Saying I love you is hard.
Especially when you’re saying it to other people.
It’s easy, sometimes.
Like when there’s a really adorable puppy crawling all over your feet or jumping on your legs, it’s only natural to let out a series of repetitive squeals letting the pup know that you deeply have these strong and positive emotions toward it.
I also say I love you a lot when i’m roaming around Forever 21 or eating a slice of sizzling pizza in the middle of New York City.
I’ve said I love you to a boy, once, by accident, who I only knew for 5 days.
And of course, I tell my parents and my family that I love them as easily as I say my name when I’m meeting someone new for the very first time.
This week a reader reached out to me and told me to try telling myself those three words.
Try looking in the mirror every single morning and saying those words out loud.
So I did. I slide my alarm clock off and I got up and with half-open eyes, I said something like:
“Hey Jen. You look pretty rough right now. But I love you.”
Then I crawled back into bed and snoozed for another 15 minutes. Wondering if that sudden interruption was just a bad dream.
The email the reader sent me had instructions.
It said that I had to say I love you until I meant it. Until I truly believed it. Until I wasn’t topping off that sentence with a burst of nervous laughter or rolling my eyes afterward.
By Tuesday, I found myself saying it 34 times.
By Wednesday, 26.
By Thursday 18.
By Friday…well by Friday, I screamed it so loudly that I wondered if my neighbors thought I had gone crazy.
Did I believe it? Deep down in my core did I really love myself – every single thing about myself?
How could I? How could any of us?
We’ve see too much of ourselves – that’s obvious but it’s also paralyzing.
We carry ourselves around with regret and mistakes and memories that fog up the way we see ourselves and the way we let others see ourselves.
So I would stand there, in front of the mirror, at an ungodly early hour, and think about those things. Look at my acne scars and think about how I wish I didn’t say that awkward thing to a friend of mine the night before.
By Friday, though, I did start to entertain the idea a little more.
I started walking into meetings and entering scary situations and thinking to myself – I can do this. Even if I do this and I make a giant fool of myself, I will wake up tomorrow morning and remind myself that even with the collection of imperfections that make up my own personal human existence, loving myself is something that I can absolutely digest.
Give it a try. Will you?