Do You Love Me?

Do you love me?

Whenever someone asks me to share my thoughts on self-acceptance, body-acceptance or self-esteem, a song from Fiddler on the Roof pops into my head. Do you love me?

Fiddler on the Roof is a musical set in 1905 Tsarist Russia. The family patriarch, Tevye, works to balance his family’s Jewish traditions with outside influences – especially where his daughters are concerned. And one of these traditions is the arranged marriage.

Devastated with the news of her impending nuptials, Tevye’s eldest daughter, Tzeitel, begs him to release her from the arrangement and let her marry for love.

Of course, this situation requires a great deal of diplomatic skill to maneuver. And in one beautiful scene, Tevye asks his wife, Golde, if she loves him.

In their duet, we learn that they first met on their wedding day, both nervous and scared, and told by the elders that they would learn to love one another. As Golde cites the years of work and struggle, and the bearing and raising of their daughters as evidence of her “love” for Tevye, she realizes that she has, in fact, grown to truly love him.

In this grand musical known as Life, (after all, Shakespeare said that all the world’s a stage and we are merely players), we are both Tevye and Golde wrapped into a single character. We are in an arranged marriage with ourselves. And most of our self-esteem and self-image issues come from resisting this basic, fundamental truth.

We are in an arranged marriage with ourselves. And we struggle and fight against ourselves, hoping that we can change the circumstances of the situation. We are resentful that we are stuck with the body that we have – that we weren’t given the option of having that beautiful body we see someone else inhabit. We are resentful that we are stuck with our awkward personalities – that we don’t have the confidence or wit of that person over there. We keep fighting against what is because we believe that we could have married for love – and that given the choice, we wouldn’t have picked ourselves.

Although it may seem like an antiquated practice, the arranged marriage is a beautiful metaphor for our self-image. The arranged marriage is a contract over which we have no control. But we have complete control over our experience of that contract. We can whine and cry, find fault with ourselves and hate ourselves – which is futile and creates a miserable experience. Or we can try to make the best of the situation. We can step up and work with ourselves to maneuver through Life’s challenges. We can show respect to ourselves, and we can celebrate the victories and successes we helped create. We may even find a bit of joy now and then.

This working partnership is a relationship ultimately created by a lifetime of experiences. We can choose to be there for ourselves no matter what. And when we start to trust that we’ve got our own back, we realize that we’ve built the foundation of a deep and lasting love.