[Finding My Voice is a series of blog posts on key decisions I made in my 20s.]
Defining decision: To love myself as my neighbour
When I told Tim I’d be writing about this subject next, he joked that I must like love a lot because there seems to be a trend in what I’ve written so far. I guess love relates to a lot of life so it’s not really surprising that I’m writing about it so much!
Anyway, the decision to love myself as my neighbour came about as an outcome of burning out when I was 26. (You can read more about that whole process in my burnout blog here.) I grew up being taught to love my neighbour as myself, but I struggled with the “as myself” part. I could grasp the “love my neighbour” part, but I didn’t really pay attention to the second half of the phrase.
When I burned out, I came to the shocking realization that unless I knew how to love myself, I really did not know how to love anyone else. And I learned that loving myself did not mean self-indulgence. Loving myself meant respecting myself, giving myself grace and allowing myself to be fully me. Loving myself meant viewing myself the same way God viewed me. Part of what helped me understand God’s view of me was insight that I gained into the parable of the hidden treasure – that God looked for me like a hidden treasure or rare pearl and sold all that He had to claim me as His own. (I wrote another blog post about this moment of insight here.)
Practically speaking, I lived this decision out in various ways. Among them are:
- Make time to do things that give me life (eg. painting, journaling, reading, jigsaw puzzles, etc.)
- Give myself the grace to fail; be gentle with myself
- See myself and others as on a journey and works in progress
- Accept who I am, including the parts I’m proud of AND the parts I’m not proud of
- Believe in my heart of hearts that God loves me unconditionally
- See a counselor to help me unravel things about myself that I can’t address adequately on my own
- Find a spiritual director to help me notice where God shows up in my everyday life
- Eat well, sleep enough, drink water, exercise regularly and floss daily
- Live within my limits (especially as an introvert who needs a lot of sleep and alone time); learn to say “no” graciously
I’ve learned that when I can really love who I am, I end up being in a healthier place to interact with and to love those around me. So while it may sound like a selfish thing to love myself as my neighbour, it’s actually a selfless path to take.