“Friendship with oneself is all-important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else…”–Eleanor Roosevelt
“Instinct teaches us to look for happiness outside of ourselves.”–Blaise Pascal
I wish I could say that I’m always on friendly terms with myself. Unfortunately, I’m a two-headed monster in that regard. There is one of me who seeks approval from others and another who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of me. I don’t think I developed the self-confident me until I became a teacher in my early thirties. I had relied too much on the men in my life to affirm me and make me feel worthwhile. Part of that comes from growing up with an alcoholic father who cowed the whole family with his craziness and his drunken violence. And living with my first husband J who was not a drinker but was otherwise very much like my dad. I used to say that they had an inferiority complex which manifested itself in the form of a superiority complex. Both of them talked about how great they were and how much they knew but they didn’t really believe their own words. J was 9 years older than I and I’m guessing I was looking for a father figure to fix what my dad had screwed up. But of course he wasn’t able to do that.
By the time my second marriage had failed, I had for months (years?) been openly seeking my husband’s approval, to no avail. Fortunately I’ve been blessed with many friends who are generous with their love and approval. From C whom I’ve known since I was ten years old to my most recently acquired buddy J, I am lucky to have many reminders that I’m okay.
My conclusion, then, is that I’ve been looking for love and approval in all the wrong places (Isn’t that a song?). Granted, it takes a great deal of effort to crawl out of the basement when you’ve been dumped, but I’m doing it–sometimes with style and sometimes very clumsily. This week I went places and did things that I don’t normally do with people I don’t normally hang out with, just because I knew that I needed to escape from me. Sometimes it seems like a very fine line between loving oneself and being too self-involved. I hope that I will be able to remember always that doing for others is the path to true happiness. But sometimes it’s good to remember that it’s okay to let others do for me as my friends so often do.