Love Yourself Before Someone Else Does
A very simple question: do you love yourself?
The eternal conundrum! You have all heard it. You can never really love another person until you learn to love yourself. You have all internalized it and yet there are so many out there who simply do not love themselves. The reasons are many, too many to list in this article. They are all valid in that they are real to the person feeling them. Friends will tell them they are being silly. Family will profess their love because, well, that’s what family members are supposed to do. No words from another, however, can bring about this magical transformation because, unfortunately, it is an inside job.
I know this to be true because there was a time, not so long ago, when I detested who I was. I could not look in the mirror without being sickened by what I saw. During the quiet moments, all alone, my thoughts would inevitably turn to the feelings that had haunted me for decades.
This story has a happy ending. Today I do love who I am. I am comfortable in this old body, content with whom I have become….or maybe I should say with whom I have always been. How did the transformation take place? Perhaps I should tell you a story to better drive home the point.
I write this for the teens out there who are searching for their true selves. I write this for the men and women who struggle with this daily, for all out there who feel incomplete, restless and discontented. It does not have to be that way. There is hope and there is a solution!
THE LITTLE NERD
Yes, I was a nerd and a hopeless one at that! As a young child I was skinny, sickly and painfully shy. When I entered high school I was 5’2” tall and weighed 102 pounds, not exactly a formula for a macho future. Forget about dating! It was not going to happen for this boy.
Our family did not have much money when I was growing up so I was always wearing clothes that were on sale rather than stylish. Most of the kids in our private school had dads who were doctors and lawyers. My dad worked in a gravel pit. Most of the kids were self-assured and working their way up the popularity scale. I was busy holding onto the bottom rung of that particular societal ladder.
I remember our 8th Grade graduation like it was yesterday. We had the graduation party at the Tacoma Lawn & Tennis Club, a very high-brow establishment with beautiful gardens and a massive swimming pool. Waiters were walking around in tuxes and we were all dressed in our finest. I had finally worked up the courage to ask a girl I was sweet on to go for a walk with me around the grounds. I was trying my best to carry on a conversation with this vision of beauty, and at one point I started walking backwards while I talked to her. In the middle of some remark I was making I walked backwards right into the swimming pool.
There is no word in the English language that properly describes the humiliation I felt that day.
HIGH SCHOOL AND SPREADING MY WINGS
One thing and one thing only saved me in high school and that was baseball. My ability to throw a baseball sixty feet from the pitcher’s mound to home plate gave me membership into the Jock Club. That membership, and my natural athletic talent, helped me to gain self-confidence and finally begin to believe that I had some worth.
As those feelings of self-worth grew so too did my confidence; my personality started to emerge, the natural gift of humor rose to the top, and the painful years of youth began to recede in my rearview mirror. Dating remained painful as I was convinced that I was homely and that no girl would ever go out with me. I remember standing in front of the mirror trying to will the pimples to go away, hoping that each day would bring a straighter nose, a more pronounced chin, some positive change to my appearance that would make me desirable to those of the opposite sex. It was not meant to be!
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED WHILE IN COLLEGE
It happens ever so slowly at first. The change is so minor that it goes unnoticed from day to day, but one day you wake up and notice that you have, in fact, changed. I began to notice in college that I was accepted among my peers, that people were coming to MY dorm room to hang out. Being introspective by nature, I dissected this mysterious change and realized that being self-confident was like wearing a sign that said I AM WORTH KNOWING. It was a marvelous revelation, akin to breaking from the womb of self-loathing and beginning life all over again. A second chance and one I was not going to waste. Or so I thought!
AN AURA DISAPPEARS
Into my twenties I headed, full of confidence and loving life. I had a friend tell me once that I had an aura, that I exuded this mysterious quality that made her want to be around me. I was shocked because memories of that little nerd were still fresh in my mind. What was this aura? Where had it come from? Was that friend just blowing smoke or was there really something about her point that was valid?
It would take me thirty years to find out the answers to those questions because at the age of twenty-five I discovered alcohol. My life was about to reverse course.
“DARKNESS, DARKNESS, BE MY PILLOW.”
The more I drank the more my self-confidence disappeared. The more I drank the more my personality changed into one that spoke of confidence but in fact screamed silently of fear. The more I drank the more my aura transformed and eventually I lost all that I had gained on my journey to self-discovery.
I had completely forgotten who I was and interestingly my self-image returned to that little nerd from so many years ago, incapable of pleasing others, incapable of fitting in and incapable of loving myself.
A HAPPY ENDING TO THE TALE
Today, of course, the aura is back and I am happy. Today I do, in fact, love myself and by extension I can love others. Through the love and encouragement of others I learned that I’m okay just the way I am. There is no other Bill Holland and I’m happy with that fact.
So what is the point?
STAPLE THIS TO YOUR FOREHEAD
It saddens me to see kids in school trying so hard to fit in with the crowd. It saddens me to see adults striving for that elusive acceptance through plastic surgery. Seventy year olds dying their hair to get rid of the gray; seventeen year olds taking diet pills so they can look like super models. It is madness and it is sadness and it is all so unnecessary.
We are all unique. Seven billion people on this planet and not one is like me….or you. Not one has my talents, my looks, my sense of humor or my aura. That makes me the most precious commodity on the market, a priceless, one-of-a-kind treasure, and the same can be said for all of you out there. If Rembrandt had only painted one masterpiece in his lifetime, what do you think that art would be worth today? There is no way to place a price on such a piece and there is no way to place a value on you.
And yet so many out there do not realize this fact. So many cannot see their uniqueness and worse, they do not desire that uniqueness. They chase after the illusion of happiness. If only I could look like her. If only I could have those clothes or own that car. If only, if only, if only! Like a cat chasing its tail with no hope of ever catching it, people are forever sprinting after the next packaged miracle that will somehow fill the hole that is growing inside of them.
But what happens when that packaged miracle disappears? What happens when aging cannot be hidden? What happens when the possessions are gone? Where will the self-worth come from then?
It does not have to be that way!
Love of self is, truly, an inside job, and it takes work. It takes constantly feeding the soul with positive thoughts. It takes surrounding oneself with people who are supportive and affirming, accepting you for who you are. It takes looking in the mirror and seeing yourself as that priceless treasure.
There are no shortcuts in this task. There are no sure-fired cures for what ails you. Madison Avenue cannot manufacture an ad campaign that will give you that which is already inside of you. Drug companies cannot give you a magic pill that will make the insecurities disappear. You have to dig deep, deeper than ever before, and find the uniqueness that is you.
Look in the mirror! Tell yourself that you are a treasure! Do it now….and then do it again….and some day….just maybe….you will begin to believe it.
Wishing you all peace, happiness and love!
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)