In the past, I was driven to be a high-achiever, always striving to create a successful and fulfilled life. Service was one of my most important values, but years of being in service taught me to take care of myself only when everybody else had been taken care of. The problem was that the more I gave to others, the less I gave to myself. I became unhappy and unhealthy, and knew inside that something had to change. It took me years of self-discovery and personal growth to learn the meaning of self-love. From all the years of hard work and discovery, I now have no doubt that self-love is the essence of healthy relationships with others.
Think about it for a minute: when you’re being hard on yourself, when you beat yourself up for something you haven’t done, or even something you have, when you look in the mirror and you don’t love the person you see, can you be as loving, kind, and compassionate as you want to be for others?
You cannot create healthy intimate or even social relationships that satisfy you unless you fall in love with yourself first.
We must ask ourselves, why is it so much easier for us to love others than it is to love ourselves?
Why is self-love such a challenge?
Maybe because growing up, you tried to please others. You wanted to be a “good girl”. You wanted your parents to be proud of you. You wanted to get good grades. The result was that you were guided by the silent pressure of society, teachers, parents, media, and books to be better, to do better. No wonder that you couldn’t love yourself. Not only did you feel “not good enough,” but you probably had role models who felt not good enough themselves.
Some of you grew up feeling pressured religiously to take care of others before taking care of self. I recently worked with a woman who felt that it was selfish to put herself first. When I asked her where she learned that, she shared that her parents’ religious background carried the belief that women must serve men, and they were put down by their local church. In fact, women were not even allowed at the church. She internalized this belief, and now as an adult, she lives with unhealthy habits that are dangerous for herself and for her children, but she still feels guilty when making herself a priority.
One of the most common expressions of guilt I hear from women is feeling selfish when they take care of themselves first.
The truth is that owning and expressing your needs first will allow you to help others when they need it. Helping yourself first is sanity, not selfishness.
What is your old belief about self-love? What does your negative self-talk sound like?
If you challenge this belief and you could create a healthier one, what would it be?
Here are some ideas:
- When I say NO to others, I say YES to myself.
- I take care of ME first, and I can then take care of others.
- Taking care of myself first makes me sane, centered, and healthy.
- Putting myself first allows me to be in service to others.
I’d like to share with you a poem that I love. I hope that it inspires you: from Emmanuel’s Book: A Manual for Living Comfortably in the Cosmos
By Pat Rodegast & Judith Stanton
There is nothing but love.
Don’t let the masks and posture fool you.
Love is the glue
that holds the Universe together.
The greatest need in a soul
is to achieve that loving of self
which will bring about the unity
wherein the judgments
that have caused such pain
True self-love is not ego.
True love is great humility.
Love and compassion for others
until there is a godly supply for self.
How can you feel the love of God
if you do not love yourself?
Are they not one and the same thing?
I invite you to look inside and examine your current beliefs and attitudes about self-love.
Please share your thoughts in the comments area below.