Sometimes Self-Love Means Dropping a Few Balls

by Dana Boyle on June 7, 2011

An important part of getting the love we crave is first learning to give ourselves the love we deserve.  It can be tough to practice self-love in our fast-paced world where we all work long hours, often take on more than we would like to, and we still have the responsibilities of home and family waiting for us at the end of the day.

Yesterday I rushed around doing as much as I could cram into one day.  I landscaped for 3 hours, then I did legal work for several hours – arguing and negotiating with mothers who didn’t want to let the fathers of their children (my clients) see their children…at all…and getting them to agree to be more reasonable, then I shut off the world to do invoices, all while tossing in a load or two of laundry, making the bed, watering the garden again because it was 95 degrees out, and balancing spreadsheets to make sure all the numbers matched up.

I usually do work until 3 and then do household things.  Three o’clock came and went and I kept working, well past five.  At 3:30 I started to tell myself things about me.  I started to tell myself that I didn’t look good enough for my husband and I better get myself prettied up before he got home.  I told myself that I was not cutting it with the house, because there were dishes in the sink, the bed wasn’t made yet and I didn’t get around to cleaning anything at all.  To top it off, I hadn’t thought of anything remotely interesting to make for dinner, and I didn’t feel like cooking anyway and I hadn’t gotten to the grocery store, so I told myself that I was acting like a spoiled princess who expected to be taken out to dinner even though we’d been doing that a lot and that I was wasting our money by not cooking at home.

I got up from my office chair and started to run around remedying all of it so I could be more perfect – what I seemed to be telling myself I had to be – and the phone rang.  It was my tenant who wanted to ask me some questions about our lease, explain and negotiate payment for the month, etc, and that’s when I went into meltdown mode in my head.  Just being on the phone with her made me feel like I didn’t have enough time.  As I hung up and stood in the bathroom putting on make-up frantically, it dawned on me.

I had just put in a full day of work just like everyone else who leaves the house at 7 and gets home at 6.  If I worked for someone else and I left the house every day, I wouldn’t be here to cook or clean, and I’d be in work clothes that were all wrinkled when I got home.  I was expecting myself to put in a full day and earn what everyone else earns in a day, PLUS do my business books, garden, cook a nice meal, do a few loads of laundry, have a perfectly clean house,  and look like a refreshed bombshell when my husband got home.  What the heck?!  Is that self-love?  Sounds more like self-abuse.

The phone rang again, it was David.  I was almost in tears by that point, and he could tell.  I told him all the things I’d been telling myself, and that I felt like a failure because there was just no way I could do all of that today.  Of course, he told me that he agreed with me about my revelation, and that I work just like everyone else.  I shouldn’t expect myself to do all those other things too, unless I have the time and want to do it.

He told me to stop trying to do anything else and relax until he got home and he’d take me to dinner.  When he got home, he noticed all the new plants outside and told me how nice they looked and told me I had done too much in one day.  Then we went to eat.  He reminded me again when we were driving that when I’m busy and working the house doesn’t have to be perfect, and if I can’t make dinner because I was too busy, it’s no big deal to eat out here and there.   He also reminded me that I usually DO cook great meals on most nights and that the house usually DOES look great and so do I.  Most importantly, if there’s a night where that doesn’t happen, so what?

I dropped a few balls that I expected myself to be juggling yesterday, and nothing bad happened.  In fact, my husband supported me and made sure I knew that next time I feel that way, it’s ok to drop those balls and take a deep breath, because it’ll all be just fine even if the bed isn’t made, even if I’m married.  I already knew this in my past life and I easily gave myself permission to drop a ball here or there, but being a newlywed has dug up a set of expectations I have for myself that I didn’t know were there.   I thought the challenge of being a newlywed was about the expectations your spouse would put on you…but it turns out it’s more about the expectations you put on yourself.

Somehow I expect myself to do everything as perfectly as my mom did, or at least as perfectly as she made it look.  What I forgot is that she was home a lot of our lives, and when she did work an outside job it took a toll on her and she stressed herself to make everything perfect, too.  I bet she was telling herself terrible things back then, too.  I remember being in 5th or 6th grade and cleaning the bathroom or vacuuming or cleaning the kitchen floor so that my mom wouldn’t have so much to do when she got home.  I did that because I love her and wanted her to feel a little relieved.

So, starting today I promise myself that I will never talk like that about myself again.  If I do, I will forgive myself and remind myself that it’s ok to drop a ball or two, and pick them up again when it feels good to and when I’ve caught my breath.  I promise to love myself the way I would anyone else.  I am able to ask for help, and I will.  I am able to put things off for tomorrow if I don’t have time today.  I am able to have a dish in the sink or an unmade bed or no ideas for dinner and still be lovable just the same.

What are you trying to do that is stretching yourself too thin?  What are you telling yourself about you?  How can you practice better self-love?

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