Several months ago Bria asked me "Mommy? Who do you love?" I answered the obvious: I loved her, and Daddy and Chloe. She said, "But who else?" So, I listed off a few more family members, like my parents and siblings, Joel's parents, etc. She thought for a moment, and then she said, "Mommy? But don't you love yourself?"
Woah. Talk about making me really think. At that point in my life I couldn't honestly say that I did love myself, which is probably why her question stopped me in my tracks. I had been putting myself dead last for a long time. All of my energies had been devoted to my husband's happiness, my children's welfare, and trying to lift and motivate and love the sisters in Relief Society as I also dealt with many of their personal problems. I've always been somewhat low maintenance, but at that time, I was really low maintenance...I was not wearing make-up much, I was hanging out in my PJs if I didn't have to go into public, I was putting my hair in a pony tail every day, even barely remembering to take a shower as the needs of others pushed aside my own basic needs. And I realized, I haven't been treating myself very kindly...and I definitely don't love myself enough to do it.
The first thing I figured I'd better start doing was to pamper myself just a bit more. Actually take a shower before I did anything else. Put on my make up. Dress nicely so that I felt good about the way I looked. Do my hair. This was all good, but I couldn't say that I actually loved myself yet. I was taking better care of my physical body, yes, but I couldn't say that I loved who Lara was.
So, I figured I'd start with the example my children had set. Every time Chloe says a prayer she says, "Thank you for me"...and she used to say, "Thank you for Cwoe." I always thought that was so cute, but now I was thinking that perhaps I should start with that. By being grateful for me, for who I am, for what I have to offer the world. So I began to try to remember to be thankful for myself when I prayed. And not just when I prayed, but when I was comparing myself to the wonderful people around me and feeling like I just didn't measure up. I needed to stop that comparing, because essentially, I was comparing my weakest points with the strengths of others. Not fair to myself at all...because I have strengths too. I just wasn't recognizing them.
Slowly, by learning to love myself, I started to pull myself out of the rut that I had created. I still fall into that rut occasionally, and when life gets a bit too overstuffed and overwhelming it is not yet second nature for me to say "I'm an okay person. I can do this." I don't think yet that everything I do is absolutely fabulous and never have self doubt. I still don't always put in my contacts and wear lipstick every day. I still get carried away in helping everyone else and putting myself off to the side. Yet, if Bria asked me today if I loved myself, I can honestly say I do.
The lesson I have learned is that I cannot truly love others and serve them until I am also doing the same for myself. I won't have it in me...I'll resent it all. But when I am allowing myself time for me, when I am trying to recognize my strengths and not just my weaknesses, and even when I am just spending a little extra time on my appearance it is so much easier to go out in the world and love others. "Love thy neighbor as thyself"....the key is you actually have to love yourself.
Thanks, Bria, for helping me to learn a very important lesson.