How to Love Yourself

December 7th, 2010

“No matter how much we seek, we never find anything but ourselves.”
-Anatole France

I was sitting at a table by the window, a tiny red rose and flickering candle setting the mood. Spanish guitar wafted in through the speakers. It was undoubtedly romantic. And I was, undoubtedly, alone.

At first it was fine. There was a single gentleman behind me, and a handsome blonde man at the table across from me, dining with his parents. My martini arrived. I took a sip.

Then the couple came.

I was reading a book. They were staring. First, it seemed harmless. Then, by the third time, I felt a bit like an animal on display at the zoo. My face turned red. I shifted in my seat. I was suddenly acutely aware of my aloneness.

Me, the only child. The one who vacations alone, goes to movies alone and would prefer to have a leisurely lunch with only a book and an iced tea. Suddenly, I felt lacking.

I sat with that awhile. Stirred the olives in my martini. Looked out the window. Couldn’t stop fidgeting. So I ordered the pumpkin soufflé.

It would take 30 minutes to prepare. I would wait – alone. And I would slowly begin to remember why I loved it so much.

I turned down three friends who wished to tag along, and came to a romantic bed and breakfast on the California coast alone, where I could sleep as long as I wanted and leave my socks and underwear all over the room. I came to sit on a rock and stare out at the sea without anyone telling me they had to pee. I came to share my croissant with a seagull. When a man in my building asked me several times why I wouldn’t be taking a boyfriend, I spent five minutes reassuring him I would be okay. I always have been.

Why, in our culture, do we look down on people who are alone? Do we pity them? Think them less worthy?

I often wonder what people think when they see me. I am graceful and confident. I’ve been told I am elegant and funny. Do people think my lover must be at home sick? What difference does it make if I even have a lover?

In trying to wrap my brain around the concept of aloneness, I realized how very connected it is to the concept of self love. The more you love yourself, the more okay you become with being alone. The fear of judgment washes away. When you love yourself, you worry less. You fear less. You just ARE.

This wonderful video, “How to Be Alone,” reinforces what I believe, and inspired me to write this post. Being comfortable alone – really exploring who you are and what you love – is the greatest gift you can give yourself. I used to think it was a load of crap when people told me you had to love yourself before you could ever love someone else, but now I finally know it’s true. Some of the happiest couples I’ve talked to have a strong sense of self. They recognize the importance of building love around the life you already have, rather than reshaping your life to fit love inside. The love has got to fill you already. No one else can – and no one else will – do it for you.

In the end, what others think doesn’t matter. It’s what you think of yourself that carries all the weight.

Speaking of weight – my pumpkin soufflé arrived right as the couple next to me was discussing their wedding.

The woman cast a nervous glance my way. I took a bite, and couldn’t help but smile.

I finally figured out why she was staring. It wasn’t because I was alone. It was because I was eating an entire pumpkin soufflé alone, and she had to share.

Special thanks to the awesome Andrea Dorfman for letting me use the video, “How to Be Alone,” and Tanya Davis, whose beautiful words helped me remember that I love myself enough for two people!