Learning to Love Thyself

Dr Michelle Choi, Health and Wellness

Over the last decade- my relationship with my mother has become very difficult.  And with the realization that our relationship is very difficult, complicated, and now strained, it started to make sense why things seemed so awkward growing up, or maybe why I did things growing up that I didn’t imagine a normal kid or teenager doing.  Growing up, and into my early adulthood, I always felt as if I was walking on eggshells.  But anyway, everyone has their own truth.  There are periods when things seem ok, but there are long periods in her life where she fixates on her beliefs that I’m a drug addict (I’m not), or that I’m a horrible mother and doctor (I’m not either), or she goes through periods of harassment towards me and now my husband as well- where he will get multiple voicemails involving her pleading him to divorce me.  And divorce is taboo in korean culture, although it’s happening more frequently!  Basically my point is, it’s been very difficult.  I went through stages /years of immense guilt and pain that perhaps I wasn’t doing enough (filial piety is very strong in the Asian culture), then anger, feeling down, then trying to work on it again and reconstruction, and I’ve come to the realization that perhaps – that’s it.  Since I’m not as angry towards my mother anymore (but it’s still fragile, as when she calls me, it feels like I automatically have to have all of my guards up and pray that I don’t react), I’ve really come to wonder – perhaps if not for my mother, would I be who I am today?  

Even though my mother believes that she loves me with all her heart, her love for me has been conditional.  She would treat me better if I did well, if I gave her something or pleased her.  Unconditional love means to love someone without conditions-  it means we love someone simply because they exist.  But I really wonder since her love has been so conditional, that it’s helped me to recognize what an asshole I’ve been to myself for most of my life.  I know it sounds ironic.  But hear me out.   Maybe if we are loved totally and completely, we wouldn’t have a reason to find a way to love ourselves.  The love would already be there from others, and you wouldn’t think there was a reason or need to find it within yourself- bc love has been so available in your life.  Because her love has been conditional- and it’s taken me a lot to say this in a matter of fact way- it has caused me to look within, somehow embark on my own spiritual journey of self discovery and look for  the source of love from inside of myself.  Maybe if my mom hadn’t said all the wrong things- I wouldn’t have looked for the RIGHT things to say.  And I’ve always been the biggest asshole to myself, but maybe if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have wondered about decency. Without her as my mother, I wouldn’t have learned what boundaries were.  And it is because of her –  I now know to have clear boundaries so that she doesn’t hurt me so much. 

I wonder if one of  my life lessons is unconditional self love.  Because that’s one of the only ways in which I can make sense of my relationship with my mother.  Maybe if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have learned to respect myself and show myself some decency, and would have continued my path of secret self deprecation.  I think because of our complicated relationship, I’ve learned to trust my thoughts and how I feel, and develop the courage to wonder if our healthcare system is broken and wonder if there could be another way. 

Michelle Choi MD