“The way we love others is the way we need to love ourselves.”
Have you ever heard this? I’ve probably heard it a million times and have always done the whole “yeah yeah” type thing, scrolling on to the next post. But for whatever reason recently it has been sitting with me. A lot.
The way you love your partner, is how you need to love yourself. The way you love your children, is how you need to love yourself. The way you love your best friend, is how you need to love yourself. The way I love the people around me is the way I need to love myself.
As far as body image goes, loving myself has kind of come naturally to me as an adult, especially after having kids. But taking care of myself has been a bit different. There’s a book I read a couple of years back (and subsequently pushed onto literally everyone in my personal circle) called The 5 Love Languages, which discusses and describes the different types of love languages a person may speak. Apparently, the whole “men are from mars, women are from venus” thing isn’t too far off. Except, you come to find out that we’re all on totally different planets, and they aren’t determined by what gender we identify with. At the end of the book, there’s a quiz (you can take it online here) where you get to find out what language you speak, and are highly encouraged to have your partner find out what language they speak as well. Turns out, your girl speaks two languages nearly equally: Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Meaning, I love it when people do things for me (hello, my name is Princess Bryanna) AND I really enjoy a good hug. You can imagine what holding hands with a crush, or having them offer to carry my books was like for me as a girl. Try: EVERYTHING.
When you read the book, the author explains that the whole point is not necessarily to know what your language is. Instead, the point is to know what your partner’s language is, so you can love them in the way that means the most to them, and so you can see their love for you a bit more clearly. The author wants you to be altruistic about it, even if it is impurely. He aims to help you realize that if you know your partners love language, you can love them better. But inevitably what happens is you become painfully aware of your own love language, and you can become tempted to keep tally’s. It can be a little like donating to charity. A lot of the time people do it because we like how it makes us feel, when we hypothetically should be doing it to selflessly. The author asks you to rise above that, and love for the sake of loving, rather than receiving. (As a side note, considering the act of donating has an amazing effect on our health as shown in multiple studies it kind of doesn’t matter why you do it, as long as you do).
Lately I’ve been realizing that knowing my love language isn’t just a benefit for my husband, though. It’s actually a huge benefit for me. And it’s not because I get to keep tabs on whether he is loving me in my language. It’s because now I have a clear picture of what my love language requires from myself. Part of really coming into my own, so to speak, has revolved around the concept of self-care. Which for me, is taking the time to actively listen to my inner voice, and acknowledge my needs in every aspect of who I am. This means listening to what Bry the woman needs, as well as what Bry the mom needs, rather than letting any one particular facet of who I am over ride all the others.
Realizing this tiny nugget of self-care gold has been a game changer for me. Call me crazy, but I don’t feel loved when others buy me gifts (this love language is literally called “Receiving Gifts”), so it stands to reason that when it comes to self-love, I don’t need to go shopping as a part of my self care. What I need to do is do things that will make my life easier later, like meal planning, and keeping a handle on my weekly cleaning list. This is because me doing those things actually helps me to free up energy down the road, which allows me to do other things like take my kids outside, write, paint, or any other thing I love to do. When I frame my primary love language as a way to take care of myself, I find that I’m no longer stressed out about all the things I need to do. I do it, and I do it happily, because I know I will be even happier later.
I’m not a therapist, but I am a huge advocate of people listening to their inner voice, and honoring what they hear. And that’s because when I listen to myself, like really listen, I think it leads to more emotional stability, and ultimately it leads to a higher sense of self-confidence and happiness with my life. With the internet being one of the main ways people engage with one another, it has become so important for me to be able to take a step back and check in with myself.
Self care has to be a part of that check in, and knowing what I need in regards to caring for myself is absolutely essential. At times “self-care” can feel like a daunting task, but it shouldn’t! And if that’s you, if you just read this and thought “I have zero time for that” I’m begging you to reconsider. Start thinking about the way that you like to receive love from others, and just try to do that for yourself. Start with the basics, and build from there, that way you don’t find yourself completely drained while trying to still give to others. You’re important too, you’re worth that love!
And hey, if all else fails, you could always donate to a charity… or go shopping… just tell your partner I made you do it, I’ll totally shoulder that for ya!