do every month, such that when you are able to save once you have no debt, its already a habit.
The same goes for our wellbeing. If I truly loved myself more, I would reserve the first parts of the day just for me, before everything else has taken its toll. I would wake with the birds (after having gone to bed early) and I would take my coffee on my porch while I watched the sun come up. I’d reserve just 30 minutes to being by myself, listening to the noises of God’s creation.
3. Allow myself to be just good enough
I’m a perfectionist, and it makes me hate myself. Perfectionism is my inner demon, the thing that keeps me from forward progress. Trying to be perfect means I don’t stop when there is good enough; the diminishing returns on my time spent chasing perfectionism helps to drive the joy down and the frustration up. Plus, I hate being a perfectionist. Some think it means that I’m always striving for excellence, which could be good, but I can’t be perfect at everything which could lead to mediocracy at many things.
So, I’ve been trying to develop a tolerance for mistakes. I’ve stopped obsessing over details, for better or worse. I work a job where my boss often relines documents, and at first I tried so hard to make sure all my grammar was exact and that everything was just, well, perfect. Then I realized that perfection wasn’t a good use of my time, because there was bound to be something wrong, and anyway — that’s why four eyes are better than just my two.
4. Accept my body. My seven-year-old daughter has a habit of following me around once I get home form work, when I am invariably changing out of my work clothes into my more comfortable uniform of a tee-shirt and yoga pants. I see the way she watches me, and she often comments on my belly. The last time, though, she commented on its size, and then asked, “Why?”
“Because I’ve carried three beautiful babies. And now I wouldn’t trade a small belly for the one I have.”
Joy. Time. Good Enough. Acceptance.
What would you do if you loved yourself the most?