It’s Wednesday February 12th, so we are currently being bombarded with advertisements from florists, jewelers and chocolatiers, all reminding us that Friday is that All Important Day to Prove our Love. Everywhere you look, there are messages about pampering your love, celebrating your relationship and BUY BUY BUY! To be honest, I’ve never been a huge Valentine’s Day fan, but this year I am (and not just because I saw a receipt for a florist in my husband’s pocket…).
This pre-Valentine’s Day celebration is special. I am part of a group of women who are blanketing the world with love (http://madlyinlovewithme.com/events/). Instead of stressing the value of flowers, chocolate and jewelry for your Significant Other, we are stressing the importance of self-love (and not in an x-rated, “batteries not included” way). The idea of falling in love with oneself has come along at a very important time. My daughter is not-quite fourteen, which is a dangerous time for girls. Up until now, she’s managed to avoid or ignore the media messages on beauty and self-loathing. It’s coming soon, I can tell. I’ve seen her looking at herself in the mirror, standing sideways and pulling her shirt tight, trying to decide if the clothes are making her look fat, or if she needs to lose “just five pounds”. She recently gave up soda, and is limiting her intake of salty and processed foods. Some mothers would be proud of their daughter for making healthy eating choices. I am not. Don’t get me wrong. I am very proud of my daughter for wanting to take care of herself. I am worried that she is doing it for the wrong reason – that she is changing her diet because she thinks she is fat, and not because she wants to be healthy. I hope I am wrong.
When I was young(er), I was fearless. I had no doubt that I could accomplish anything I wanted to do. I wore kookie clothes and had weird haircuts and laughed too loudly and talked too much. Somewhere along the way between Then and Now, something happened and I became someone else. There’s nothing wrong with the person I’ve become. I’m a nice person with a nice life and nice friends living in a nice town…I’m just not me. I’m not sure what happened, but I blame the EIC (The Evil Inner Critic).
The EIC is the voice that tells us to smile instead of laugh, to listen instead of talk. He tells us that we’re not good enough, or smart enough, or pretty enough or talented enough to pursue our dreams. The EIC is the one who tells us to give up and settle down and live a nice life in a little pink house in surburbia – and then tells us that we don’t fit in – that we need to cut our hair and change the way we dress, that we need to buy a minivan and join the PTA. The EIC encourages us to change, to camouflage our true self and blend, and then laughs at us for trying.
Thanks to the reminder from the women involved with Madly in Love with Me, I am rediscovering myself. I’m the person with the misbehaving hair who snorts when she laughs. I have given up the carpool and committees and returned to writing and standup and singing loudly and off-key in my car. I have stopped caring what strangers think of me, and am hopeful that eventually the only opinion which will matter to me is my own. The EIC still yammers at me, but his voice is getting softer, and has been joined with other voices. Voices that tell me they want to paint, and dance in the rain, and wear bright colors and sparkly shoes. Voices that belong to my True Self, who has been patiently waiting for me to listen.
This, then, is the lesson I am learning, the one thing I want to teach my daughter while I still have a chance to influence her opinion. A lesson that has taken me 30 years to remember.
Whatever you do, be true to you.