It was the end of 2016, and I was preparing my New Year's resolutions. It wasn't going well.
It could have been because the post-baby blues were hitting me hardest right then. It could have been the discouragement I felt in my new, post-third baby body, which I still loved but that didn't feel like mine. It might have just been that I was smack in the middle of the first real, snowy winter I'd experienced in four years.
But whatever the reason, motivation was running low. And then a thought came to me: "Love yourself."
Ah, the "love yourself" cliche. The one echoed thousands of times on hundreds of stay-at-home-mommy blogs. I'd heard it all: "Make time for yourself." "Take care of you first." "Sleep when the baby sleeps." But this time, another familiar line entered my mind: "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
I stood at the sink doing dishes with that scripture echoing in my mind. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor ... as thyself."
If you'll allow me to say so, I'm pretty OK at loving my neighbor. I've been focusing on it specifically for the last three years or so, and I've began to think about and act toward my friends and family with more love.
If I know my neighbor is having a hard time, I try to remember to bring a gift or send a text. If I know my husband won't want to go somewhere, I've got his back and won't pressure him. If my kids are acting tired and cranky, I'll give them a hug and try to understand what they need. I'm not perfect, but I'm trying, and it's getting easier.
I've worked so much at this because the Savior has explicitly taught that we are to love one another, that we are to love our neighbor. But has He ever, I wondered, commanded us to love ourselves?
At the moment I asked the question in my mind, the answer came: "Thou shalt love thyself as thy neighbor."
Further study supported what I knew in my heart. World-renowned surgeon and religious leader Russell M. Nelson said in 1986, "The second of our Lord's two great commandments carries a double charge: 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' Therefore, love of companion is governed, in part, by esteem of self, and so is joy." (emphasis mine)
I finally knew, for the first time, what it would actually look like if I loved myself
If I was having a hard time, I'd give myself a gift - maybe some time reading a book or watching my favorite show instead of getting ahead on work - or give myself some words of encouragement. If I knew I didn't want to go somewhere, I'd have my own back and not force it. If I was feeling tired and cranky, I would take a break and try to understand what I need.
I had my New Year's resolution. The first resolution that's ever really changed me
Loving myself has required the same learning curve as learning to love my neighbor. Bad habits are hard to break. It's hard to tell myself positive, uplifting things sometimes. It's difficult to admit when I'm too tired to do something, and it's hard to believe it's OK to do less than I think I should. But that's how I show myself love. I'm trying to be better.
And wouldn't you know it? When I'm kind to myself, it's easier to be kind to others. When I'm sitting on the couch crocheting, I don't resent my husband for watching basketball. Our home is more peaceful because I am more peaceful.
So will you all do me a favor? Love thy neighbor as thyself. And also, love thyself as thy neighbor.
Breanna Olaveson worked in the magazine industry before taking her writing from full time to nap time with the birth of her first child. She is the author of two books, "Mighty Miracles: Inspiring Stories of Matthew Cowley, a Modern-day Apostle" and "Sweet Is the Work: Lessons from the First Sister Missionaries." Her work has also appeared in the Ensign, Liahona and New Era magazines, as well as Utah Valley Magazine, Utah Valley BusinessQ, Utah Valley Bride, the Provo Daily Herald, FaithCounts.com and UtahValley360.com. She lives in Utah County with her husband and three children. She blogs at www.breannaolaveson.com.