Today I want to talk about a recent bit of advice I heard, and how it affected me immensely. I'm really, really excited to write this post because it concerns something that is extremely difficult for me--self-perception, and for the first time in forever I actually feel like I have a little hope. That's a huge thing when dealing with a mental health struggle, and I can only hope that by sharing it, someone else might be reminded to hope. Even just a little bit.
Self Love = Real Love?
In recent years I've come to have a lot of disdain for the "self love" and "self care" movement that the internet eats up like pie. I guess the main reason is that I worked so incredibly hard (cognitive behavioral therapy, writing, an entire dedication for a year to the idea) on loving myself and still ended up with the hollow empty worthless feeling I'd always had, plus more struggles with suicide, more depression, you get the gist.
A secondary reason though, is how incredibly superficial and vain I find a lot of the "movement". There's no thought or process, it's just slapped in your face -- LOVE THAT UGLY WEIRD ASS THING YOU ARE, YOU STRANGE BALDED BIPEDAL MAMMALIAN CIRCUS FREAK!!! WHY SHOULD YOU DO IT? CAUSE!! CAUSE YOU'RE JUST BEAUTIFUL! THAT'S WHY! Some severe circular logic there --- "You're beautiful > love yourself > because you're beautiful > because you love yourself.." what.
And the titles and workshops, oh lord... "Radical" self love...do you know what's "radical" about glossing over every imperfection and personal issue and likely mental and physical problem and just ignoring it and going LALLALLIAMPERFECTLALALALAAA? Nothing about that is radical. Radically obnoxious maybe. "Self love" is starting to look a lot like "self obsessive narcissism" in my cynical hateful little book. No one is above improvement. No one is above self-reflection and yes, self-doubt. We have to doubt our absolute truths to be even decent as human beings. We must always ask ourselves what our motives are. That's something I truly believe and it's an element missing from these internet rallies with cries of perfection. This is another talk for another time, though....
You Can't Force Love
But I'm ranting now. What I meant to say was that I kind of gave up on ever having a true, earnest love for myself, because I don't feel that love can be simply forced in that manner....it just happens or it doesn't. Till Lindemann has a great quote on this: "You can't help it, no matter who you are, everybody needs it in some way....In that sense, it's quite like breathing." It comes on its own, naturally, and it's beautiful for that reason. We can all agree there are some people in our lives or pasts who it would have been the easier (but maybe not better) choice to not love. If I had the ability to just openly hate my parents it would have placed a huge burden off my shoulders. The same goes for an alcoholic ex. But in both those, and all cases--I can't fake love, and I can't control who I love. So to fake it for myself would be just as asinine and impossible as faking it for some stranger.
Cue this comment I heard that made me feel so incredibly different. I was doing my usual analytical brooding at work, when a coworker (a very laidback "hippie" kind of fellow, totally my opposite) quoted Alan Watts. "You have to regard yourself as a cloud,
in the flesh...clouds never make mistakes. Did you ever
see a cloud that was misshapen? Did you ever see a badly designed wave?
No, they always do the right thing." I actually had to ask myself--had I ever seen a cloud make a mistake? I have no idea what it was about that comment that got me so deeply. I constantly zero in on myself: my choices, my habits, my beliefs, my limitations...I analyze these things a chronic amount and I never weave any other living being into my tapestry of criticism. But truthfully, I could have just as easily been a cloud as a human, and so could anyone else....and everyone kind of is lumpy and misshapen and has weird edges and maybe looks like a bunny, and floats along the edge of the earth with so many things out of our control. Somehow comparing myself (and all humans) to clouds really made me feel more...human. I have no idea why.
There are so many days where I agonize over my every life decision, both present and past...and I'm sure a lot of people can relate to that. It felt nice for once to just consider my decisions and worries and entire essence a fluffy cloud, and not myself or another human or some ideal I can't reach or some parameter I don't understand. The really weird (to me) thing was that once I started really dissecting my feelings about the quote, I realized that it wasn't so much the analogy that made me feel so wonderful (because I disagree, I do believe that humans can make mistakes, haha) but I was being gentle to myself for the first time in possibly years. I had taken some advice in a positive and caring way. I had allowed myself to think for a minute that everything I do isn't wrong or bad.
How that specific strange comment managed to make me care enough to be kind to myself, I have no idea. There is no rhyme or reason to it at all really! And that's the beauty of it--for once I seem to be able to just let the lack of an answer go and accept the gesture of kindness toward myself. A little kindness goes a long way, too. I've felt better in the past two weeks from hearing this and having this reflection than I have since.....maybe even since I lived in Sweden, actually. I'm glad for the break, it's just what I needed.