I’ve been thinking about how, when people get married, they exchange some bighearted and weighty vows with each other. Things like, “I will take you to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health.” And when these words are spoken, we really, really mean them. After all, so many of us grow up being taught how special it is to find someone to love for the rest of our lives, and then we spend years trying to find “the one” to whom we can commit so fully.
Without taking one inch of meaning and importance away from the commitments we make to our partners, I’ve been thinking that it’s too bad we don’t take part in a similar ceremony early in our lives, where we get to publicly announce a deliberate and earnest commitment to ourselves.
Imagine standing in front of friends, families and loved ones, stating out loud your undying commitment to have and hold yourself from this day forward. That no matter what happens – when things are good or bad, when you’re doing well or struggling, when you’re in sickness or in health – you will stand by your own side, fully committed to taking care of, loving and being kind to yourself.
If we all took a vow like this, perhaps instead of spending years trying to find “the one”, we’d spend the same amount of time and energy trying to find ourselves, what makes us tick and what gives us the most joy. We’d commit to our personal growth, our health and our mental well-being for our own sake, not for others.
Imagine the amount of trust you would have in yourself to step into the unknown, live big and be seen. You would step into your “arena,” knowing full well that if you fall, you will be there to catch and comfort yourself.
Imagine the friends you would choose for yourself; the boundaries you would set; and, the care with which you would enter into relationships. After all, if your first commitment is to you, then you’d be responsible for choosing only the friendships and relationships that truly serve you.
If your commitment was first to you, imagine the freedom from judgement you would experience. Imagine the forgiveness you would show yourself for making mistakes. Imagine the lightheartedness you’d feel about your own imperfections… all because you’d know that the commitment you made to yourself way back when meant that your self-love and self-compassion were limitless.
Imagine the life you would rely on yourself to build, if your prime commitment was to you. And imagine how deep our connections, compassion and generosity to others would be, because we’d be living in a world where everyone around us had also taken a commitment to have and hold themselves, for better or worse. We’d know what was our business and what was their business, letting go of any need for external affirmation of our worthiness.
And we’d know that by taking care of ourselves, we’d then be complete and resourced and in the very best position to take care of others.
I’ve painted a pretty lofty picture here, but in the spirit of Mother’s Day – a day when I think about the way I’m raising my kids and what I’d like them to learn from me – I’m sticking with it. It’s my wish for them – and the world – that we all declare a sacred vow to self: a commitment to our own well-being, personal growth and self-care for life.