baby kisses himself in mirror, maggie mcreynolds blog

Love the One You’re With

Think of someone you love. I mean, really, really love.

They’re wonderful, aren’t they? They mean so much to you. They bring you so much joy. You are grateful to have them in your life.

Except.

Their nose. It’s a little funny-looking, isn’t it? They’d be so good-looking if it weren’t for that weird nose. That, and that paunch they’ve developed lately—what’s up with that? Didn’t they say they were going on a diet but then they finished that tub of Ben & Jerry’s you’d been saving? No self-control. In fact, you can hardly stand to look at them. Their flabby tummy is icky.

And hey, doesn’t it seem like they don’t get around to doing a bunch of stuff they say they’re going to do? They kind of let you down, don’t they? Stupid procrastinators. They’re never going to amount to anything if they don’t get off their butts. What, they think their retirement income is going to take care of itself? If they’re not careful, they’re going to end up in a raggedy tent living under an overpass. And no one will help them. And no one will love them, ever ever again.

Do you think this way about the people you really love? Occasional arguments or bouts of friction aside, chances are, you don’t. When you really, really love someone, you love their misshaped nose. Those ten extra pounds don’t matter—and if they do to them, you support them in getting more fit. When there’s a communication problem or lack of follow-through, you talk it out with them, you don’t write them off as some kind of loser who’ll end up alone and miserable.

Unless, of course, you’re thinking about yourself.

Most of us would never level this kind of unflinching, intentional judgment against others we love, but we’re all too willing to beat ourselves up for what we perceive to be our weaknesses and flaws. My teeth are crooked, it ruins my smile. God, my ass is as wide as a barn. I’ll never finish that report on time, why do I always leave things until the last minute? I’m fat, I’m disorganized, I’m irritable, I’m socially awkward, I’m faking it as an adult when inside I have no idea what I’m doing. I am such a freak show. No wonder he/she left me.

The fall-out from this kind of nonstop critical narrative is pretty devastating. We human beans are more powerful than we know—and our thoughts about ourselves and our world have a pretty uncanny way of coming true. You believe you’ll never lose weight? With this thought shaping your actions, you likely won’t. You think you’re a loser? Then you probably behave like one. You hate yourself? How do you think that makes others feel about you?

What if you were as tender and gentle and loving with yourself as you would be with a beloved other? What if you forgave yourself, cut yourself some slack, comforted yourself after a fall, encouraged yourself to try again? What if you loved yourself, deeply, passionately, wildly, truly?

It isn’t just a nice-sounding thought, it’s key. Because, to paraphrase the song, you can’t truly be with the ones you love, honey, until you love the one you’re with.

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