Friday, February 14, 2014

Sustainable Love: The Valentine You Can Always Count On

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you!

As you may have noticed, my last post had nothing to do with secondhand clothing. It was one of those moments where I just had to make a statement and that statement was not going to wait.

In a sense though, my last post "What Kim Pham's Death Tells Us We're Doing Wrong" relates to the general sentiment of this blog in that it seeks to promote a universal outpouring of love. At their core, the posts on shopping vintage and recycling clothing are a celebration of abundance and love for the earth. The entreaties to support fair working standards are a call to loving compassion for those that toil to make our first-world lives more comfortable. The true goal of this blog, beyond the clothes and shoes and op-eds, is to act as a love letter to love.

To that end, today's post pays tribute to the greatest love of all: self love (Sorry, Whitney, but children scare me sometimes).

On this Valentine's Day, a day already replete with flower-filled Instagram posts and sassy single-friendly status updates, I ask you to send love to the Valentine you can always count on: you, yes, you.

Wah, wah, you might say.  I DO love myself: I take bubble baths, I eat chocolate, I buy myself treats, I laugh at my own jokes, I drink wine and kick up my feet when I get home and treat myself to a night filled with my favorite TV shows.

That's not what I mean by loving yourself. That's superficial-type loving yourself. That's what you do on a third date with the stoner you fell for during your second year of college. What do you do for the person who has been there for you your entire life, shouldering your troubles, consoling you while you cry, and stuffing your face full of pizza on lonely nights? I'm talking about you, yes, you.

How do you continue to love yourself unconditionally, sustainably, and honestly?

It's the same answer I'd give you if you asked me how we can keep on loving everyone and everything on Earth: by believing in a better version of that person/self/thing and acting on your beliefs.

The beauty of sustainability lies in a lasting desire for better; something that is constant yet constantly changing. This is how you grow and continue to love yourself despite outgrowing a previous version of yourself. This is recyclable, sustainable self love. It is abundant, it is eternal, and there is more than enough for everyone.

Now, I don't have all the answers to this universal need because I'm not your wise 90 year-old grandma, but I know it's a need and I know where I'm starting. I hope you'll try it too. Here we go.

1. Think of the qualities you look for in a mate. I asked a number of Facebook friends to answer this for me. The top three answers that came up repeatedly were: "a good companion," "generous," and "loyal."

Side Note: I chose to throw out answers such as "can drink" or "eats meat" because I see those as lifestyle habits and choices. Those qualities may speak to compatibility on a daily level, but I was looking for what people seek in another's mind, heart, and soul.

2. Apply those qualities to yourself. Be the person you want to fall in love with. So if what you want is a good companion, do the things it requires to be a good companion. Read to become more informed, expand your interests to become more cultured, polish your skills to become more disciplined, and basically encourage yourself to grow. You will naturally become a more interesting and companionable person.

Loyalty seems most important to men and women across the board. If that is what you value in another, then start with loyalty to yourself. Do not waver in that love for yourself. It will not be easy to keep on loving yourself at times. You will have to show yourself the same understanding you'd show a loved one who is going through changes. You'd tell a loved one "hey, I understand life is crazy now, but I love you and I'm here for you." Do yourself the same favor. Constant change does not invalidate constant love.

Please note I am not giving you license to stroke your own ego or use this to justify how you treat others. Loving yourself doesn't mean making excuses for yourself, i.e. "I'll do that later" or "Well, I didn't really mean it." Being loyal to yourself means being unabashedly honest with yourself about your expectations and standards and holding yourself up to your highest potential.

It means constantly telling yourself: I have all the qualities I want in a person.

That's important because you don't really understand those qualities until you've made that journey yourself. You probably can't even spot them properly in someone else until you can see them in yourself.

This is the hardest step. If you skimmed over this section, I'm talking to you. Read it again carefully and try it again and again.

3. Give yourself time. Take each quality seriously and work on it. This will take more than two weeks. This will take your lifetime to complete. Loving yourself is a constant journey because you will grow and get better and then set your standards higher. As you mature, you will want more out of yourself and others. As you encounter more people, more experiences, and new places, your ideas will expand. Accordingly, your standards for love should expand too.

4. Recycle, reuse, reinvent. Take that love and re-imagine it around new people and new settings. Make it stronger and less affected by external influences. Can you still love yourself after a bad audition or a hurtful fight with someone close to you? Yeah, it's hard for me too. That's why I'm working on it constantly.

5. Start over. Like the love song mixmaster Brian McKnight once said "then you start back at one." Every once in a while, re-evaluate those qualities you think you want in a mate. They may not ring true a year from now. You might go on a few dates and realize you want someone who will save the last French fry for you rather than someone who can drink you under the table. So now you have a new quality to work on for yourself as well.

I wrote this because I saw so many varying emotions online today. I understand the disappointment and bitterness as well as the exalted joy of being loved and appreciated. But because self love is the most impervious to all external validation, I just wanted to share this with you, the loved, the unloved, the happy ones and the sad ones. Let your own self determine when you feel loved.

I don't know if this will soothe the ravaged single souls out there tonight or not. It's a long ride and it sure as hell won't feel as immediately satisfying as a bouquet of roses you can rub in your girlfriends' faces all weekend long. But it's something really great you can do for yourself and you can start right now. See that beautiful person within you and know that you are your own greatest love.

Again, a Happy V-day to you and yours and, most of all, to ME!


 P.S. Thanks to all of you who commented or messaged. You were all very helpful ;)












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