There is an unrequited freedom that comes in solitude. The only person I have to please is me. The only opinion that matters is mine. The only happiness to be fulfilled is my own. The imminent pressure to fulfill the desires of others while balancing the art of appeasing oneself can be taxing. As a mother, daughter, friend, artist, minster, wife, etc, the expectations from others can be endless. Even those who mean no harm will impose their expectations and add to the daily pressure that we can often feel as human beings.
Recently, while my husband was out of town and my daughter at daycare, I experienced a reprieve from said pressure. Even while having a few hours “off” from my husband and child, the reality of being responsible for others’ opinions and expectations burdened me. In search of answers, I was led to go see the movie Race, about the life of Jesse Owens. Without spoiling the movie, I took from it a renewed sense of the concept of self love. Jesse Owens overcame the pressures from outside expectation by being true to himself. He repeatedly chose his heart over “logic” and his love for self is ironically what put him in place to become one of the greatest runners of all time.
So why is self love so hard for some of us? The fight through the fatigue of the balancing act is enough to leave us dormant for days, months, even years. Over the last few months, I’ve seen so many moms begin to lose that balance for the sake of happiness. The mothers of millennials are hitting their early/mid 50’s and have decided they can no longer carry the burden of appeasing everyone but themselves. They’re traveling, being spontaneous and saying ‘no’ where they once felt obligated to say yes. As a true millennial, I’m asking why I can’t have that now.
As I drove in my car, alone with several hours to enjoy, I realized that every time my husband is out of town or I have the car to myself, I feel the most free I’ve ever felt. It’s effortless. I have a new outlook on life and I’m ready for anything. I wondered why I didn’t feel this way otherwise. I came to the conclusion that I don’t fight for myself. I’m so taxed by the perception that I must appease others, I push myself to the side and engage in the pressure. Becoming increasingly frustrated because I’m looking to others for answers and reciprocation. Wasting my energy. With much help from old friends & Jesse Owens, I realized I am the answer. I am the only person that can guarantee my happiness.
The answer is self love. An unapologetic commitment to it. It often looks selfish & foreign to our loved ones. We look crazy at times. It goes against societal norms and expectations. Yet most importantly, it keeps us happy and it helps us love others more purely. It takes me making the conscious decision to leave my baby in daycare for an hour longer than usual so I can see the movie that gave me the answers I needed. It takes me making the decision to change my major back in college. Or quitting my job when I was miserable. Despite the pressures & even the support from others, I had to make the decision to love me, regardless. It’s so easy to blame others for our unhappiness. So easy to allow the pressure to debilitate our fight. The truth is, we choose to fight just as we choose to give up.
We often think heavily on decisions until we rely on what “makes sense.” But when we focus on what is, what we want, who we are; we realize “what makes sense” no longer does in the context of a life where we ultimately control the narrative. So is self love selfish? I’d say no; and i’m sure we could debate that for hours. What I do know, is self love has become a necessity for sanity in my life. And furthermore, it’s become the only way that I’ve found consistent happiness.
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