Love Your Neighbor as Yourself?

Being a lesbian, Catholic Latina is not an easy combination but somehow I’m surviving. That ponderous combination of self-identities left me with something psychologists and sociologists call “internalized homophobia.”  As an adolescent I never thought I could tell anyone else how much I hated myself and how much I wanted to die. “They’ll think I’m crazy,” I thought to myself.  The more I read and learned, the more I grew and realized that these feelings of guilt and self-disgust were brought about by people in my faith community and even in my family. Now, about 8 years later, I consider myself a happier and definitely a healthier human being but I still struggle with the concept of self-love.

Only after owning my self-identity and accepting it was I able to find peace in the face of oppression and opposition. It’s not that these external forces have ceased to exist but rather that I have enough confidence and love for myself to be less affected by them. Only when I learned to love myself was I able to open my eyes and my heart and respond to the need for love all around me. Don’t get me wrong when I say I have love for myself; that does not mean that like most types of love it does not waver.

Our culture bombards us and constantly reminds us that happiness is acquired when you are in a relationship. It is a symbol of stability, of success and status. Most movies are void of happy endings if the protagonist doesn’t “get the girl/guy” The idea of being alone so often terrifies us that we fill it with other things (personally, I’m partial to shopping and overeating) and perhaps other relationships (I bought a dog). Before entering fully into a relationship with someone else, it is important to know and love yourself. I realized that I often molded myself to become what my partner or what the situation demanded of me. Sometimes we need solitude to explore the darkness in our lives and take time off to heal. Other times we need to be in supervised relationships, also known as therapy.

In the English language we only have one word for love. The Greeks knew better. They realized the many faces of love: agápe, érros,  philia and storge. Sometimes as women we spread ourselves thin and bend over backwards to please and to give of ourselves. Let’s take the time to love our complexities, our imperfections, our faces of intimacy, our terrors, our gifts, our accomplishments and our missteps.

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me…”

Linda Quilizapa graduated from Mount St. Mary’s College with her BA in Sociology and Religious Studies. She is a graduate student at the USC School of Social Work where she is working towards her MSW. Linda works as a resident minister at Mount St. Mary’s College, Doheny Campus in downtown Los Angeles.
Linda is a guest blogger to From the Pews in the Back for the month of August.
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3 Responses

  1. Hi Linda, thanks for these words. Self-love has been on my mind lately, and this was a good thing to hear.

  2. Why not go with the grain?…

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  3. Fear, shame and embarrassment. – Should I Tithe?-…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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