I grew up with the notion that all I need do is love people and they will love me. And by people I don’t mean myself because somehow I never picked up the idea that loving myself would do me any good. I did, however, have lots of ideas about how to love and serve other people. How to give everything I had for everyone else. How to always say yes. How to always be just a little more kind and a little more compassionate and a little more patient and forgiving.
Then I got married. And the man I married wasn’t always nice. So, what did I do? What I thought I was supposed to do. I tried to love him more. I thought if I cleaned the house better, if I made better food, if I took care of the kids without asking for help, if I made sure that his life was easy, if I didn’t disagree or make waves, that he would eventually love me and treat me better. Guess what. He didn’t. It didn’t work. So then I beat myself up about it. I must be doing it wrong. I have to try harder. And so a vicious cycle began. I would try to be more patient. I would hold my tongue about things that bothered me, I would ignore our shoddy finances, I would be sweet and kind and a huge pushover. I thought I was showing more love. And he treated me steadily worse and worse. The fights got bigger. So I would dig in deeper, deny myself more. It STILL didn’t work. At least not how I thought it would. Our marriage continued to deteriorate. Why? What was I doing so wrong. I knew in my heart that I just couldn’t be any more kind or forgiving than I already was. But I was also certain that there was no other way.
Then, I came upon this great book called Boundaries. I’ve mentioned it before. After reading it through twice and taking notes I started to realize what my problem was. I didn’t love myself. Not much anyway. I didn’t take time for myself or think about myself much at all, except for how I could help others or what others might need. And I started to realize that I would never be able to show love to someone else if I didn’t first love me. I had absolutely ZERO boundaries. I let people take and take and take and I was terrified to say no. Instead, I said “yes” on the outside and on the inside I was yelling “no” while simultaneously trying to want so badly to actually mean the “yes” that was leaving my lips because I was convinced that always saying yes made me kind and compassionate.
I know better now. I know that it’s okay to say NO. It’s actually emotionally healthy. Sometimes, I have to take care of myself. And that doesn’t make me selfish (gasp!). It turns out that showing more love for myself, allows me to be there and genuinely open for others. Saying Yes to me, makes it so I can say yes to other people and mean it. I can’t explain all of the ins and outs of why Boundaries are so important, I’ll leave that to the professionals. I can say this though, if there is going to be more love in the world, more love for everyone, we first have to love ourselves.