You may be singing the song by the same name as the title of this post. This powerful song was sung beautifully by Whitney Houston. Unfortunately, Whitney Houston apparently did not live by the words of her song. Sadly, it is too late for her, but not for us. On Valentine’s Day, it is fitting to think about love, and not just love of God or love of others but love of self.
I am fortunate to have found the love of my life, my husband Mike. Mike and I met in 1983 and married in 1984. It has been a wonderful marriage. (Not perfect, but nonetheless, wonderful!) I hope that we are together many more years, but I know that I do not have ultimate control of that. One of us will die at some point, and the other one of us needs to be able to go on without our soul mate. My friend Judy whom I wrote of last week experienced this six years ago when her husband Bryan passed away unexpectantly. It has been hard for Judy, of course it has, but she has remained strong in her faith and in her family and has built a different life than the one she and Bryan shared. Judy’s strength is an inspiration to me.
One of the variables in being able to recover from tragedy, and not just the tragedy of death, but all of life’s challenges, is self-love. Self-love allows us to suffer painful experiences, including those from and with other people, and not have those destroy us. Self-love and mental health allow us to be broken, but to not self-destruct. I saw this in my mother, who had a sad and difficult life, but she persevered until her body gave out. My mother had some addictions that wracked her body similar to Whitney Houston’s, but she kept those in check most of the time. I will remember her strength through life’s challenges more than anything else. I will also remember that the rejection she suffered from others, including my rejection of her at times did not result in her rejecting herself. There is a valuable lesson in that.
Some readers are longing for a romantic love, and do not feel complete without that. Valentine’s Day is especially difficult for those people. The comfort of family and friends may not be sufficient for them, and hopefully, those who truly want and need a romantic love will find that special person. But until that happens, (and it may not happen), self-love needs to allow one to live a happy life without a romantic love. A few phrases from Whitney Houston’s song speak of the importance of self-love.
Before thinking of some of the words of Houston’s song, it is important to understand where self-love comes from. Adults who have healthy self-esteem, which is critical to self-love, had good and consistent nurturing as children, especially from their parents. If this was lacking from their parents, they received it from others, such as grandparents and other loved ones. Although others can fill some of this void, parents are so important to children, that if approval, acceptance, and love were not available from their parents to them as children, they often need to work through this in therapy as adults.
At this point in this discussion, it is important to differentiate between self-love and selfish behavior. Self-love is not selfish. Self-love does not mean one puts oneself above God or the love of God. Self-love is not arrogant or egotistical. Self-love means one cares for oneself such that he/she does not abuse themselves or allow others to abuse them, or even to treat them badly. People who love themselves are best able to show love to others.
Now, let’s not think that even if we possess self-love, that we always behave in the manner that is in our best interest. We do sometimes eat too much, drink more than is good for us, or engage in other behaviors, such as Spendaholic behaviors, that are not healthy and life-enhancing. We are not perfect. But there is a difference of degree and frequency in this that determines whether or not we are our best selves. (My book, A Year in the Life of a Recovering Spendaholic, available on Amazon, chronicles my battle with excess spending. And note that the title is “Recovering,” not “Recovered!”)
Now, a few of the words from Whitney Houston’s song.
“Our children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside, give them a sense of pride.” (The duty of parents.)
“I learned to depend on me. If I fail or I succeed, at least I live as I believe. No matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity.” (Our duty to ourselves.)
“The greatest love of all is easy to achieve. Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all.” (Our gift to ourselves.)
Almost enough said. Just one more thing.