If you follow this blog at all, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that I have a corkboard over my desk. On it, I have several stickies on which I’ve written quotations that I want to remember. Here are a couple of them:
If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave. –Mo Williems
Do what I do: hold tight and pretend it’s a plan. –The Doctor
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
(I don’t know who said that last one, but I know I read it on Terri Windling’s blog.)
I’m thinking of addinga sticky to the corkboard, but what I want to write on it is such a self-help cliché that I’m hesitating. Which is silly. What I want to write is a question, and it’s an important question for me to remember, because it’s one I should be asking frequently. Here it is:
Am I loving myself?
Love is both a noun and a verb: it’s both an emotion and an action. To love someone means not just to feel love for them but to act lovingly toward them. The act itself is a manifestation of love. So when I ask, am I loving myself, I’m not just asking how I feel about myself. I’m asking how I’m treating myself, whether it’s with love.
Obviously, the answer is often no . . .
Often, I don’t in fact treat myself particularly well. I get mad at myself and tell myself all the ways in which I’ve failed, or I’m inadequate. I don’t give myself the things I need: time to rest or take long walks, nourishing food. I push myself too hard. I blame myself for not giving other people what they need or want, even when it’s not possible or would involve significant sacrifice. Or I just make the sacrifice. (Is this a familiar list? I bet you’re nodding.)
What I need to do is treat myself as though I were in a relationship with myself. (In a sense, I am.) I need to take myself out, give myself treats, show myself that I care. Make sure that I’m taken care of. I’m not always so good at this . . .
That may seem selfish in that it’s self-ish, about the self, having to do with the self. But I think if we don’t love ourselves first, we end up not loving other people particularly well either. We start to resent them, because we know that we are missing something. We may expect them to supply that thing, but you should never depend on another person to supply the love that you aren’t giving yourself. That’s your job, not theirs.
So the question is there to remind me: I’m not going to useful, or productive, or loving, unless I love myself. And that’s an action, or rather the action is as important as the emotion. In fact, the emotion doesn’t need to be there for me to take action. Even when I don’t feel love for myself, I can act lovingly toward myself. I can buy myself flowers, take myself on a long walk, give myself time to rest. And then, often, the emotion will come — I will remember that I do love myself, despite how much trouble I can be sometimes.
I thought I would include two photographs in this blog post. The first is of me with the students at the Alpha Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Workshop for Young Writers, where I was teaching last week. I had such a wonderful time at Alpha!
I’m including them because loving myself also includes doing what I love: teaching wonderful students like those at Alpha, and spending time with my wonderful friends. Those are gifts I give myself, like buying myself flowers.