My thoughts about myself used to go something like this:
I will love myself once I’ve lost that weight.
I will love myself once I have a six-pack.
I will love myself once I finally stick to that vegan eating plan.
I will love myself when I learn to be more spiritual.
I will love myself when I’m better with money.
I will love myself once I get that better job.
I will love myself when I no longer have kidney failure.
I will love myself when I no longer am HIV positive.
I will love myself once my scars go away.
I will love myself once my skin clears up.
I will love myself once I’m fully healed.
I will love myself when I’m more masculine and hetero-passable.
I will love myself when everything is perfect and nothing is out of place.
(Because then I’d really be enough. People will find me attractive then. People will want me then. I’ll be lovable then. I’ll be deserving then. I’ll finally be worthy of what I want and who I want then.)
I was so good at loving the FUTURE ME, the vision board me, the “perfect” me that was waiting in some future, fantasy reality, smiling and waving and waiting without any scars or flaws. The me that has his shit together, and the sun reflecting off his tight abs, and his glorious house and clean bill of health.
I had a PhD in loving the version of me that didn’t exist.
All the while, I was horrible at loving the present me, the real me, the only me that I actually had.
And it’s funny how good we can become at hating ourselves, and how quickly we can defend that hate by saying “it’s healthy self-improvement” or “personal development,” when in fact, when we reflect and look deeply enough in, we’re really just being shitty to ourselves and tearing ourselves down.
And there was a WHOLE LOT of shitty things done to Jerome by Jerome in the past.
But now, the tides have changed. I’ve done the work of shifting my self-talk, and taken a 10-year deep dive into the spiritual practice of loving myself unconditionally. So my world looks a whole lot different today, even if sometimes when I look back, I tear up, and cry for the man who didn’t know how to love the man he was.
So a part of me writes this a cathartic practice—to reflect, and heal, and celebrate how far I’ve come. But the larger part of me writes for this: in the hope that by telling my story honestly, I get to drop a clue or two on the paths of all those who walk behind me, traveling down a similar way.
And so my clue today is this:
Love yourself in the middle of it all. In the middle of the weight on the scale, the health diagnosis, the bank account balance, the personality characteristics, the sexual expression, the flaws, the scars, the space you’re currently in, and the place. BRING YOUR WHOLE SELF BACK INTO YOUR HEART, AND HOLD IT THERE. Punishing yourself, withholding love, constant goal setting, unconscious and conscious perfectionism – they don’t work. They never have, and they never will, no matter what anyone else says about it.
They may keep you safe and in control for a while, but eventually they all lead down back to the same place — feeling not enough, and a belief that something about you needs to be improved or fixed or tucked or sharpened or lost or added in order for you to be worthy and deserving.
And it’s bullshit. And if held for too long, it will make you sick.
So try loving yourself in the midst instead. In the midst of the chaos, the challenge, the scars, the fears, the unfinished and unperfected, try wrapping yourself in your own acceptance and celebration, and recognizing that ALL OF THIS is good, and it belongs to you, and it makes you better because of it. Give it a go even for a few moments and see how it feels. Lie down in the grass and stop trying for a minute. Let your ego take a rest, and let your soul take a turn – that part of you that is whole, and There Already, and lovable, and worthy, and deserving, and Divine, and KNOWS IT.
Just let the love out.
I promise, it will save you.