The two greatest commandments in the Bible are to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength…and then to love our neighbors as ourselves. However, in a continuing effort to Focus On Love this year, I discovered that I didn’t fully grasp what it means to love myself. (After all, if I’m failing in this area, then I won’t be able to love my neighbors that way either.)
Now, don’t get me wrong, as someone who lives with a chronic illness, I’ve learned the hard way how my body needs regular rest and so I take a nap almost every day. And as the mother of a special-needs child, I’ve heard the stories using the airline stewardess’ spiel to put on your own oxygen mask first so you are conscious (and alive) to then help your child, so I allow myself regular mental sanity breaks.
But somewhere along the way while learning to juggle marriage and mothering and housework and writing and marketing and coaching and…Well, let’s just say I’ve developed a few bad habits that have impacted my overall health.
When I’m buried under an Everest-sized to-do list, a trip through a fast-food drive-thru seems so much easier than actually fixing lunch for just myself. And that multiplies into a comforting, calorie-laden casserole for the family dinner instead of something leaner with plenty of vegetables on the side. Not to mention, I’m tempted toward mugs of hot chocolate with whipped cream or a giant glass of sugary lemonade rather than another round of ice water in my boring bottle. Instead of doing what’s best for my long-term health, I gravitate toward the quick fix with an abundance of excuses and a half-hearted promise to do better tomorrow…or next week.
To recharge after a stressful activity or even as a reward for checking a few things off my list, I’m more likely to sprawl in the recliner to watch a movie or read a book rather than take a walk around the block. Or even use that time on a different creative activity like working on our family’s photos or doing a craft that refuels my inner well while also creating something of lasting value.
This lack–or slacking–of loving myself shows up in a few other places too. While I make sure the kids have everything they need for school and hole-free clothes to wear, I’m not as quick to replace stained or weak-elastic or worn-out items in my own wardrobe. When was the last time I splurged on something more than the base minimum requirements to avoid public embarrassment?
And what about grace? I tend to look for the best in people and give them a benefit of the doubt when it seems they’re having a rough day. But how often do I send myself on a guilt-trip? (In fact, I’m already seeing that this very post is tending toward a hand-smacking, finger-wagging lecture to my mirror.) Do I forgive myself for my short-comings and look for signs of progress rather than nit-pick over every little mistake?
All this rambling to say, I know that something needs to change, starting with my physical health, diet, and exercise habits. But not with another burdensome weight to add to my to-do list. Rather, I’m trying to keep my focus on the long-term benefits for myself…and then the trickle-down effect to the people around me.
Instead of saying, “Sure, get or do whatever you want because you’re worth it,” I’m learning to say “I love you too much to let you do this.” Because that’s the foundation of what it means to love myself.
What about you? Do you love yourself more than or less than others? How does that show up in real life? Are there areas that need tweaking?