After work I’d unwind with wine and take-out. I’d do the same on the weekends, only harder, and pass out drunk with my makeup on.
The First Minute of my day was a parched, throbbing hell. Sometimes I couldn’t remember the night before. Sometimes I was shaking.
“I work hard, so I deserve to play hard,” I’d say.
Back then this was my recipe for self-love.
I stopped bingeing on booze and food and other things when I realized my brand of “love” was gonna put me in an early grave.
I started to care about how I’d feel the next day.
Soon I felt better. Then life got better.
Eventually I got married. We had a baby. Then another.
I’d been in romantic love. God knows I’d loved wine and drugs and gorgonzola garlic bread. But it wasn’t until I had babies that I understood how deeply I could love.
And it wasn’t until I’d been a mother for a few years that I understood where this deeper love comes from.
How do you come to love?
I used to think a mother’s love was driven by biology, but if that were so, how would we explain the love adoptive moms have for their kiddos?
No, more than biology, a mother’s love is the result of labor. Not the labor of childbirth – the labor of love.
If you’re a mom who loves her kids with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns, odds are…
You woke up and hauled your ass out of bed when they needed you. Even when you were exhausted.
You fed them what their bodies needed to be healthy and strong. Even when they were screaming for junk food.
You did your best to be patient with them when they were tired, kind when they were jerks, and compassionate when they messed up. Even when you were at your wit’s end.
You told them they should go for it when they felt scared. You clapped and whooped like a hyperactive monkey when they did a good job. You hugged them close when some asshole broke their heart. You assured them they were whole and loved and capable and wonderful, even when they felt disconnected, worthless, and alone. And all this while you struggled to put food on the table and keep the electricity on.
If you love your kids to the point of madness, it’s likely in large part because you consistently invested time, energy, and kindness in them. Even when you were stressed and strapped and out of your mind.
And if you want to feel more – or perhaps any – love for yourself, the recipe is the same.
Love is action
Because we watch too many movies and equate lusty infatuation with love we often think love the feeling comes before love the action. Like, “When I feel love, I’ll act with love.”
But in the real world, the action usually comes first.
If you want to love yourself and your body – not just say it, but feel it – stop waiting for the feeling. Take action.
Stumped on what self-love in action looks like? Here’s a handful of suggestions that probably won’t hurt:
- Wake up early in the morning and be gentle with yourself and maybe get some sunshine.
- Move every day in ways that make you feel alive and sweaty because you have a body and that’s what it’s for.
- Eat foods (and in ways) that leave you feeling energized and sated.
- Eat more plants. Eat at home more. Eat on purpose and sit down when you do.
- Get regular physical contact from people and/or sweet, furry animals because we’re pack animals and we need that shit.
- Drink enough water that your pee is mostly clear by noon, then taper off mid-day so you don’t have to pee in the middle of the night. No one likes waking up in the middle of the night.
- Speaking of which, go to bed earlier.
- And most importantly, if you’re doing something that’s hurting you, contributing to anxious, fearful, and uncomfortable first minutes, making you angry that you have to face another day, making you feel like a stranger to yourself, or inspiring the people that love you to question why you’re still at it, or if you spend most of your time either craving, regretting, or drowned in some substance or behavior, even (especially!) if you can’t imagine your life without it, consider that it may finally be time to stop. Everyone who has ever put down a addiction could hardly imagine their lives without it. You’re not the first cowgirl at this rodeo. There are thousands if not millions of us who’ve walked away from the foods, substances, or behaviors that were killing us, and we’re waiting for you to find us and sit down for coffee. Do for you like you would do for your kids – find solid support and resources to help you stop, and then surrender to the freedom of stopping.
You’ll look back in a year and be like “Damn, I can’t believe I did that. I love me sometimes.”
Self-love isn’t something women tend to inherit, and it’s not something you can conjure with a few nice words. If you want it, you’ve gotta put in the labor, one choice, one day at a time, just like you did, and do, with your kids.
And just like with your kids, you need to do the labor every day. Even if you’re sick. Even if it’s the weekend. Or the summer. Or SuperBowl Sunday. Even if some barely-literate, bombastic moron gets elected. Again.
Want to honestly love yourself? There’s no shortcut, no magic bullet, and no better feeling. Do the (daily) labor of love and the (self) love will come.