Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Act of Contrition

Dear Lynn,

You spoke at my university last night and what you said about your lack of self worth really struck a chord with me. I know I don’t love myself. I don’t think I am pretty enough, I don’t have enough friends, I think I am too fat, and I never seem to wear the right thing. I have been drinking in excess over the last few months, blacking out, and hooking up with random guys. I always wake up feeling disgusted with myself. I have now decided to stop drinking all together. I guess I don’t really have a specific question, would just like to hear back from you.

A Student

Dear Student,

It’s a great insight to come to – that you don’t love yourself. I believe it is hard to love one’s self because we have been taught to condemn ourselves for so long. We think of love in terms of somebody else. It is perfectly fine to love our neighbor, our boyfriend, our friends, our dog, the pizza delivery boy, but shout from the rooftops “I LOVE ME” and just watch what happens.

When I was eight years old, I had to memorize and recite aloud in front of Sister Celeste, a little ditty called The Act of Contrition. It goes a little something like this: Oh my God I am heartly sorry for having offended thee, and I detest all of my sins because of your just punishment, but mostly because they offend you my Lord…

Now can I just ask what kind of sins does an eight year old have anyway? Can you imagine this offended and pissed off Lord tucked up high on a cloud saying, “Well little Suzie, I see you haven’t brushed your teeth in a couple of days”, BAM, a bolt of lightening right into Little Suzie’s head. I mean really.

But my point here is that so many of us have been told that we are sinners, that we have no worth, that we need to improve, repent, change, be someone different, someone prettier, kinder, skinnier, smarter, richer, and on and on. No one has ever told you that you are perfect, that you are beautiful, that you are just fine “as is,” that the heavens couldn’t resist, they just had to CREATE YOU. No one has ever told you that you are enough. And because of this it has become difficult to love ourselves. How can you love a worthless person? How can you love someone who has already been condemned from the start? But it will come. In fact it is already on its way. It started with the simple recognition, the one that you have already had.

Now since you say you are giving up the sauce, you’re going to have a lot more time on your hands. Here are some suggestions if you are looking for a few new hobbies.

  1. Make a list of the things you like about yourself
  2. Daily Affirmations said out loud e.g. “ I Rock, I’m Fabulous, I’m Loving”
  3. Be aware of your negative self-talk
  4. Treat yourself like you would your best friend (preferably one that you really like)
  5. Follow your bliss and focus on the things that you love doing
  6. Surround yourself with positive and inspiring people
  7. And my personal favorite put on your favorite tunes and DANCE (in your living room, in front of a mirror, in the street, in the grocery store, you get the picture.)

I also want to share a portion of Derek Walcott’s poem, Love after Love, with you.

“The day will come when with elation, you will greet yourself, arriving at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other's welcome, and say sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stronger who was yourself. Give wine (juice in your case), give bread, give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you, all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Sit, FEAST ON YOUR LIFE!”

Now it’s time for me to go brush my teeth, don’t want to piss off Mister Lord Punisher. I saw what he did to little Suzie.


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