Cause We Love Ourselves?

There is this poem by Nayyirah Waheed,

“i loved you
because
it was easier
than
loving myself”

And I think we’ve all fallen guilty of doing this at one point or another. However, the question is when do we then alter this behavior? For example, I recently shared this poem with one of my closest friends who explained that though she thinks the poem is “super deep” it’s hard for her to hear this poem and feel that it is relevant to her life because she absolutely loves herself, right? RIGHT?

If she takes a moment to reflect I’m sure she’ll realize that’s not the whole picture. Does she love herself? Yes. Does she love herself enough to not allow others to treat her poorly? Sure. Unless that said individual happens to be a person she can see a potential future with.

Now, the allowance of ill behavior doesn’t go on forever. Eventually, it gets to the point when she feels “this is bs and I can’t allow myself to be treated like this” but that doesn’t happen immediately. There has been a progression in that it now takes her months, instead of years, to leave a person who it feels doesn’t have her best interest in mind or at heart. However, why doesn’t she depart when she first sees signs of abuse and mistreatment on the horizon? Is it a case of her always trying to see the best in people, or is it the case of her accepting the love she thinks she deserves? Honestly, I think saying either is an oversimplification.

I heard a song by Johnny Cash and it called to mind this situation. The opening lyrics state, “I hurt myself today to see if I still feel. I focused on the pain, the only thing that’s real.” I don’t think we acknowledge the comfort that pain sometimes provides frequently enough.

Have you ever consciously engaged in a situation when you had bad vibes from the beginning? No? Good, don’t do that. Yes? Please stop, it’s never worth it.

I have, more than once, ignored quite a few warning signs. Chosen to allow myself to entertain and fall for someone I knew was broken. Why? Sometimes empathy, sometimes it was familiar, sometimes I was so numb to everything that I wanted to know if I could again feel anything, even pain. So though they were unpleasant and downright painful experiences, there was comfort in knowing that I was alive and could indeed feel. Now, having said that, I want to say that wasn’t okay. Why? Let me count the ways:

1. It isn’t fair to the other person.

Seriously, how would you feel if someone used you as a pawn to either inflict or try to rectify their own selfish needs and/or pain? Hurt people hurt people and until we all do our own self-healing we have to stop adding new people to the chaos.

2. You’re cheating yourself.

I know that sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re ready or not until you actually throw yourself out there, but when you get the first sign that this may not be healthy, leave! No, I’m not trying to hear no jazz about second chances or maybe you’re misreading the vibe you’re getting. TRUST YOUR GUT, ALWAYS!

3. It picks at a healing scar.

This goes back to what I was stating before. I’ve walked into a situation knowing that someone was triggering something for me, but wasn’t exactly sure what emotion/feeling they were triggering. So, why not see it through? Because anytime you have to use words like trigger something is not right!! The relationship ended with far too many tears, arguments, and unnecessary trauma. I never felt like I was in physical harm (though many who are close to me would disagree and were preparing themselves to basically be Eve), but verbal abuse isn’t better. Only my roommate knows this, but at one point I even developed a slight nervous tic because I never really knew what was going to cause her to blow up; something I said could be a joke one day and the next was the most insensitive thing ever. I never exhaled the entire relationship; I wanted to, but my body wouldn’t let me. I ignored my heightened anxiety so much that I eventually had a panic attack.

I don’t say this to paint a victim and villain situation, but to say that obviously, we were triggers for each other and that caused us to be individuals we didn’t desire to be with each other, or anyone else. But all of that could’ve been avoided had I listened to my instincts earlier.

4. Familiar doesn’t mean right.

Finally, I grew up in the North Lawndale community of Chicago (the real hood, not the rap hood), and for that reason, certain things that would alarm others don’t always create the same heightened response in me. For instance, when I hear gunshots I don’t become as alarmed/terrified as others around me. Do I acknowledge that I shouldn’t be hearing gunshots? Absolutely. Do I jump out of my skin? Unfortunately, no. However, I know the hearing of gunshots is not okay so I work hard and am fortunate enough to live in areas where I don’t hear gunshots.

I say all of this to say that this should be the same approach we all take with romantic relationships. If we know ideologically that a situation isn’t okay, then we have to accept that it’s not right. Why? Because maybe you’re like me and due to your background your response to danger is not what it should be. You may know that something isn’t okay, but you forgive a lot because you don’t feel the danger in the same way. That can no longer be an excuse. It wouldn’t be okay if it were happening to a friend, so why is it okay for you? It isn’t.

To self-love and better self-care.

Here’s a song that helps get me through, maybe it can do the same for you:

-Ms. Malcolm Hughes

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