In a way, all of my work is about love. In groups, I encourage people to love and value themselves, so they can show up more. I encourage the group to love and value all the different parts of their teammates, so they can benefit from the diversity of thought and experience the group has. Love gives a team psychological safety, so people can show up, take risks, and grow.
Love was not something I always felt. I felt self-loathing for most of my growing-up years and many of my adult years. Our society isn’t kind to people who are overweight, awkward, and socially inept. I worked for many years to learn how to be social, and then how to like myself a little, and finally how to love myself just the way I am. Loving myself and accepting myself now is part of how I can love and accept everyone else, and that painful journey is part of why I love my work.
Something interesting occurred to me today. In my conversation with my spiritual teacher, we talked about how I freak out every time I start to lose weight. I realized that I’m afraid that if I want to be thinner, I’m being disloyal to the part of me that loves myself when I’m big. I’m afraid if I lose weight it will mean I never really loved myself before when I was heavy. Just having that conversation helped me realize that I can’t stop having loved myself, and that loving myself no matter what means at any size, large or small. Maybe, just maybe, I can start to change this self-identity that says I’m always big. I’m not as big as I was, and maybe I’ll get smaller, and maybe not, but no matter what – I love and accept me.
I read something recently about a conversation with Mr. Rogers, who told children every day that he loved them just because they were who they were. There were children who were struggling with abuse and lack of love who made it through because Mr. Rogers believed in them. I think that, in my secret heart of hearts, I hope that my hard-earned acceptance and love can help reach others who are struggling. You may feel self-loathing. It doesn’t mean you are unworthy. I felt it, and I have been able to change the story I told myself. You can too. I love you just because you are you.