Some of us are responsible for the wellbeing of a number of other humans. I am only responsible for one, and really, that’s about all I can handle!
It is my job to take care of her every day, to make sure she has everything she needs, that she is safe and that she has opportunities to grow. I watch her behaviour to see that she is not unhappy, fearful or stressed out. If she is struggling I will find out why and help her get through it with some comforting words.
I know she tries her best most of the time, so when she messes something up I am patient with her and not make a big deal about it. I might point out ways she could do better next time, but I never berate her or put her down just because she made a misguided decision or did something that in hindsight was not particularly wise.
A lot of parents would describe the important job of caring for their child in a similar way – but I’m not talking about my child. I am talking about myself. I am my child. It is my job to look after me, because if I don’t, no-one else will.
Does your child deserve love, protection, respect, happiness and the best chance at life? Of course they do, and you would be doing your best to provide that. But what about you? Emotionally you are still a child, we all are. No matter how big and tough we become, we still operate on those same emotions we all had as children.
You’ve probably heard stories of people who performed super-human feats to rescue a loved one. A petite woman is able to lift a car to release a child trapped beneath – that sort of thing.
Under normal circumstances you would look at the woman and say that it would be impossible for her to lift a car. And under normal circumstances you would be right. But when it comes to saving her child, a blazing passion within her dims all the doubts, logical assumptions and limits on her strength, Driven by her great love, she does the impossible and lifts the car.
The same woman would not be able to lift the car to retrieve a $2 coin or even a $100 note. But she can lift the car to free her child. The factor that makes the difference is her love for and commitment to her child. Love makes the impossible possible.
You are the child trapped under the car. Pinned to the ground by whatever is plaguing you. Perhaps it is depression, illness, pain, trauma, addiction, any combination of these or something else.
But you are also the mother who can save you, free you and give you back your life.
Do you have enough love for that child to activate the strength to lift the car?
Is the desire to see yourself healthy and happy equivalent to the burning desire of a parent to see their child healthy and happy?
Think about that and answer it honestly. Do you love yourself enough to be able to break through all your obstacles and give yourself the gift of the life you know deep down that you want?
It’s possible the answer right now is ‘no’. Our lives don’t sink into chaos or uninspired ooze when we regard ourselves as beings of great intrinsic value. Depression, addiction and unmanageable pain is incompatible with determination to give yourself a better life experience.
The day I sat down and wrote on the top of a piece of paper ‘How I got into the hole’ and began brainstorming, the first two points that sprang to mind were: ‘felt unworthy’ and ‘no commitment to my happiness.’
So you can probably see where this is going. Healing yourself and changing your life is fuelled by loving yourself. Before you roll your eyes, I will quickly add that ‘loving yourself’ is not achieved by writing an affirmation on a Post-It, sticking it on your mirror and waiting for the magic to happen.
I acknowledge that it is process and it’s not always straightforward. But it is absolutely key. Love is what makes the impossible possible.
If you can’t imagine getting to the point where you feel enough love and compassion for yourself that you can lift the metaphorical car, please don’t despair. If you can’t imagine loving yourself more than you do now, let me assure you that though it may take time – you can get there.
What is love? I mean, love in general? Love for a partner, a friend, a family member, a pet, the Earth, the place you live – anything you proclaim to love. What does ‘love’ mean?
There are many hallmarks of love, but one of the most basic ones is simply this:
When you love someone, you pay attention to them. You notice them. You make yourself aware of their thoughts and feelings and needs.
One practical way you can love yourself right now is to pay attention to yourself. To make the effort to notice how you are feeling. Not so you can immediately judge yourself or quickly shove those feelings to the side. Just out of gentle interest and curiosity. Because you love this person and want to know how they are feeling.
This is why journalling can be so healing. Taking time to witness your wounding or celebrate your joys is an act of love, and love is ultimately what heals us.
Even if you don’t journal, you can make a point to pause twice a day for a few seconds and check into yourself. How do you feel? What sensations are you experiencing in your body? Is there anything you need?
I have discovered a harsh truth about life: If you don’t notice yourself, love yourself, look after yourself and take responsibility for your emotional needs as if you were you own child – no-one else will. No-one can ever reach into your life and make everything alright. I waited for 45 years and no-one came to save me.
Sure, there are people in my life who care about me, but we all need a constant stream of love and nurturing in order to thrive, and it simply isn’t reasonable to expect that from others unless we are their babies or tiny children. Even then, it doesn’t always happen.
As adults, unless we can generate our own love and support, our own source of nourishment from within, we will probably end up not getting enough. We certainly won’t get enough to lift the metaphorical car off ourselves.
Self-love is not an airy-fairy optional extra. It is crucial if you want to live in any way other than constant survival mode.
There is so much more to life than just surviving. And the good news is that you absolutely can make adjustments to how you think and behave that will nurture the inner atmosphere of love that makes a better life possible.