Self-love: Who are you?

Silly question right?

I’m me, of course. But who am I really?

How can you love yourself, if you don’t know who you are?

When I look back at the years of depression, I discover that I’m not who I thought I was, or at least, I didn’t act like I was that person.

I thought I was a person who was open, loving, kind, contemplative, hippy-granola, vibrant, generous, a little bit wild. I thought I cared about people and animals and the environment. I thought I was politically active.

I thought I was going to raise my kid with a spiritual, social and ecological consciousness.

I thought I was someone with strong faith in things you cannot see, in the goodness of people.

But when push came to shove, when life got hard, I turned into someone I didn’t recognize.

I lost my faith, in anything spiritual and most of all in myself.

I lost my spark, my hope.

I began to hate people. I was full of anger. (And of course, there’s that whole “depression is anger turned inward” thing.)

I intellectually knew things I *should* be doing to make things better, but I was incapable of doing them, which fed the cycle more, leading to beating myself up.

I allowed my kid to grow up thinking McDonald’s was the best meal ever, instead of giving her mostly healthy homemade meals. In the beginning, it was because I was working and tired. Later, it was because I was depressed and would “forget” to cook something (really, I just couldn’t get out of my chair). I allowed her to grow up thinking sitting at a dining table was only for special occasions. I allowed her to grow up with a TV always on in the house. That is so not who I thought I was.

I was “into” yoga when yoga wasn’t cool. But for the last 15 years, I’ve barely had any yoga practice at all, much less a daily practice that I once had. Ditto for my spiritual practices.

So, now, here I am.

I’m not currently depressed, but I’m also not the person I used to think I was. And I don’t know if I can ever be that person.

So, who are you?

Are you who you think you are?

Look at the things you believe about yourself.

And then look at your actions.

Do your actions reflect your stated values?

If not, then you need to look at both those things, and you have two choices.

1. Start working on making your actions match your values.
2. Adjust your image of who you are.

I’m working on both.

For example, for the first time in my life, I’m making lists of things that need to get done, and I’m making a concerted effort to get them done.

There’s a couplefew of reasons for me doing this.

  1. It’s part of my journey to be more disciplined.
  2. In the past, I often sit in my home, thinking about the housework or paperwork or other stuff that needs to be done and get overwhelmed. Then nothing ever gets done, because I’ve spent all my energy THINKING about it, instead of doing it. Making lists is helping me capture the stuff that needs to be and frees up my head for other things. So far, I’m not always getting it all done, but I am getting more done than I have in a long time.
  3. This is also the first time I’ve made clearly defined goals, and if I just continue to sit on my ass not take any action, then I won’t make those goals.
In the past, this would have made me feel . . . restricted, confined. But right now, I’m seeing it as key to the changes I want to make.
So, do your actions match your values? Are you who you think you are? Can you become who you want to be?
You have to know who you are, before you can move forward, before you can love yourself. You have to accept yourself, warts and all.

4 thoughts on “Self-love: Who are you?”

  1. Mm. Do my actions match my values? Lately I haven't been sure, and yet my kid says yes – so naturally I believe him!

    I assume you have heard of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It's been around a while – since 1943. You speak of keeping spiritual priorities when things get hard; but basic human psychology (and essential insight) tells us that we don't work that way.

    I've included the link to the illustration included with the wikipedia entry of Maslow's hierarchy. For what it's worth I don't necessarily agree with the prioritization there, and I think there are sublevels within the levels illustrated, but it's a good beginning, conceptually.

    I think the hierarchy's most useful lesson is that it really isn't possible for us as human animals to attempt to prioritize our spiritual (or self-actualization) needs when needs which are more fundamental to the organism are unmet. And it's not necessary for us to kick ourselves about that. We simply have to learn to work from the ground up – admittedly not as easy as it sounds. But if we concede (I do) that mental health is an aspect of physical health, then our priorities, especially when depressed or otherwise ill, are not (and should not be) what they are when we're entirely well – and, moreover, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that, in fact, it's the nature of the animal. It's not an easy thing to admit, especially when you're used to holding yourself to high standards; but it's a useful way to set the bar so that one doesn't disappoint oneself.


  2. Hi, scary!

    Yes, I am familiar with Maslow. And you're right; I've been in survival mode for a long time.

    Prior to 2002, my depressions weren't THAT long, and survival mode was only a matter of months before I could return to myself. And this time, well, you've known about how long I was/am in that place.

    And I understand what you're saying, to be gentle with myself about that time. It's easier when it's just me that I screwed up and not the kid, you know? And yeah, I know, she's got some great stuff going on. But there's some other stuff that you guys don't see, too.

    But I'm really not trying to beat myself up here. I'm trying to be real.

    Like. . . I'm never going to have enough energy to take on as many projects as some people do, because I need more emotional time off than a lot of other people. If I don't get it, I'll collapse and sink back again. So, I have to be careful about how much I take on.

    That's not beating myself up, it's being realistic and accepting, no?

  3. Sure, absolutely. But you can be realistic and accepting and still want the yogini, the advanced spiritualist, the person who puts another before themselves. As long as you get that it doesn't work that way it's all good. Setting goals means taking care of yourself first – even – hell, especially – if there's a kid in the mix. There's a reason the airplane emergency card tells you to put your mask on first. That's all I mean.

  4. “Look at the things you believe about yourself.

    And then look at your actions.

    Do your actions reflect your stated values?”

    That's the hard part.
    Something to think about.

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