My sister Chloe and I discovered the other day that a woman we know struggles with an eating disorder. I wouldn't normally mention something like this in a public forum, and I do not do so lightly now. I share it only because of the conversation this discovery prompted between Chloe and myself.
I don't remember the entire course of the conversation, but I remember saying, "well, refusing to love yourself until you deem yourself worthy of love is never, ever, ever going to work. That's just not how that works."
I said this expecting something along the lines of a nod of assent from my sister, but instead she said "Oh."
She didn't know.
Is this a thing that people don't know? Have I somehow been lucky enough to stumble into this patch of truth by accident? Do you punish and withhold love from yourself?
I asked her whether this was something I should have said years ago, and she told me that I should write it. So hear is what I need you to understand:
Refusing to love yourself until you are "worthy" is never going to work. It is never going to make you better. It will never work because it isn't possible to build yourself up while you are tearing yourself down. It will never work because you will never deem yourself worthy until you are perfect, and you never will be. It will never work because people don't reach their full potential when they are living in the shadow of disgust and disapproval and criticism--they reach their full potential when they are forgiven, loved and encouraged and supported. So try this for a change: love yourself. Respect yourself. Forgive yourself.
When you royally screw up--like you will and like I will and like everyone else--apologize, set right what you can, and carry on. What good comes from flagellating yourself?
Forgive, encourage, and support yourself--as you would a beloved child--and see how you grow. See what you can do.