So many flaws, so many mistakes, so many unfavorable comparisons just waiting to be made.
We don’t get a free pass for our choices.
But loving ourselves has to come first. And not just the good parts either, but the ugly, dark, and nasty bits. The things other people have been most critical of. The most unloveable aspects need the love the most of all.
Most of those shadows inside ourselves exist for a reason. Some of them, maybe even many of them, are not all bad.
When I was a kid, I heard all the time about how stubborn I was. Certainly I wasn’t being stubborn on purpose, but it seemed to be built into my character. Apparently my stubbornness caused my family no end of irritation.
You know what else my stubbornness did? It kept me alive. When I was a neglected adolescent, it would have been so easy for me to become a statistic. But I watched the chaos around me, and I would not make the choice to join the downward spiral. I dug in my heels in my most stubborn manner, and I would not. So here I am.
Now, I know that my stubbornness can make things unpleasant or difficult for the people around me. I try to rein it in when I notice it or when it is pointed out. But I love the hell out of my stubbornness. I love that it kept me safe when I needed it most. I love that it’s helped me finish a musical and three novels. I love that it keeps me going when the chips are down. I love that it’s kept me focused on the things in life that are beautiful and magic and good instead of only seeing the grim and the difficult and the painful.
My stubbornness has shaped the person I am today in ways for which I am most profoundly grateful.
Let’s pick a harder one: anger. Who among us has not done or said something out of anger that we wish we could undo or unsay? It is so difficult sometimes to handle anger with grace.
But what is anger? It is a warning system. It is a red flag that something is wrong. Maybe it is telling us that we aren’t being treated well. Maybe it is telling us that we are unsafe. Maybe it is telling us that this person has no interest in helping us. And knowing these things is important.
That doesn’t give us a pass for learning to deal with anger in a productive way and learning how to read anger’s signals so we know what it’s really saying. We are still responsible for our behavior. But knowing that anger is just trying to keep us safe makes it a lot easier to love. And that love, in turn, makes it easier to control the anger instead of allowing it to control us.
So when we talk about loving the house that we’re in, we’re talking about all the parts of that house. Sure, we appreciate the sunlight and the counter space and the gas range. But we’re also talking about the leaky roof and the inadequate closet space and the way the circuit breaker overloads when you run the microwave and the hair dryer at the same time.
It’s our job to learn to love it all.