Love Thyself

woman doing hand heart sign

Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR on

I think I can attribute a lot of my problems to the simple fact that I don’t love myself.

I just don’t think I’m worthy of anything good. What makes me think such a thing?

To be honest, I don’t know.

My parents showed me a lot of love growing up. I wasn’t spoiled, but they never failed to praise me when I accomplished something challenging. But I was one of those gangly kids with the zit-covered face. I grew too fast and reached six foot at thirteen. And I was smart. A student smart. Listened to music no one else did and never followed the crowd. So I was soundly rejected by most of the high school population. Laughed at, mocked, you name it.

Skip to college. Again, I was the weirdo, except my face cleared. By this time, I became a full-fledged punk – when the trend was originally emerging. I found it perfect because I didn’t like myself, never had a steady boyfriend, but kept a nice circle of like-minded friends. And the music was killer cool.

First job and first apartment took me to New York City. I hit the big time. Low-paying wage but who cared? I lived in THE CITY. I finally managed to look decent and did okay in my new career. But no one asked me on a date, so I got involved with all sorts of causes and volunteer jobs. Made terrific friends, had great life experiences but still no boyfriends.

Those terrific friends all had wonderful relationships. Everyone paired up and married, even had kids. So I became involved in their lives and problems, never focusing enough on what it was that would make me happy. I kept going from day to day. Go to work, then the gym, maybe have a drink or go out someplace, then home.

Until I crashed in my thirties.

I don’t remember how exactly it came about, but I do remember I just bought an apartment in Manhattan. There was a small window of time when one living on a nonprofit salary could do that. I do remember sitting on the floor, my hand in a box of Fiddle Faddle, when suddenly I broke down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably. For hours.

Worthless. Less than nothing. Disgrace. Trash. No one wants you. Give up. All of these thoughts and more convinced me I deserved nothing. I barely made it through the day. When I tried to talk to my mom about how I felt, she told me (a la Cher in “Moonstruck”) to “snap out of it.” Believe me, I tried. With each passing day, I felt worse about myself and my future.

Eventually, 9/11 happened. Believe it or not, that event woke me up. I knew so many people that died. I chose to live for them. Within weeks I met someone and less than a year later, we married.

Trouble was, he was an awful lot like me. Too much.

We didn’t spend a lot of time building each other up, although I’d like to think we loved each other. Part of the problem was old ghosts came back to haunt me. I should’ve ignored them. I hated Christmas. Still do. I should’ve learned to tolerate it. But I didn’t do a very convincing job. When I became a mother, I refused to celebrate Mother’s Day. I never thought my parenting job merited such recognition, even though my son turned out pretty darn good. Although when we first married we really did a lot together, I didn’t want anyone to treat me special, or do the things couples do to show a material form of love – a nice gift, a dinner out at an expensive restaurant, a weekend away…or even a surprise dessert from a bakery. Or doing the dishes unasked. You see, I simply wasn’t worth the trouble. So why should someone think I was worth loving?

My husband also did the same. And our strategy worked. We divorced.

The other day as I folded an entire section of messy towels at Phipp’s, I reflected on my utter inability to love myself. I’m in my fifties now and I still think I’m less than zero. I truly believe I deserve the fate I now am living, and shouldn’t expect anything better. For whatever undefined reason, I’m certain I was put on this earth to be miserable. And I started to cry. Thankfully, no one saw me.

Mother’s Day is next week. My son made no mention of it nor did I say anything to him. I look at the Mother’s Day cards and still think how sad it is I can’t buy one for my mom anymore. I don’t see me as Mom. Just Shellie. What did I do that was so special to be rewarded for making sure my kid went to school, ate proper food, kept him on the level and made sure he was prepared to enter the world on his own after he graduates high school this year? I did what a mother should do.

Just how does one stop this destructive behavior?

Whenever I think about doing something positive, I immediately think it’s stupid and will amount to nothing. I’m sure this line of reasoning is why I haven’t been able to find a job that pays a decent wage with benefits. As it is, I can barely glance at the job listings. I know I won’t find anything.

I’ve been to counseling before and it only kind of worked. I was honest with my counselor. I worked hard to better myself. But it didn’t stick. And I don’t want to take pills to bounce myself to rights. The truth is, I want to be better. I want to be happy. On some level I think I’m worth something. Surely I must be. I need to force myself out of my comfort zone and risk getting out of this rut once and for all. Because my biggest fear is I’m going to be alone and poverty-stricken, not only without money but no friends or much of anything.

I need to love myself.

Only if I knew how…

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