Self Love Isn’t Selfish

Photo Courtesy of Jamie Kathleen Haughaboo

Photo Courtesy of Jamie Kathleen Haughaboo

I remember on one occasion my mother came to visit me and I told her how I really wanted a deep fryer and that I was hoping that at some point my (now ex) husband would buy me one as a gift.

My mom looked at me and said what should have been common sense.

She said, “Renata, if you want a deep fryer go buy one.”

What she said was a revelation to me!

Believe me when I tell you that prior to her saying what she did that it had never occurred to me that buying a deep fryer for myself was even an option.

I was in a financial position to where the purchase would not hinder my family one bit. And yet there I was 30 years old when the light bulb finally came on that I didn’t have to wait for someone to give me something.

You would think I would have come to that realization much sooner.

You see, I was working and making my own income. Everything I earned was extra income to the household and yet I felt guilty spending any of the money earned on something that I wanted.

I still remember sitting in shock at the idea that I could go buy myself something that I wanted.

The concept of purchasing a want for myself was a foreign experience to me.

I recall I nervously drove down to the store and selected a deep fryer. I was so uncomfortable about spending money on myself that I almost left the store without making the purchase.

It took some time but I finally mustered up the courage (or shall I say self-worth) to select a deep fryer that cost no more than $35.

I was unsure about what I was doing because it felt so awkward doing something for myself.

But after I made my purchase I felt giddy. Reflecting back I felt giddy because I was finally loving on me. For the first time in I don’t know how long I felt I was worthy of doing something for myself.

I must be honest and confess that it did take some time to convince myself that I was not a bad person for buying a deep fryer and that I did indeed think more than once about returning the deep fryer.

It is sad how I thought so little of myself that I didn’t think that I deserved to take a portion of the paycheck that I had earned to buy something that I wanted.

But where in the world did that thought come from?!

To this day I am not able to pinpoint where it came from, but I am certain that it wasn’t from a healthy place!

But thank God the time came where I realized I was worthy of giving to myself.

Every time I look at that deep fryer I am reminded it is okay to be good to myself.

For many people my deep fryer story may seem extreme, but I have had the opportunity to hear many similar stories as I listen to others.

Especially in the lives of many women (particularly mothers and wives) all echoing a similar tale.

Women going without new bras and panties because they feel guilty that they could be helping to pay down the family’s debts.

Women wearing worn out sneakers/trainers and shoes because they feel like they don’t want to take from their family.

Sadly, I had adopted a mindset that I was not worthy of anything.

There was a time in my life when I put everyone before myself.

I thought that was being a good person and being selfless and kind.

For some reason I actually thought that being nice and neglecting myself was synonymous.

Thankfully, I now realize that when you neglect yourself you are not being nice to anyone especially not yourself.

I would go without buying new clothes and shoes in the name of being a good wife and mother.

I would feel bad whenever I purchased something for myself because I felt like I could be using the money to help my family.

My self esteem was so low I didn’t feel comfortable buying a new outfit or paying to get my hair done.

I was taking the left overs of what others didn’t want.

I had such a negative view of myself that I didn’t feel comfortable receiving from others.

But like I said I was not alone in this unhealthy thought process.

I don’t think I will ever forget the time I had a lady tell me that she didn’t want to go to school to further her education because she felt it would be selfish of her to get a degree when her family could be using the tuition money she would spend helping out her kids and household instead.

When I tried to explain to her that she could apply for grants or scholarships and that a degree may help her get a higher paying job she shook her head no and said she didn’t want to take anything from her family.

I have spoken to women who feel guilty for pampering themselves and even now I have to remind myself that it is okay to get a massage. And yes much to my chagrin there was a time that I had to learn that sometimes I do need to buy myself some new socks and that is okay to do so.

I had to realize that when you go without things like shoes because your current pair is worn out, you are ultimately not taking care of your body.

You can shout about how you are helping your family, but when your back hurts from wearing ill-fitting shoes and you are not able to get out of bed who will help your family then?

While it took me beyond a decade to recognize that it is okay to give to myself, the time came where I finally understood the concept.

And please allow me to clarify that I by no means am saying that you should have everything and neglect others. But I am saying that we should balance our giving.

If not we will start mistaking loving ourselves with being selfish.

I think that perhaps because women are prone to being givers (as it is in a woman’s nature to want to give) that we are so natural at giving to others that we find the concept that is okay to give to ourselves foreign.

(And yes, I recognize there are some women who do not operate in the feminine characteristic of giving, but I truly believe it is innately a feminine trait).

That deep fryer I wanted did not set my family back financially at all. But I had adopted a mindset that I was not worthy of anything.

And yet, while I have found this happening in the lives of a lot of women, I assert that this is not exclusive to women.

Understand that another way to not give to yourself is to block yourself from receiving from others, which I have discussed some here.

But I think there is a third way that we don’t give to ourselves that I have seen present in the lives of both men and women.

The third way I have observed is when we allow someone to mistreat us. This is because we are allowing an abuser to take the place a healthy relationship partner could have instead.

And I don’t mean just romantic partners. You need to have healthy business, family, spiritual and platonic relationships. Accepting mistreatment from others doesn’t allow room for better treatment to come and you are in essence taking from yourself.

You are neglecting yourself and robbing yourself of the opportunity to be treated well!

I remember over a decade ago I had a male neighbor who’s wife would continuously curse at him and put him down in front of everyone in the neighborhood.

One day he was taking what she felt like was too long in the store and so she got the keys to the car and left him and made him walk home from the store because as she explained it to me – she felt he was wasting her time.

I remember thinking she was so mean to him, now I realize he was also being mean to himself by allowing her to continuously mistreat him.

Understand that when someone has a pattern of mistreating you and you decide to remain in relationship with them you are not giving them another chance to treat you better, you are giving them another chance to hurt you.

I recall one day finding this gentleman sitting out on his front porch weeping.

I asked him if he was okay and he cried out while sobbing, “I don’t know what I did to deserve this”. I felt his cry all the way to my core as it struck a chord with me.

I told him you have done nothing to deserve this.

At the time, I didn’t realize that like him I was guilty of taking on abuse and mistreatment from others thinking it was some punishment beset by God when in reality I didn’t love myself enough to walk away from the mistreatment I was enduring.

For like him I had convinced myself I deserved to be last, to be mistreated, to be hurt and to be neglected.

Even now my favorite type of gift is something for the house (a new kitchen gadget, something to clean with, to decorate the house with). There is nothing wrong with this type of gift but there is something wrong if the reasoning behind it is because you have an unhealthy habit of putting you last. So this is something that I work on as I strive to become my best self.

For example, I recall my mother buying me a necklace for Christmas and my daughter letting me know how she admired it and how she wish she had a necklace like the one my mother had purchased me.

Without skipping a beat I told my daughter she could have it.

This saddened my mother because she had given it to me and I presume she felt like I didn’t appreciate it.

What my mom didn’t know is that I had a mindset that everyone else’s needs and wants should come before mine.

I had to work on that thought process and become a healthier me.

Not being able to receive will cause you to find yourself in one-sided relationships where you do all the giving and someone else does all the taking.

Oddly enough you will grow to resent the person who does all the taking, when deep down if you were honest with yourself you know good and well that if they tried to give you something that you would say something akin to “no, I’m fine I don’t need anything”.

The truth is many times the things we are looking for from other people are the things are soul is crying out for us to give to ourselves.

You want someone to spend time with you – but you neglect yourself.

You want someone to buy you something – but you never purchase gifts for yourself.

You want someone to treat you with respect – but you don’t respect yourself enough to walk away from abuse.

You want someone to love you – but you don’t love yourself.

I have said it before and I will say it again “You cannot give or receive love, to a higher degree than what you love yourself”.

When anyone tries to love you more than you love yourself you will become uncomfortable and push them away.

My mother loved me enough to buy me a necklace and without consciously realizing it I rejected the gift and gave it to someone else because I didn’t feel like I deserved it.

I now know better and I am doing the work it takes to continue to learn my truth worth and value, so that I can enter into and maintain healthy relationships.

So, if you are making the mistake of not realizing it is okay to give to yourself, it is okay to receive from others or if you are tolerating mistreatment from others then I encourage you to do the work it takes to become your best self. Love yourself enough learn healthy giving, healthy receiving and to no longer tolerate mistreatment.

Renata Nicole

© Renata Pittman, Renata Nicole and RenataNicole, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Renata Pittman and RenataNicole with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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