Does anyone remember this old Saturday Night Live sketch?
Saturday Night Live has always taken comedy to a deeper level than my mother gives it credit for. Their sketches specialize in taking serious issues and showing us the truth through absurdity. What is the message hidden in this sketch? We are all becoming too co-dependent. Though the sketch touches on our need to share everything with our partner, (as if having our own interests, likes/dislikes, or opinions is somehow wrong) I think it goes even deeper than that. We depend on validation from our parents, spouses, and even our kids(how many of you have a "proud parent of an honor student" bumper sticker?). We need to learn to validate ourselves.
Everyone has heard the saying "to love someone else you have to first love yourself", but how many of us actually listen to that saying we have heard so many times before? And how many of us know how to put it into practice? How do you love yourself? Sure, some people love themselves too much, but for most of us, loving ourselves is far from second nature. Instead we rely on others to make us feel loved.
The first step towards loving ourselves is harder than you would think. The first step is we need to BE ourselves. How many times have you refrained from saying what you really thought because someone else might think it was dumb? How many times have you held your tongue to avoid an argument? Or worse, just given in and done something you didn't want to just because it was easier than standing up for yourself? It happens with most of us every day. You lie to your parents so as not to hurt their feelings, your spouse says something hurtful and you just let it go, your kid is throwing a fit in the store so you buy him/her the candy bar they don't need just to shut them up. Not only are you not being true to yourself, but you are just setting yourself up for future times when you will end up doing it again. Your parents will buy you yet another ugly sweater, your spouse will begin to feel it is their right to talk to you like that, and your kids will learn they can get whatever they want if they scream loud enough.
The key to being yourself is standing up for yourself calmly. If you aren't calm then you aren't really portraying YOU. You are not yourself when you are angry, there are all kinds of studies showing that the rush of adrenaline changes you. Once you start being yourself and standing up for yourself you will start respecting and loving yourself more. Then others will too, but they can't love you if they don't know you.