A little while ago I bought myself these cards that ask you questions, designed to make you think about yourself. I have a tendency with things like this to like the ‘idea’ more than the actual thinking. I knew that my instinct would be to flick through them all, thinking ‘oh yes, that’s a good question’, without taking proper time to actually answer it.
I promised myself that I would only turn one card over at a time, and that I wouldn’t turn over another until I had properly thought about the question. The first card I had was ‘What do I love most about myself?’ and the second was this one – ‘How do I show myself love?’ It’s been sat on my desk for over three weeks now, which shows I was right not to trust myself to get around to the thinking part very quickly.
I thought it was interesting that both of the first questions were about self-love. I don’t imagine the rest of pack is as generous, so it feels like the cards might be encouraging me to lay some good foundations.
I’ve thought about this question a lot over the last few weeks. I started off with answers like ‘I go for a walk’ or ‘I take time to read’, but they felt lame to be honest. I thought about the times when I’ve helped Belle with school work, encouraging her to go deeper, always telling her to ask ‘and what else?’ We can take the first answer that comes into our head, sure, or we can let that sit a little bit and then take another step in our thinking – and what else? Why do we do that? How does that mean that we are showing ourselves love?
I unpicked and unpicked in my head.
Okay, so I take the time to read because that’s something that I enjoy, it’s something that’s just for me, and it’s a way of making time for myself and prioritising myself. Better. So I show myself love by prioritising myself. What else? To prioritise myself I need to have good boundaries, I need to acknowledge that I am important, that actually I am the MOST important. Oooh… that’s a tricky one as a parent isn’t it? Can you really tell yourself you are the MOST important? You kind of have to don’t you? You can’t pour from an empty cup and all that?
So now I’m thinking about the things that get in the way of that, that make it hard for me to have boundaries, that stop me prioritising me, and do you know where I kept ending up?
I show love to myself by being single.
Everywhere I started, every train of thought I’ve followed over the last few weeks, came back to this.
I think this statement is twofold – I show love to myself WHEN I am single, and therefore I show love to myself BY being single. My sister has always said that I am less myself when I am in a relationship, and I have certainly never felt like I’m the kind of person who is diminished by being alone. I never really get that sense of thriving when I’m in a couple – more that I am forced to compromise, to put myself second, to think about someone else’s needs over my own. I struggle with boundaries and I find it hard to prioritise myself without guilt or anxiety or self-doubt – all of the things that stop me showing myself love.
Now you might say that all of this is true because I’m simply not been in the right relationships, or that I haven’t learned how to BE in a relationship in a way that allows me to be myself and adds value to my life, and quite possibly you might be right. Regardless of the why though, the outcome as things stand is that I am a truer, fuller, and happier version of myself, overall, when I am single. I feel freer when I am single, more able to make the choices I want to make.
I’m not sure this counts exactly as a revelation – I imagine plenty of my friends and family will read this and think ‘DUR’ – but there feels to me like there is something new at least in understanding that I can actively and positively choose to be single in order to show myself love and create happiness.
It’s a shift of emphasis. Rather than saying ‘ergh, I’m rubbish in relationships, relationships make me stressed’ I can say ‘wow, I am so good at being single! I’m so comfortable in my own company, being alone makes me happy.’ Just that reframing is in itself a way to be kinder to myself isn’t it? A way to show myself love.
So that’s how I show love to myself. I do it by being single.
The extra joy that comes from this conclusion is that now, finally, I get to turn over a new card, literally and metaphorically.