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In order for me to truly love and respect another, I have to first love and respect myself. That, for me is a very tall order. I’m sure many of you, like me, heard the words “You should be ashamed of yourself.” coming from your parents, maybe even your spouse. This little sentence, I believe can have devastating effects on a child, and the future adult that child will become.

My parents were brought up British old school, with strict discipline. With the “Spare the rod spoil the child.” mentality. Mind you it was not all doom and gloom, but there were some things we didn’t do. One of them was hug, at least I don’t remember a lot of hugging going on.

There was no real physical love, but there was corporal punishment. Oh we were not beaten within an inch of our lives. But, we did feel the smack of a hand firmly on the seat of education at times, and I am alive today to tell about it.

We did know that we were loved. After all my Dad told me as he swatted my butt “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” Right… I had NO idea what he meant by that one. But, I did know I was loved. Even if I don’t remember a lot of hugs.

So… when I went out into the world on my own, I discovered something. People hugged one another! Who knew?! I realized that this was something sadly lacking in my father’s life. So, one day I started to hug him whether he liked it or not. There were no guarantee that he would accept this affection. To my delight, he did accept it. At first he was uncomfortable and wanted to pull away after the “acceptable” time limit.  But, I always held on a few seconds more.  He would never be the one to initiate the hug. But, low and behold he started to change. The first place I saw this change was him hugging his grand children.

So, what is my point? I had no guarantees that Dad would accept my affection. I had to step up to the plate first and become vulnerable. I had to risk rejection in order to gain the reward of his returned affection.

I learned something profound from this. A hug can melt the most hardened and damaged heart. It can even mend your own.

I dearly loved my father. He was a generous man who always wanted the best for us. He was a teacher at heart, and was always teaching us. Although, at the time his lectures were intimidating. He spoke the truth as he knew it. He was himself. He never tried to be anyone else. Because he was honest with us, we respected and loved him.

So, be honest with yourself and others. Live with your whole heart, and choose to be yourself. Stop trying to fix everything that “you should be ashamed of” you are not perfect, none of us are. Love yourself for who you are now, not who you will be tomorrow. Know the you are “enough.”

~ inspired by Donna Mulholland’s 21 days of watercolour journaling, and Brené Brown’s TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability: