Thursday, February 14, 2013

Learning to Love...Myself? Hopefully.

Today is Valentine's Day, where everyone tells their significant other, "I love you," sometimes accompanied by a gift. There are plenty of weddings or marriage proposals that occur on this date, and everyone who went to a public school remembers passing out those little cards. Though love--whether romantic or otherwise--is important, it shouldn't be something limited to just one day out of the year; still, most holiday traditions present ways to show a loved one how much you care about them.
Though I am a lifelong single, I often try to do things to show my friends and family that I care about them. My mom is always very happy when I come home from the library or a yard sale with a new book, CD, or DVD for her. Not only that, but, when the holidays or their birthdays come around, I either give my friends printed cards, if I regularly see them in person, or I send them an e-card, both of which I make on Print Shop. Of course, being the original that I am, I take a different approach than most people would. Instead of cupcakes with candles or winking Santa Clauses, I often use celebrity images--usually of my favorite actresses--and/or fictional characters, such as Yoda or Harry Potter's Fleur Delacour. Everyone who receives one of those homemade cards appreciates it, and I'm glad to show others that I love them. However, when it comes to showing love, there's one person who has never received enough of it from me: myself.
When I used to ask others why I hadn't been in a relationship yet, one female friend used to always tell me, "YOU don't love you, so how can you expect anyone else to?" I once came across a book titled How Can I Learn to Love You, When I Can't Even Love Myself? Some of my single female friends probably asked--and may be still asking--a turnaround version of that titular question: "How can I learn to love you...when you don't even love yourself?" Though I try to be a tolerant person, there are some character traits I see in others that endlessly irk me. Probably tops on my list is being conceited. One example is shampoo maven Paul Mitchell; I haven't ever used his products, but his commercials annoy me, just because he comes off as a stuck-up rich guy who only hangs out with gorgeous hair models. Even an old friend of mine used to constantly remind me and his siblings that he was the "best in the state" at a sport, because he had won a state championship, but he didn't act like a champion in other respects; when he whined like a baby on his fourteenth birthday because he lost a round of the Nintendo 64 classic GoldenEye, it was like seeing Michael Jordan or Mark McGwire crying in a bathroom stall after losing a game of checkers.
As you'd expect, that's how I try not to be. However, many times, I end up being the exact opposite; a downer who considers myself worthless, talentless, and stupid. Instead of loving myself too much, it seems that I don't love myself enough. Both situations may sound extreme, but there's a reason for that: People with Asperger Syndrome, such as myself, mostly operate in extremes. We either do something too much, or we don't do it at all; we either go too far, or don't go far enough; we either adore it, or we despise it. The right way of loving yourself is doing it in moderation; not thinking you're better than everyone else, but also not thinking of yourself as worthless scum. However, doing anything in moderation has never really been my strong suit, so, based on Proverbs 16:18, I chose the lesser of two evils by disliking myself instead of thinking I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread.
There's a problem with that, though: According to Jesus, the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39). Though Bible scholars and readers usually focus on the first three words of that divine instruction, the last two are just as important. David's infamous proclamation in Psalm 139:14 only proves that point even further.
So, what's a chronic extremist such as myself to do? First off, saying that I can't practice moderation is incorrect; I'm reminded of a scene from The Wonderful World of Disney's Noah, which was a modern adaptation of the story in Genesis, where the present-day ark-builder finds that "can't" was literally cut out of their dictionary by his late wife prior to her death. Sure, exercising moderation may be difficult, but that doesn't make it impossible. Also, there have been times where big-time downers were just as annoying as Paul Mitchell; I'm reminded of an old friend whose every statement sounded as negative as a Linkin Park song. True, he had been through some hard times; his marital troubles, which led to separation and, later, divorce, broke the hearts of many who knew him. Still, his comments on nearly everything were redolent with despair, and, to be frank, it was a bit frustrating at times. I would say that people like him, as well as the Paul Mitchells of the world, are both Tim Taylor-style examples: they show me what not to do.
One thing I've heard over the years is, "You don't have any self-respect." Though it's been over half a decade since someone spoke those exact words to me, the general meaning has been delivered to me from friends and others in various ways. Usually, people have said that because I did something no one should be doing, but wasn't the least bit embarrassed when I was caught doing it, or because my hygiene skills were not up to par. In recent years, I have tried to become better about that, but breaking bad habits that I've pretty much had my whole life has proved rather challenging.
I'd like to think that I'm a happier person--and, therefore, love myself more--because of recent changes in my life. I used to have my parents drive me everywhere I wanted to go; now, I take the bus to work, and walk to places in my neighborhood when I can. Previously, any item that I wanted that wasn't available at a yard sale had to be handed to me, due to my lack of income; now that I have a job, I can buy what I want with money I earned myself. In years past, I was frustrated because I had too much spare time on my hands, and sometimes took it out on my friends; having a job and filling my spare time with entertainment changed that. Yes, I am proud of my achievements, but I don't want to become overly proud of what I've done; remember Proverbs 16:18? Loving yourself just the right amount seems to be a tightrope walk, at least for me. Doing it too much is sinful; however, not loving yourself is an insult to the One who created you. I'm hoping that maybe, just maybe, I can learn to have better self-esteem without becoming a Paul Mitchell clone.
I will end with two points.  First one: When you see something on television you don't like, for whatever reason, you at least have a desire to change the channel.  If you can't find something worth watching on television, you might put a DVD or video on, or turn on the radio, or read a book, or find something online to do.  Well, at the end of the day, I have to look back at what's happened since I woke up and ask, "Do I like what I see?" A day like today is a good one; I got quite a bit done at work today, and my newly refurbished iPod came back.  However, if I lost my temper, or made an unkind statement to or about someone, then that makes for a bad day, but it's my own fault.  If I'm going to love myself, I have to be someone that I can love, which goes back to the Golden Rule: doing to others what you would want them to do to you.
Last one: Let's say you were attending a surprise birthday party for a friend. You're hiding in the shadows, and the birthday boy or girl comes in, and you all yell, "Surprise!"...when your friend immediately walks out, gets in his/her car, and drives off without a word. Wouldn't you be offended that he/she refused to attend a party where tons of people came to celebrate him/her? Well, I hate to say it, but that's how I've been. People wanted me to celebrate who I was, what I could do, what talents I had, and the adversity I've overcome...but I was too busy despising myself to even think about doing it. I have friends and family who love me; now, it's time I learned to love myself. It'll be a hard road, but I know I can do it. Can you help me with that?

No comments: