In this ongoing series, Multimedia LGBTQ leader Jeffrey Marsh answers questions sent via social media about how to live a full life.
"HOW can we love ourselves?"
Oh, we can just start already. We often get sidetracked, approaching loving ourselves like we approach "doing the dishes" or "learning French". We think it's hard and there is clearly a right way to do it. Within this paradigm, "loving yourself" is almost a distant goal post; it's over there and I'm way over here not loving myself.
This thinking is dead wrong. Loving yourself is not an end point. Self-care is not an over-there we'll get to someday. It's a good-messy imperfect-soupy process without a clear beginning or end. And we're learning to enjoy it. If we're lucky, we'll never get to some Happy End of loving ourselves. Ever. Actually, I'd recommend not worrying in the least about getting any-particular-where.
We learn to drive a car by reading and studying what we can, yes. But eventually we get in the car and turn the key. Just start already.
Loving yourself is an ongoing process, not an end. I hope everyone reading this lives a good long time. And I hope for all of us, on our last day, we're still learning to love ourselves. If we think of love as some done deal, fixed point, Future Achievement, that's where it will always stay: in the future.
Start small. Just make the tiniest movement in the direction of taking care. Have your favorite lunch. Read a good book. Take an art class. If we can see that learning to love ourselves is a messy life-long process, we can feel free to make mistakes with panache and get down to the business of starting.
"How are you always so confident in yourself? I wish most of the time, I was as confident as you are."
I'm not confident! At least I don't think I am.
I always shoot for being myself then whatever happens, happens. To me that requires no confidence, just willingness. Most of the time (ok, all of the time!) we have no clue about what's going to happen next anyway.
Does it take confidence to admit that we don't have a clue, that we can't control our feelings or our future(s)? Maybe.
Perhaps what we really want is acceptance. If we feel loved and accepted, we can go anywhere, do anything. We have "us" on our side. That's why I wanted to address these two #DearJeffrey(s) together. The responses to both come down to the same process: start small, start now, practice how we want to live and love. We can't expect to be "cured of non-confidence-ness" overnight. In fact, let's not even try for that. If we are a naturally shy person, for example, why don't we enjoy being shy? Why don't we learn to embrace the shyness we add to this world?
If we think our lives would be better lived with confidence, then we can give it a try. But if "having confidence" is simply code for "having a happy life", we can cut out the middle-man. We can go straight for "having a happy life". How? We are much happier when we accept exactly who we are, especially if who we are is something we were taught is wrong, like being shy for instance. We might even end up confident in our shyness!
In short, we need to take a good long look at what we think will make our lives better. We often don't know if confidence is really what we're looking for... So why not take a breath and simply shoot for happy in the best way we know how?
See #DearJeffrey live on Thursday, 1/22.