Many women find it difficult to appreciate themselves because society puts pressure on them to be completely selfless; any attempt at self-nurturing and self-love is condemned, eliciting accusations of being selfish and narcissistic, of not being an adequate wife, mother, or even an adequate woman. No woman wants these labels and so many comply–giving, giving, giving–never appreciating themselves. Never realizing that in order to truly give you must appreciate the gifts you possess. Sadly, some women’s lives become as futile as a child’s attempt to capture the entire ocean in his sand bucket. No matter how committed he is to his task, no effort is ever enough.
It’s not easy to overcome this pressure. Even the most liberated people are adversely affected by the pressure of public opinion. Withstanding the opinions of others is at best stressful and at worst debilitating. Many of us are crippled by the masses of people who do not allow us the freedom of our own opinions and the exploration of our own personhood. We all have a tendency to reflect the opinions of others. If someone says you look terrible in a dress, don’t you wear it with reluctance the next time? Even though we say we do not care what people think, to some degree we are still vulnerable to their words and ideas. But if we are going to be effective individuals, we must develop the ability to embrace ourselves. A positive self-image is not arrogant. It is necessary in order to procure a healthy relationship with others. People who have low self-esteem are too obsessive to enjoy others. They cling to others like a vine to a wall. They need others to stand, and that need is compulsive and draining.
It is virtually impossible to find someone to appreciate you as a person if you do not allow them to see you as a settled, stabilized force in the earth. They need to hear you sing your own song. They need to listen to your solo. Sing the melody of success and everybody will want to hum that tune with you. But make sure that you allow to join in only those who harmonize with your own self-image. You actually train others how to treat you by how you treat yourself. Do not think for one moment that others do not observe your level of style, class, and preferences. All of us, when we shop, have had to deal with the fact that this person we are shopping for would or would not buy this item for him- or herself. You want to buy what would at least be comparable to what that person would select. You wouldn’t give a cheap bag to someone who wears expensive clothes, would you? Who would feel comfortable giving a gift that would stand out among the person’s possessions as an item beneath his or her normal standard? By being good to the self, this person has in essence set a standard that we all must aspire to reach if we are to be a blessing to that individual.
Look, Ma, No Hands
We are not born in relationships. Who among us was born holding someone else’s hand firmly clasped within her own? We enter life with both hands up in the air and fists clenched tightly. We are born empty-handed. There are no hands to hold but our own. We learn to reach out, but only after we have had a chance to reach inward and upward. It is the upward reach of the spirit and the inward reach of the soul that enables the outward reach of the body.
Most of us are single-birth babies who spent time alone from the womb to the crib. We played in the crib alone. We learned the fundamental skills of entertaining ourselves. Alone is where we start and essentially it is where we end. For even if we die in a crowded room, ultimately we die alone. Job says he came here naked and returned naked. It is true. We find ourselves going full circle. We take no more with us than what we brought. We brought no one with us into this world, and even though we may hold hands as we die, still we face death alone. We are at best empty-handed travelers. We start with clutched hands, and we end with clutched hands. Between those two points, our hands will hold many things. But, at the end, as was in the beginning, they will pry our hands open and find no one’s hand within but our own.
Nothing is more essential to spiritual and emotional well-being than that which we are considering now. For you see, there are some prerequisites to a healthy love relationship with others. We can love others with no more wholeness than that with which we love ourselves, We tend to seek from others the kind of love and affirmation that must come from within. As we journey forward, we will discuss the relationship the lady has with herself, then with her husband and lover, and finally with her Lord.
If her relationship is not fortified with her Lord and with herself, she will enter into a relationship with a man for the wrong reason. She will want from him those properties that can only be extracted from a positive self-image and a clear perception of her God. I will discuss in more detail later the significance of having a God-centered life. But for the moment, let’s consider what can be achieved by a woman who knows and loves herself. So tonight, dear friend, set the table for one and sit in the presence of your own personhood. Drink the robust wine of your own thoughts and laugh hysterically at some humorous memory that you can share with no one but yourself. Could it be possible that before the night is over you might find yourself warmed by the fire of your own dreams, and perhaps ever so gently whisper the confession that by God’s grace you have finally learned to enjoy your own company?
Could it be possible that being alone does not have to mean that you are lonely? Have you ever entertained yourself? Or are you saving all of your social skills for someone who is not there? If you are, it is indeed a statement that suggests you are not important enough to demand your own respect. That is a dangerous place from which to start life. Because if you cannot value your own existence and presence, you will eventually have trouble relating well to others.
Most people spend no time entertaining themselves. They only entertain others. They never plan an evening for themselves. They endure their time alone as if they had been exited to solitary confinement. But it is the single woman who has the time to develop true spirituality. She is not encumbered with the concerns of children or mate. She has the time to strengthen herself on several different levels. She has the time to strengthen her economy, her spirituality, and her personality. Each area needs to be strengthened so that she can clearly discern, when offers come, whether she is in love or in need.
An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world–how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord, I Cor. 7:34-35 (NIV)
I am therefore suggesting that you have a relationship first with your God, secondly with yourself, and finally, out of the manifold fruits of your own habitation, you are ready to share with someone else what you have determined to be worth bringing to the table of love.
(To Be Continued)
By Bishop T. D Jakes