It's been almost a year since I first decided to be kinder to myself. I had been, as bell hooks puts it, an "emotional terrorist" (to myself) for much too long. I've written before about why self-love is important (check the tag), and I think it's especially important for people who are often told that there's something deeply wrong with them (like asexuals). The #1 thing I've learned about self-love is that it's a practice. It's not like loving another person, where one day, you might suddenly realize "I love them", and then from that point forward, you experience that love. One thing I like about yoga is that in classes, the teachers often refer a lot to "your practice", emphasizing that yoga is more of a process than something goal-oriented (like being able to do a certain pose). Self-love is like that.
For years, I've felt like I was fighting in an army, constantly trying to improve myself, but in some way, also at war with myself. I thought that if I improved myself enough, I would like myself. But now I see that it's the other way around. "Negative motivation"...you know, stuff like, "Work harder, you lazy slacker!" has never worked for me, and never will. Even if it "works" in the moment, you end up internalizing a lot of truly crappy ideas about yourself. I had the idea that if I didn't keep myself "in line", I'd somehow devolve into accomplishing nothing. But structure, which I need in order to achieve my goals, is not the same as having a mini-drill sergeant inside my head.
I also learned some lessons from cats. I love animals in general, but definitely have a soft spot for cats. From ages 6-19, I had a cat names Shadow. As a child, I had few human friends. Shadow, who would greet me at the door and then follow me around the house, helped me feel less lonely. However, he definitely had an attitude problem. He chewed up a large quantity of my clothes, had a habit of biting people's noses, and would pee on objects that had foolishly been left on the floor. Every night, he would commandeer my pillow, leaving me with only a few square inches to put my head. But I didn't have the heart to move him.
Sometimes I would get pissed off at Shadow...chewing my favorite sweater was a memorable misdeed of his. But, it was hard to be mad at him for more than a day. I wasn't in denial of his faults (some of them were even kind of hilarious) but I loved him anyway. For me, it was easy to love Shadow unconditionally. It's much harder to love myself that way, but it's what I'm aiming for. Thanks, Shadow (and fellow bad cats Smokey, Steve, Thomas, and Rosie).
This is getting long, but I wanted to say something about the phrase "Self love is radical!" I've heard it a lot, but it's never really explained. If it is indeed radical, then what makes it so? Maybe I'll try to do this in a future post.