When my daughter was a baby, she went through this phase where she would look at me with absolute adoration. Like she was in love with me, in awe of me, and so complete in her knowing that I was everything she needed.
And I had to lower my eyes–it was too much! Too much love! How could she love me so fully and openly and unreservedly when I was so flawed, so shameful, so lacking of so many things?
In her gaze I came to know unconditional love. And I had to examine how it contrasted with how I looked at myself at the time. We have this habit of picking out every little imperfection when we look in the mirror, see pictures of ourselves, review our own creations and work we have produced. This scrutiny gets to be so tiring, counter-productive, life-stifling.
In those early months of my daughter’s life, and through the sleep deprivation, I got to know my own shadow intimately–those parts of myself I’d spent years trying to run away from and staying too distracted to see. Those parts that are the hardest to love. When I felt scattered and ragged and lonely and broken, and engulfed in those ugly parts, my daughter still looked upon me with soft eyes and a sweet wee smile. Me, the broken one, who was supposed to be responsible for her precious little life.
Her faith and adoration eventually rubbed off on me. It was a long process, to be able to sit still long enough for all the unloved parts of me to feel safe enough to call out for attention. And when they came up, like some deep sea creatures breaking the surface for the first time…gasping for breath they never knew before, soaking in the warmth of sunlight never felt before…I was the breath and the sun. I embraced them, and soothed them, and loved them.
It’s an ongoing process, this self-love thing. Yet it’s in our nature to love ourselves…it’s just something that gets untaught along the way. I wish you all the ability to at least experiment with seeing yourselves in a gentler light, seeing all your beauty along with all your weaknesses, and loving it all.