RuPaul’s voice often echoes in my head saying, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gon’ love somebody else?”
Each time I’ve heard this said, my heart says Yes, of course. But time and time again, I arrive at a moment in which mental illness slithers back into my consciousness. Unfortunately, there is no push notification preceding these moments, and there is no time for a Ru pep talk. I sink and shrink and find myself in a place where I’ve stored every name I’ve ever called myself. Every look of disgust, every oversight, every overheard whisper is accounted for and prepped to fuel my self-hatred.
But to my surprise, in the midst of one such episode, I felt a new thought knocking at the back of my brain. This is your chance to choose, it said. What if these are our defining moments? To me, they’ve become a part of my world that I’ve (unfortunately) accepted. But what if these moments are our chance to exercise a new muscle? I had repelled down into my pit, incapable of helping anyone, incapable of loving anyone from that depth. Anyone…but myself. I finally saw that I had a choice to make. I had been making a choice each time I found myself at a low, but I hardly noticed because I had been choosing hate. Choosing hate is easy for me because, like most everyone else, I have been conditioning for years. Choosing love, on the other hand, honestly felt radical. Had I ever decided, sitting on the cold floor of my pit, to sing myself a lullaby? Obviously a ludicrous metaphor, but my point is that it had been a HOT minute since I had made an active choice to denounce my self-hatred with an act of self-love.
If you’ve seen a newspaper/turned on the TV/scrolled through social media, you know that the news is rife with chances to chose love or hate. From the comfort of my own home, in the company of loved ones, or in a healthy state of mind, I can say I would always choose love. Due to the fact that my self-love muscle is still so new and weak, I’m scared to think what I would choose out of instinct. My history doesn’t give me great odds.
I think we have to start with ourselves. I think that if we truly want to change our instincts when it comes to others, we have to manually adjust how we treat ourselves. It’s not easy, and there’s no quantifiable product. It’s a process, but I think it’s the most worthy process we can begin.