(paraphrased from a lecture by Anne Lamott, whose priest friend shared them with her many years ago)
1. Have it all together.
2. If you don't have it all together, fix whatever is broken in you so that you do have it all together.
3. If you can't fix whatever's broken, pretend that you have.
4. If you can't pretend to be fixed, don't show up - it's a bit embarrassing to the rest of us.
5. If you do decide to show up broken, at least have the decency to be ashamed of yourself.
We are encultured towards self-loathing and self-avoidance.
Do it all, do it right.
If you can't be better, pretend you are.
Don't look any deeper.
Keep busy. Keep your chin up. Keep up appearances.
It takes so much energy.
It takes too much energy.
What would happen if I just loved myself? is the question I have been asking since my last post.
It's the question I hear when I see photos of lovely fat ladies who refuse to be shamed for being 'unconventionally' sized, or any women who post proud selfies, pleased with how they look.
It's the question I hear when I see women like Leslie Jones and Serena Williams who are bold and black and refuse to hide or hate or deny their beauty and their black-ness.
It's the question I hear when I wish I had cooler clothes, or knew how to wear makeup, or when I get into a funk because I dislike my behaviour, or think I should "know better."
The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that no one wants you to love yourself.
Hopefully that's not quite true. Your partner, if you have one, should love you deeply and encourage you to do the same. I hope you have at least one friend who is fully on your team. But there likely aren't more than a few voices urging you to truly love the you who is.
Not the self who is just beyond your reach.
Not the self who you could be someday.
Not the self you think you should be.
The person you are right now.
I want to love myself as I actually am.
Not just Beth five pounds lighter.
Not just Beth who is more patient.
Not just Beth who knows what kind of career/job she should pursue.
Not just Beth who does the dishes every night.
I am none of those people.
I don't think self-love is the same as self-wallowing. Self-acceptance does not mean ignoring or denying my weaknesses, my flaws, my favourite little sins.
It's just that shame, fear, and guilt are terrible taskmasters. They'll never get me far enough. There's always further to go, always another hoop to jump through, always something more to change.
Guilt and shame will never motivate us to freedom.
Whether we're talking innards or outsides, character qualities or physical appearances, choosing to love yourself is a radical, rebellious act.
Rebellious in the best way possible - rebellious against the consumer culture in which we live, one that is always telling us, This product will help you be cooler, this product will help you look better, this product will make you feel better about yourself. In short, this product will make you more lovable, because (is the inference), without it, you are not - or at least less - lovable.
Rebellious against our media culture that tells us to put a nice filter on our lives, to show off the glitz and the glam, to show the world and to convince ourselves that we are great and everything is awesome. But no one's life is like that all the time.
Rebellious against the inner voices of shame and guilt that say do better, try harder, you're too much, you're not enough, change, change, change.
What if I just choose to love myself?
As I am.
What if I love the stretch marks on my hips, the cellulite on my thighs, the new little ring of belly pudge my 30s has brought me?
What if I apologize for my anger, and then forgave myself instead of replaying all the wrong things I said for the next six hours?
What if love is mine for the taking?
What if love is yours for the taking?
My friend Katie took this photo a few weeks ago. My first thought was, Oh, I don't like...
And then I stopped.
I looked at myself.
And I said, I like me. I like this laughing, happy me (and I like me even when I'm not laughing).
And there wasn't room for any buts.
After my last post, a friend shared something with me that she wrote when she "decided to stop fat shaming myself and start loving myself more."
This morning as I was getting ready, I took a moment to look at myself naked in the mirror as I'd done so many times before, but something struck me this morning and I patted my belly and I squeezed my fat all over and I told her that she was good. I told her she was a good body and that she didn't have to be sexy; she was a good body and she didn't have to be thin for me to love her. I loved her and I was sorry for all the times I'd told her that I hated her and for all the times I wanted to, and did, hurt her. Then I dressed her in confidence and I left the house feeling not beautiful but just as I feel a human should about the house she lives in, content.
This, I think, is beautiful. It is honest, and difficult to do, and it's radical in the most compelling way. It's about choosing which voices to listen to, and which we will refuse. It's about moving away from shame and guilt, and towards Love.
That's where I want to go.
It's where I want to live.