Love Yourself In Every Language: Receiving Gifts

It's funny how I've been writing this series lately, mostly because of how much I've been needing to learn the lessons I've been sharing here. Loving myself is something that has never come easy for me, because I have never been an easy person for people to love - at least, it seems, not for long.

I'm good at collecting people because I'm open and friendly and outgoing, because I tend toward people-pleasing, because I'm fiercely loyal, and because I'm always willing to give everything I have, even when I may not have very much to offer. I'm witty and funny and I go out of my way to be confident and empowering to others.

But somehow, I'm also pretty good at being the person other people find that they've had enough of. I'm introverted and often withdrawn - I'll think of someone daily or even hourly, but not reach out because I just ... can't. I have a tendency toward depression, I overthink things, and I'm the kind of the loud, brash personality that other people sometimes find grating, overwhelming, or even downright intimidating.

But for me, the balance has been off for a long time - not the balance within myself, but the balance within the people I surrounded myself with over the years. At one point, I looked around my life in dismay, and I couldn't find one person (other than my cousin Dana, who doesn't count because she is the exception to every rule) who seemed to genuinely believe in me.

And don't get me wrong - I got a great deal of halfhearted "good job" accolades, and a lot of endearing pats on the shoulder. But when it came to what I really needed the people closest to me to do or be or say in order to support and encourage me as someone they loved, I often met a lot of avoidance and headshakes. It left me feeling incredibly alone in my own inner circle - I had very little sense of personal community, especially when my closest and most treasured loved ones were literally telling me I would never get anywhere or amount to anything.

So I prayed. I prayed for the strength and the courage to let go of things and situations and people who were no longer healthy for me. I distanced myself from people I no longer felt close to. No awkward goodbyes, no big dramatic breakups in friendships or anything like that ... I just backed up and watched to see if anyone noticed. When they didn't, I backed up some more.

It hurt to realize that I wasn't missed enough to reach out for ... but it was also empowering to let go, and emptying my hands of unhealthy relationships that were hurting me opened room in my life for new people to come in. I prayed some more, and I met and connected to people I feel are my tribe, my people, right on down to the strange quirks and unique eccentricities we share that once made us stand apart from those around us. These people hear me out, even when I have nothing good to say for days or even weeks on end. They encourage me, empower me. They go above and beyond to show me that they believe in me, that they value me and what I contribute to the world. The adjust their own lives, creating space for me. They force me to video chat with them even if I warn them that I'm a sobbing, snotting mess that day and would probably be horrifying to look at. They make long drives even when it's out of their way just to share with me when I'm in need. They make a point to reach out, to be genuine, to see the good, to give gracefully, and appreciate gestures of loving kindness with open gratitude.

Which brings me to this post's love language. Like I said, it has taken me a long time to learn to love myself, and I'm still working on it, using words of affirmation to empower and encourage myself, using acts of service to keep track of my self-care and ability to move as smoothly as possible through my life, and using the act of receiving gifts to remind myself that I am lovable and worthy of goodwill from others.

But receiving gifts is another multi-faceted love language that can be challenging to get straight when applied to ourselves, by ourselves.

And sure, for some of us it's easy to get through with the old, "I deserve this!" mantra. I'll have my hair done, buy this new shirt, take myself to lunch ... because I deserve this. I'll go on this trip, I'll see this movie, I'll eat this second cookie ... because I deserve this.

But do we really mean that? Are we really treating ourselves out of love, or are we treating ourselves because we feel like we should? Here's an experiment you can do: think about the last time you made yourself a cup of coffee (or a mixed drink, or a whatever you prefer instead of coffee), and then think about the last time you made one for your spouse or partner or friend. What was different about your intention? What was different about the mood, the movements, the feel?

Next time, make that coffee with your most favorite loved one in mind. Make it thinking that someone you love dearly is going to really enjoy it. And then give it to yourself as a gift, a gift you allow yourself to receive with grace and gratitude.

And then, love yourself enough to be mindful or intentions as you treat yourself even to the smallest things. Wear your favorite perfume because today is a special occasion. You woke up alive and beautiful and full of purpose. Give yourself the gift of a good breakfast, that treat you've been wanting but saying no to, the supplies for a new project, a bouquet of beautiful flowers.

But don't just give the gift. Receive it. Because if you can't learn to love you, how can you teach anyone else? 

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