We Need to Learn How to Love Ourselves
There are a lot of things to hate about Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Last weekend, I found myself uncontrollably crying while FaceTiming a friend as I was explaining why I wanted to be in a relationship before I lost the ability to move my muscles at all. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what made me feel that way, but it was a combination of losing some abilities I once had, not knowing how long I have to live, and realizing the gravity of my situation.
With Duchenne, you look different, you walk differently, and you feel like a burden to others. In addition to hating the disease, you start to hate yourself.
That’s why it’s imperative that we learn how to love ourselves, even with a disease as insidious as Duchenne. How can we expect to live in our own bodies if we start to dislike who we are? Self-loathing is a dangerous path, and to combat that negative thinking, we need to realize that despite having Duchenne, there’s a lot for us to love about ourselves.
It feels easy to love other people around us. My friends do so much for me without asking, my parents would easily give their lives to improve mine, and that girl I wish I could go out with is so beautiful, sweet, and kind. But none of us are the best at loving ourselves.
I’m no expert at this whole “loving yourself” thing, but it starts with understanding the personality traits that other people like about you. Be aware of how your close circle interacts with you. Observe when you make them laugh, when they give an unsolicited compliment, or do something nice. Then, you’ll start to realize that if other people love you, you can start to love yourself.
Part of this process requires you to understand your identity — what makes you, you — and be comfortable with yourself. For me, my faith plays a large role. I know that my name was known to God before the formation of the universe. He made me and loves me for how he made me, even if I doubt it. He sent his son to die for me so I could have an unimpeded relationship with him.
If it isn’t God for you, then there might be someone who sacrificially loves you like that. And if you don’t believe that person exists, be patient and you will find them. One of the best ways we can love ourselves is to find someone who loved us first.
I understand I am blessed and can see love all around me. My heart breaks for those who don’t experience the same thing. If you feel like that person, please connect with me. I want to help you learn why you should be loved.
However, even with all the affirmation around me, I still find myself being uncomfortable with who I am and not being enough for who I want to be. I want to be able to have muscles. I don’t want to look like a skeleton because my muscles are dying. I don’t want my stomach to protrude. I don’t want my ribs to be sticking out at an angle from underneath my shirt. I don’t want to look 10 years younger than I actually am. And like most people, I want to be more successful.
We have to constantly remind ourselves what makes us lovable humans. For me, it’s making other people laugh, having an intellectual conversation, or creating a piece of writing that moves people. We don’t necessarily forget the physical limitations of Duchenne — using a wheelchair, being barred from going where we want, and having to limit our activities — but we put them in the rearview mirror. Different does not equal bad, and we should all try our best to wrap our minds around that fact.
When you start to see yourself in a negative light, you lose any and all confidence you once had. If you discover the good things in your personality, you will have no problem approaching a crowded room and joining any conversation. Those of us with Duchenne need to separate ourselves from our physical circumstances. There is so much more we have to offer than being able to shoot a three-pointer, go backpacking, or embrace your significant other the way that movies show it.
It’s impossible to see what you bring to the table if you can’t love yourself. Take a look at yourself in the mirror. You are a beautiful creation.
Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.