Have you ever stopped and noticed what’s happening in your head only to realize that you’re beating yourself up? Criticizing yourself for–I don’t know–not accomplishing enough last month, drinking too much last night, burning the chili, or forgetting your lunch at home again??
I’ve realized lately that I do this. A lot. There’s a word for this: Self Abuse. And it’s the opposite of Self Love, or the practice of loving oneself.
Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics made a huge impression on me in college. When he starts down the road of discussing friendship (and other relationships involving love), he begins with an inquiry into “Self Love.”
Aristotle suggests that love from other people stems from love from oneself. We should treat others the way we would want to be treated and the way we treat ourselves.
Well, if I were to treat others the way I treat myself, no one would want to be around me. Somehow, despite studying Aristotle’s ethics a decade ago and being inspired by his wisdom, it didn’t translate into action. Long term, anyway.
I wouldn’t beat up any of my friends or loved ones for their actions. My continual feedback for them is “You are creative, resourceful and whole and just where you should be.” I forgive them all their hilarious public embarrassments–and love them more for having them.
As I attended an awesome Valentine’s Day music festival yesterday, Sunday Kind of Love, it dawned on me: I treat everyone else way nicer than I treat myself.
How is that fair?
Furthermore, how is it helpful and productive? Do you feel better after listing all your faults and shortcomings all day? I know I sure don’t.
For a few weeks I started listing my daily accomplishments every night before bed. It was so fun, even if the accomplishment was small like making dinner. Hey, even getting through the day is an accomplishment! The next morning I would wake up feeling inspired and confident. When you spend a lot of time ruminating about how inept you are, you start to feel inept. You start to believe it. It’s just natural.
I’m sure some people find Aristotle’s method of starting with your relationship with yourself and moving to your relationships with others helpful. For me, though, I need to start treating myself more like I do my friends, loved ones and perfect strangers.
And that’s going to start with just not caring about all the missed deadlines this Valentine’s Day signifies for me. I’m not asking for an extension or considering what it means for my 2011 priorities that I missed my first deadline. No, I’m just not thinking about it. Instead, I’m thinking about how lucky I am to be in love and to have had an amazing Valentine’s Day with my sweetheart. I’m thinking about how lucky I am to live in a world where I can have the goal of making a Tom Waits love songs mix tape even if it never happens. I’m thinking about how lucky I am to have the love of my friends and family. I’m thinking about how lucky I am to be me.
This Valentine’s Day join me in pledging to love not only our lovers, friends and family, but ourselves too. We deserve it.