I love you.
How many times have I said this?
How deeply I have meant the words, even as the meaning varies from person to person, event to event, moment to moment.
One day, after countless I love you's, my child said I love you back.
Just as I've said so many times before.
For many years, this is how my daughter has said it:
I love you.
I love dad.
I love my sister.
And I love me.
So matter-of-fact: she loves all of us, and she loves herself.
Over the years, her love proclamation has brought up a mix of emotions in me – and like so many other tender parenting moments, it has felt bittersweet.
It has been so sweet to hear how she includes herself as a being worthy of love. The bitter part was a concern that one day she might outgrow this beautiful statement.
Will she be socialized to think that it's strange or uncommon or awkward or inappropriate to declare her self love aloud?
Or even internally?
I want her to hear her own whisperings of self-love and absolute acceptance as she gets older, as she ingests social and cultural expectations, messages about body image, beauty, intellect, gender roles and all that being a girl and a woman in this country can be – in its narrowest and its the most expansive forms.
I love you.
I love them.
And I love myself.
I admit, I had not been modeling self-love for her in conscious ways.
She wasn't imitating my language.
I had not been including myself on the list of people that I love.
Is it a given that she will start abandoning her self?
Buying into the illusion that she isn't enough, or isn't worthy of love from others or herself?
Is this inevitable?
What can I do, think, say or be that embodies this value?
What I want to infuse into her growing heart is this:
You are a being worthy of infinite love.
You are a wellspring of love, and your natural state is acceptance for all of you.
Even when you fall or fail or embarrass yourself or lie or hurt others or lose track of what matters.
Even when you stray from who you want to be or lose sight of who you want to become.
You are both whole and evolving.
You are love, which has no boundary, but simply emanates from within you.
You love me.
I love you.
We love you.
May you always have the capacity to connect to the truth within you that knows you love yourself.
What can I do to support her?
What can I do to support this message in the way that I move through the world?
Now I model her.
Sometimes I add "and I love myself" when I tell her how much I love her.
And I set the intention to notice when I'm believing that I'm unlovable, or when I treat myself with conditional love.
When I look in the mirror and think critical thoughts about my appearance, I often add loving thoughts - thoughts of gratitude for this body that is so able and connected and wiser than my mind.
I connect to the greater truth that being alive and aging is a gift.
I get to grow older and experience more of this amazing life.
I want my children to feel the vibration of self love, not self loathing.
When I yell or find myself unhinged, I ask how I would treat my adult daughter if she were struggling in this way. I imagine comforting her and listening and supporting her. Then I imagine turning that unconditional love upon myself.
It might sound hokey, but I've found that the effect is a softer, gentler perspective.
We can be so hard on ourselves, and sometimes the compassion that is so ready for others evades our most personal relationship: that with ourselves.
Another way that I show my daughters that I love myself is by being true to myself.
This manifests by engaging in meaningful work that uses my gifts and talents in service of others.
This means making time for work and activities that inspire me, challenge me, and feel too good not to do.
How do you show yourself love?
Share your thoughts here.
I'd love to learn from you.
If you're unclear about how to cultivate loving yourself more fully and less conditionally, let's talk.