Loving yourself is easy. Learning to love yourself is the hard part. Seriously. It’s bloody hard. Freaking hard. In fact am surprised by how some of us are able to do it. Sometimes I wonder to myself if it’s even possible.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is a classic love story. It’s one hell of a love story, especially at its time. A young Jane gets swept off her feet by a dashing rich older man whom she works for as a governess for his young daughter. Their romance has to overcome many obstacles like a beautiful woman competing for his affections, society’s restrictions on such a match, ghosts, fires and as it turns out a beautiful crazy wife who’s locked up in the attic. One of the few times you are cheering for the other woman in a story. One could say it was the ‘Scandal’ of that time.
And while all the grand drama and romance of that book gets to me, I think my favourite part of the book is Jane’s self worth. Let me explain.
Jane Eyre is plain. Really plain. She’s the girl in that primary/ secondary class who sat behind you and you don’t remember her. She disappears into the beige walls of classrooms. When you look at her, you would highly doubt she would inspire grand passions in any one. Those would be the thoughts that might pass through your mind the first time you meet her, or worse, that pass through her own mind on a daily basis.
So as I was saying, Jane is plain and all through her young life prior to Mr. Rochester, she has been told she is nothing. Her relatives, who were supposed to take care of her, treated her like dirt, took her to a school where she is treated worse than dirt. This goes on until she’s a young adult. In my opinion this girl did not stand a chance. She could never love herself. But she does. She loves herself enough to walk away from Mr. Rochester, from a man who truly loves her for her, because she knows she’s too good a woman to be the other woman. And she refuses to marry another good man, because she knows they are not right for each other and she deserves better. And she’s PLAIN JANE!!!
From our youth, our negatives have been more emphasized than our positives. By our families, by our classmates, by our peers, by our teachers. If a child can’t get her multiplication tables right, she’s beaten by her teachers in class, mocked by her fellow classmates for not being particularly bright, and compared to her better performing sibling by her disappointed parents. If he’s always reading his books and passing highly in class but is terrible at sports and does not make friends easily because he is shy, he’s mocked by his classmates for being a book nerd or weirdo. And that’s all before they are teenagers. And now it’s, if you can’t wrap that matooke in banana leaves and cook it on a sigiri, which man will want you? Or if you can’t give that woman money for the salon, she will get someone who will. Yes, we have been reduced to matooke cookers and salon providers. That is our worth. That is all we are told is needed for us to gain a mate and be happy. And in the same breath, we are told to love ourselves.
But how can we? We have been told you are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough or talented enough by our families, teachers and even enemies our whole lives. So what is there to love? How many times have you mocked someone for their failings, their shortcomings, for things that you do not understand about them? How many times have you praised someone for their triumphs, and they are not your friend? That’s why I say learning to love yourself is hard. You have been trained not to.
This is why Plain Jane baffles me. Or at least she used to until I gave the book a second…ok fifth read. See in her miserable school, she made a friend. Helen. The first person in a long time to like her for her. Who comforted her at her lowest point and celebrated her high points. That’s where I think her self-worth started to build from. I think that’s important to remember. Having a friend(s) who actually gets you, plainness and all; and even more important, being such a friend. We are surrounded by so much negativity and being told we are not enough that even one voice shouting back at all that noise saying that you are more than enough, you are special could help you remember you are worth a lot.
Of course there is more to learning to love yourself than just surrounding yourself with people who truly get you and love you for you, but it’s not a bad place to start. Not a bad place at all.