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The Greatest Love of All

Somewhere in the mid-1980s, during that fifteen-year stretch in between husband #1 and my second and forever husband, the song “The Greatest Love of All ‘’ came out. It was popularized by Whitney Houston but my favorite version is the one by George Benson. The song is about learning to love oneself.

I have this memory of trying to get to my office in downtown Boston, stuck in traffic on the Mass Pike with the song playing on the radio. Since I had nothing better to do (long before the days of smartphones and laptops), I really listened to the lyrics for the first time. It was Valentine’s Day. I was alone and lonely and I started to cry.

It was Valentine’s Day. I was alone and lonely and I started to cry.

Certain songs are markers in our lives, don’t you think? I’m dating myself now, but junior high will always be linked to Neal Sedaka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” and high school will always be about the Beach Boys. We remember the song we danced to when we met the love of our life. We choose songs for our weddings. (My husband and I chose Frank Sinatra’s “The Best Is Yet to Come”.) Songs mark our special moments.

Hearing “The Greatest Love of All”, on Valentine’s Day, when I was single, was a turning point in my life, a critical moment, a crossroad. I had an epiphany. I could follow the same path, the one I had been on for years, hoping that the next man or the next clothing size down would bring me the happiness I was looking for. Or… I could take the other road, the one less traveled (to paraphrase Robert Frost), and start a love affair with myself. I chose the latter.

I have more than a few clients who insist that they will be able to love themselves only after they have lost ten, twenty, fifty pounds or a jean size or two. They believe that self-love will happen only after they are happy with what they see in the mirror or after finding the perfect partner. Fixing the outside, they believe, can heal the inside. They’re wrong! And I tell them so, hopefully lovingly and gently. Actually, it happens the other way around.