“The Greatest Love of All” was one of my very favorite songs as a kid.
“The greatest love of all
is easy to achieve.
Learning to love yourself,
it is the greatest love of all.”
I remember singing it at talent shows and during slumber parties in middle school. (Yes, I’m that old) It became an anthem for me and most likely for many other girls in my generation. Even as an adult it followed me, I recall belting it out at the top of my lungs with my girlfriend while getting ready for a night out, and texting lines to the song back and forth with her years after that. I’ve probably sang that song more times than Happy Birthday, but about a month ago I heard it again and although the meaning was the same, my perspective was completely different.
For those of you too young to know Whitney or the song, it is about learning to LOVE YOURSELF. Although the music is dated, the message is still relevant. But before I get to that, let’s talk about her story.
Whitney Houston started singing at a very young age and she was also a teen model. In fact, she was one of the very first African American women to appear on the cover of Seventeen Magazine. She won several Grammy’s in her career and starred in movies as well. There is no doubt that she had tremendous talent, but she ended up in an abusive marriage filled with emotional and physical abuse and of course, drugs. I won’t pretend to know what happened first, the abuse or the drugs nor will I blame them for the drugs. Speaking from experience, sometimes drugs are the only way to make the situation bearable, they can be forced on you, and in some cases they can be the lesser of two evils. Either way, it was a bad situation and like so many people do, she tried to make it work. They were a famous couple with an image to maintain (I’m sure money played a part too) and they had a child, so she stayed.
After a 15 year marriage that was riddled with abuse and drug problems that were at times broadcast on reality television, Whitney’s mother intervened with the Sheriff and a court order. She insisted that Whitney “retire and give this up because it’s not worth it”. Later that same year the divorce was final and Whitney was granted full custody of their daughter, Bobbi. Things were looking up in her world but in early 2012, rumors surfaced that she was in financial trouble. Then on Feb 11, 2012 she was found in the bathtub of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Her death was officially ruled as an “accidental drowning” but the autopsy showed signs of heart disease and cocaine in her system. She never escaped the pain of her past and unfortunately it seems that her 21 year old daughter, Bobbi is following in her footsteps. On Jan 31, 2015 she was found unresponsive in her own bathtub, was rushed to the hospital and placed in a medically induced coma and as of today, she “shows no signs of life”. It’s terribly sad, and when I listened to the song again today the foreshadowing is almost eerie.
The woman who sang about loving yourself, died alone in her hotel room after living a life filled with sadness. I’m sure she wasn’t perfect, none of us are, but no one deserves abuse and the fact that she turned to drugs even after the divorce is more common that you know. People forget that the effects of abuse don’t just go away after the abuser is gone, in fact I don’t know that they ever go away completely. You are expected to magically go back to the person you were before and honestly, you’ll never be that person again. The sad part is that friends and family don’t usually understand.
So, back to the song…
“I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadow
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity”
However, in the end she did walk in someone’s shadow…Her Own, His, and worse the image that the media portrayed. Why do so many women (especially famous ones) stay in abusive relationships? It’s simple – Money and Image, aside from the fact that they are constantly put on the defense with questions like “Why didn’t you just leave”? It’s not that simple at all, and in cases where they are in the public eye, it’s even worse. They are made to feel stupid in front of the world so they downplay it, and then of course they stay. Can you imagine how Janay Rice felt watching that elevator video over and over and over again? And as if that wasn’t bad enough, then she was bombarded with reporters asking her “Why” when they really should have been asking him.
So, what can we learn from Whitney’s story? How can we empower others and our children to love themselves? Well, for starters we can make sure that they know they are loved. We can TELL THEM, SHOW THEM and BE THERE FOR THEM. Don’t wait until they are sick or in trouble or dead before you show them you care.
Now listen to the very last line of Whitney’s song:
“And if by chance that special place
that you’ve been dreaming of,
leads you to a lonely place,
find your strength in love.”
To me, “that special place” is a partner and/or marriage. She’s telling us to find our own strength in order to survive; and the LOVE she refers to is, of course for ourselves. We MUST heed this lesson anytime we find ourselves in a “lonely place” in any type of relationship. We must love ourselves before we can love others, and if you are true to yourself then you will know in the pit of your stomach if something isn’t right with your relationship, friendship or even a job. If it doesn’t feel right, then you owe it to yourself to find something that does. Yes, it will hurt like hell in the beginning, and you will doubt yourself a million times, but it will be worth it in the end. You are worth it. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to live a life of true love and happiness.
A few questions:
• Are you are always walking on eggshells trying to keep your partner happy?
• Do you constantly lower your expectations for what you want in
• Are you constantly making excuses for them?
If you answered yes to any (or all) of those questions, then you need to have a very serious discussion with them. Please, DON’T WAIT it won’t get better. If, during the course of discussion it becomes apparent that these things cannot be remedied, then you MUST gather your strength, remember to LOVE YOURSELF, and do what is best for YOU.
Whitney Houston didn’t do this until it was too late and although we don’t know for sure, it seems as if her daughter learned it from her too. We must break the cycle of violence and teach our kids that love does not = control, jealousy & intimidation.
Love Changes People and just like the song says,
“learning to love yourself, is the greatest love of all”.
#30DOT #LoveChangesPeople #DoYou