We learn early to reserve the use of the best of our things for special occasions, for others. This practice may, however, signal more than meets the eye about how we view ourselves and our world. Let me give you an example.
During the Christmas holidays, I was visiting a friend who lives in a warm climate. She had prepared a festive holiday table, crowned by a centrepiece of pine boughs and red candles. As I prepared to light those candles, she hurried over to tell me that she didn’t actually use the candles but saved them ‘for good’. I asked her how much better she thought it might get than sharing a holiday feast with friends and family. She laughed heartily and admitted that she actually bought the candles new every year anyway. Each season she would unpack the candles, only to find them melted and deformed by the summer heat. Not only did we eat our dinner in the glow of the candles’ light, we were touched by how that simple act had validated the occasion as special.
How is it that we so easily deny ourselves kindnesses and pleasures because we underrate the value of the occasion, or our own value? I’ve caught myself buying such tiny treats as scented soaps, and then storing them in the closet for when guests arrive. Upon inventory, I see that I have more delightful bath products than I ever have guests to use them! Why do I hesitate to give myself the pleasure? Why do I feel that it is somehow cheating?
Perhaps we are trained to believe that others are more important than we are. We use the term ‘selfish’ as an insult. Who do we think would look after us better than we would? Isn’t self kindness a signal of high self esteem? Do we not evaluate others at least in part by the care they take of themselves, by their personal presentation, by the confidence they display?
When we feel we are worthwhile individuals, we do indeed take care of ourselves. It is a measure of our self worth to get regular physical and dental examinations, to exercise regularly and eat wisely, to ensure that we are in the best health we can be. We strive to be independent, and yet we so easily slip into the trap of waiting for others to provide us with special little extras. This may well prove to be a need for recognition by others, and that validation is certainly important. Still, we can keep our guard up for those self-abnegating messages that tell us we’re not good enough for the ‘company dishes’ or the flowers for the table.
Treating ourselves well reminds us of our value. The small kindnesses, the special treats we would so freely give others warm our own hearts, too. Thus affirmed, we feel happier, and can spread that joy to others in turn. Remembering the golden rule, do unto others as we would have them do unto us, keeps us honourable in our interactions. An addendum to that old chestnut may well be to do unto ourselves as we would have others do unto us. With both reminders in place, we are sure to enjoy the best of both self care and generosity. Let’s all do something wonderfully special for ourselves today!