As you love yourself, a birthday project

Good morning, friends! It’s my birthday today, and I have a (hopefully) fun project I’d love for you to take part in. Earlier this week I wrote about a photograph of people in London clasping the body of a man to prevent him from taking his life, and asked you to study the photo and think about who you identified with. I then shared a passage from Matthew where Jesus answers the question, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus’ answer was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” I asked you to notice that there are actually three people God is calling us to love in those commandments: God, our neighbor, and ourselves.

How can we love our neighbor as ourselves if we don’t love ourselves? How can we treat people as we would want to be treated when we often can’t even treat ourselves with kindness and respect? In a culture where women and femmes especially are taught to examine our every flaw, outward and inward, to apologize for everything even when it’s not our fault, to be meek and submissive, to be beautiful but not vain, and to view our own emotions as unreasonable and manipulative, it can be hard to know how to simply love ourselves. (Not to leave out the men-folk — I know you can struggle with this, too.) Self-love is viewed as narcissistic, vain, selfish, or overly-indulgent. But, guess what! There’s a loophole! There’s one time when it’s okay to be self-focused, to pamper yourself and accept pampering from others, and to accept compliments about your appearance — it’s your birthday! So since my birthday is today, I’d like to share that dispensation with you. And since I don’t want to put too much pressure on one day (and since it is going to rain all day today in Boston) I’m claiming the whole month of May as my birthday and ours. Hey la! It’s our birthday month! Let’s celebrate!!!

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you five suggestions of ways to treat yourself, to celebrate your life and practice some self-love this May. For each of you that does one and leaves a comment about it, I will donate $2 to Together Rising. I’m poor right now, so I’ll have to limit it to 15 commenters, but I really want to get up to 15 so please play along. It’s my birthday, after all, and this is what I want for my present. Here are your choices:

  1. Have a selfie photo session! You can put on your favorite clothes, jewelry, and make-up, or snap a picture after a work-out — whenever you feel most lovely and most like yourself. Find your light and your favorite angle, snap several photos and choose your favorite one. Then study it for a moment and tell me two or three things that you like about your face. My selfie is the one at the top of this post. I turned toward the morning sun and took a photo from above. I’m not wearing any make-up, but I love my freckles and rosy cheeks, rightfully earned at playground and parks, and the friendly crinkles of my crow’s feet. You can read more of my thoughts on selfies here.
  2. Eat or drink something that you usually deny yourself. This can be as simple as cream in your coffee when you usually have skim milk, or as decadent as an ice cream sundae (it’s our birthday!). And — this is a two-parter — don’t beat yourself up about it. You don’t have to punish yourself with thoughts of shame and disgust every time (or any time) you eat something the diet magazines tell you you shouldn’t. They don’t know you or your body (and, frankly, their science is pretty shoddy). Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves (thank you, Mary Oliver!). You can read more of my thoughts on eating here.
  3. Take a 20 minute vacation. Leave the dishes in the sink and the emails unanswered and go for a walk, or read a book, or sit on your porch and watch the sunset. Sleep in an extra 20 minutes, or get up 20 minutes early and do some yoga — whatever would make you feel loved and cared for. If you need your significant other’s help to make that happen, ask for it.
  4. Buy yourself flowers, or a house plant, or — what else do people get for themselves for treats? I mostly get plants. If you can’t think of anything else, I recommend getting a tiny mint plant and putting it outside in the biggest pot you have. By mid-June the pot will be overflowing with mint. If you don’t like plants, feel free to substitute your own favorite treat here.
  5. Notice your negative self-talk and replace it with a truth. If we talked to our friends the way we talk to ourselves we wouldn’t have any friends left. Notice if you are saying things in your head to put yourself down. I had a friend who constantly called herself stupid. I tend to say, “What is wrong with me?” when I do simple things like forget why I came into a room. (There’s a scientific explanation for that, by the way.) Think of a truth you can replace it with. I have gotten in the habit of saying, “I’m doing my best, and that’s enough,” to which I often add, “and so are most people.” You might also try, “I am God’s beloved child, made in the divine image” or even Stuart Smalley’s “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

Okay, I have to go pack for a quick, fun, last minute birthday trip to New York City to see some friends. Happy birthday, everyone, and I can’t wait to hear what you got yourselves!

Love,
Jessica

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12 comments on “As you love yourself, a birthday project

  1. brgetchell says:

    Happy Birthday… How genuine and true your words are. Thank you for sharing your heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. soundtek says:

    happy birthday – Im going to try your list and see what I can accomplish… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carey Henderson says:

    Happy birthday! I’m going to spend a couple of hours with friends tomorrow without feeling guilty about not being at home (or wherever) with my teens. I spend hours upon hours every day getting them to things and watching their things and I LOVE every minute of it. But lately it’s been A LOT of hours and A LOT of things, so I’m going to do this thing for myself. Thanks for the encouragement!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mom tells me, “You never deny yourself anything.” (re:#2) but now I am enjoying vanilla ice cream with maple syrup. Happy birthday!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yummy! But I wonder if you can challenge yourself to do something for yourself you don’t usually think of. Like maybe skip the evening news and meditate instead? Or go out and watch the sun set over the river?

      Like

  5. judithkunst says:

    Happy birthday, Jessica! Today I went to the wellness center by my house and gently worked out. Then I sat down in the empty yoga room with my back against the mirrored wall and turned on my centering prayer app. As I prayed, I noticed that whenever I recollected myself from distracting thoughts, the skin on my back between my shoulder blades made contact with the mirrored wall. It was so cool and soft–after awhile it felt like a friendly hand on my back. And I decided it was.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jessica, Happy Birthday and thank you for allowing me an extra one this year. I’ve had 72 of them so far and still see myself as falling short of good enough so I’m am choosing #5 and using Stuart Smalley’s confirmation to help me. I tell myself that I’m not good enough for people to like me, So I’m changing that. You’ve been inspiring me for years and I’m glad that you are still doing that for other’s too. As some would say, Peace be upon you, Sister.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Kara N. says:

    Happy birthday! I’m a Monkee who enjoys following you. I treated myself to a big blueberry muffin today. Happy May to all of us!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Jules says:

    Happy Birthday !

    Liked by 1 person

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