The other day on Facebook, someone posed the question, “Can you be in a relationship without loving yourself first?” I scrolled down to see the responses, and was surprised to see how many women answered “yes”. They said they were in relationships and knew they didn’t love themselves.
As I looked at the posts among the members of the group, a large number of them were having serious relationship problems. Not long ago, I too was in their camp. I remember hearing someone say, thinking I was out of ear shot, “what self respecting person would allow herself to be treated like that?” I was at a complete loss. I had no idea why my life was unfolding as it was, I didn’t even know I didn’t love myself, I didn’t know how, and I didn’t see how, because of it, I might be allowing or actually inviting people to treat me badly.
Dr. Jo (my therapist at the time) started the ball rolling when she asked me what I did in my “alone time”. I didn’t have “alone” time. So, my first assignment was to think of a few things I might do for myself—the key was spending 20 minutes (at first) doing something I loved, just for me, oh, and I was to be by myself. I was to be playful and think back to when I was a child to try to reconnect to things that I really loved, things that made me happy and that I did for the fun of it. I wandered a toy store, I booked a day at the spa, I went for walks, and sat at the beach. Nothing seemed to really hit the spot, but it did feel good to have a little time to breathe. In those quiet moments, I was beginning to see how disconnected from myself I had become.
I stopped at a book store and found a beautiful journal and a special pen, and grabbed a few magazines with pictures that caught my eye. I bought some pretty colored crystals just because I liked looking at them. Little by little, I found myself connecting, sorting things out, and letting go of old stories. I read and journaled and read and journaled some more. I paid attention to how things made me feel inside as well as tuning in more deeply to my senses.
Then, after reading Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, I stood before my bathroom mirror and whispered to the overweight, beleaguered woman looking back at me, “I love you.” I cried. She cried. Something shifted. Each day, after my shower, I said “I love you” to the woman in the mirror. Over time we stopped crying when we said it. It started to feel good and warm my heart. Perhaps yoga, we thought. That might feel really good. Perhaps a 20 minute walk each day. Journals were piling up in my closet and spiritual books began to overtake my bookshelves. I lost weight. I bought new clothes. I grew my hair longer. Glimmers of joy began to sparkle through the mist.
The woman in the mirror became “me” and I started to like myself, just a little. It’s now been ten years since I said “I love you” to myself in the bathroom mirror. It’s been a ten year journey to actually learn to love and accept myself, but worth every second of the effort. As I read the struggles of the women answering the “can you be in a relationship and not love yourself” I wondered how we have come to a place where we grow to be women who don’t know how to love ourselves and how different it would be if we did. It would certainly impact the behavior of those around us, and improve our own lives immeasurably. When you love yourself, you know your worth, you don’t settle for situations that are less than optimal for all involved. You find it’s easy to say no to people who don’t or can’t love us back and you know better than to run yourself out of gas, so you stop and get help well before then. When we love ourselves, we have standards and a compass that will always guide us to the right choice. Love…take the time to learn to love yourself: it changes everything.
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While the dress I show is no longer available, I found some cute alternatives here: