I believe I’ve found a key to unconditional self-love.
This morning, I realized that I redefine myself throughout my day. With each action I perform, I reevaluate myself, and honestly others, too.
I’m a good mom when my child is happy, a bad mom when she’s upset. I’m a good business woman when people are buying my offerings, a bad one when they’re not. I’m a good daughter when I can show up for my parents, a bad one when my priorities take precedence. I am a good wife when I greet him with a smile and dinner on the table, a bad one when I’m exhausted and he cooks dinner…
I realized as I journaled earlier, that my upbringing—not just my family, but the church, the school system, my culture, society, etc.—has taught me to judge myself by my performance, rather than my core values. But when who I am is based on performance, my perception of myself can shift many times in a day. No wonder so many of us are exhausted at the end of the day.
Our perceptions of ourselves come from the beliefs we were taught, and criticisms we’ve witnessed and experienced. We take those judgments in and no longer need others to judge us. We begin to judge ourselves.
This morning I woke up with an awareness of this habit and a commitment to letting it go. I am who I am, AND I do things. I am not the things I do. I get to drop the adjectives—the opinionated labels of good, bad, successful, etc. and just be who I am, and make decisions based on my priorities. I don’t need to keep shifting how I view myself all day, based on my decisions. “Good mom” in the morning because I got her to school on time, “bad mom” in the evening because I picked her up late. Every day, all day, I am a mom. Period. Not good, not bad, not exceptional, not lazy. A mom making choices throughout her day.
It’s freeing to drop that tendency to flip flop on how I view myself… to stop the self-abuse. It’s really about shining light on that internal voice that is evaluating every single thing we do. (I break this down further in my upcoming book, You’re Being Catfished.) We get to see that the punishment and rewards systems we experienced in childhood—with labels of “good girl” and “good boy” as additional rewards for our performance, and their opposites as punishments—taught us that who we are is based on what we do.
One way to know if this is still impacting you is to think of how you label yourself (in your mind or aloud) when you can buy whatever you want vs when you have to check your balance first, when you’re the top performer at work vs when you’ve been demoted, when your post goes viral vs when you get no response, or even when you’ve got your snatched body with your six pack abs vs the keg.
If you love yourself unconditionally, your choices don’t change that fact. You don’t beat yourself up when your performance isn’t at its peak. Your love remains, even when your choices shift.
Maybe you’ve already mastered unconditional self-love. That’s great! For me, this realization is new and eye-opening. I am now aware so I can actively stop judging myself and choose actions that best support my present intentions. I get to separate who I am from what I do. I can be a mom who served dinner at 9, instead of 5 without being a “bad” mom. I can take a day off to replenish, and not feel like a “bad” business owner. I can reply to a text message when it’s convenient for me, rather than interrupt my nap, without calling myself a “bad” friend. And I can extend that kindness to others.
When we are more loving and understanding toward ourselves, we are automatically more understanding and loving toward others. We can drop the opinion-based labels we place on ourselves, make aligned choices, and address ourselves, and others, with love.
Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist