If I Loved Myself I Would... - Dawn Barton

For the last couple of weeks, I have been struggling with the woman I seem to be transitioning into. Moving from a fast-paced career to one of the stillness of writing has been hard, but not just in the act of writing — I’m actually getting a grip on that — but in the sense of the woman, I’m becoming.  

Sitting in my house all day with very little contact with people is not the best formula for making ME the best woman I can be. I was noticing that I had stopped doing little things, like taking vitamins, getting dressed in something other than yoga attire, eating things that were good for me. My times between showers were stretching longer too, much to the dismay of all around me I’m sure.

Every night I was going to bed making promises to myself that tomorrow I would start fresh, tomorrow I would do all the things I SHOULD do. Tomorrow I would exercise more, eat better, take those vitamins, get dressed, make the appointments I keep putting off. The list was never-ending. Tomorrow, tomorrow, each night was tomorrow.

Then it hit me. If I loved myself, I would take those vitamins. The phrase swirled in my head for days: If I loved myself, I would . . .

The list kept getting longer and longer of all the things I would do if I loved myself, but this time, thinking about the things I wasn’t doing for myself hit me in a new way. I felt a little worse about what I wasn’t doing BUT it was also making me feel happy. That’s because suddenly it wasn’t a list of all the things I was bad at; it was a list of all the possibilities.

I started writing it all down, and as the list grew, my happiness grew. Then, I started writing the word BECAUSE. This made it even better.

If I loved myself I would eat clean foods because when I do, I have more energy. Not the usual story of, “you have to eat clean because you are overweight and if you don’t you are a failure.”  In my mind, the thought of loving myself in the morning in such a way that I would give myself fresh berries and a warm, steel cut oatmeal to start strong was a sort of gift to myself. The thoughts began to shift.

If I loved myself I would lift weights because it makes me feel strong when I do it. I would get my mat and do an easy yoga class on Netflix because when I stretch, my back doesn’t hurt. I would walk and get a cardio exercise to strengthen my heart because I know that all of the months of chemo made it weaker and I want to be here for my family for a long time.

It became “If I loved myself I would . . . BECAUSE . . .”

The language in my head was changing, the story of telling myself day in and day out what I’m failing at was shifting, and it started becoming a love story. My love story.

I began to think of God’s love for us, His unwavering and unconditional love for every single one of us. At this moment, I was reminded of something my sister Jodie once said when I was sharing my struggles with weight. “I bet that makes God so sad,” she responded in a sweet and loving tone.

It was one of the most uncomfortable phrases I’ve ever heard someone say, because in that moment, I knew it was true. My unhealthiness and not caring for myself must make God sad.  Of course it would, just as a parent hurts watching over their child and seeing them make choices that aren’t good. We want the best for them and love them with every ounce of our being; we can love unconditionally and still be sad over their choices.

I imagine this is how God feels when He sees that we are not loving ourselves in the best way we can.

To God we are magnificent, we are His creation. Why do we take that so lightly? Why don’t we strive to be better spiritually, physically and emotionally?
I obviously don’t have the answers to this or I wouldn’t be telling you that I am struggling to shower and wash my face. I only know that in giving myself permission to love myself it has helped me to head down the right path — because with loving yourself comes grace. If I loved myself I would give myself grace for all of the things I am not doing 100% right, because God gives me grace every single day.