Self-love. Almost makes you feel uncomfortable just reading the phrase, doesn’t it? We know we’re supposed to be kind and compassionate to others. But loving yourself? Isn’t that … well, somehow a little selfish?
It is. And that’s exactly the point. There are times when “selfish” can be very, very good. When you’re in the midst of a healing crisis … trying like the dickens to work your way out of it and back to full, radiant health and wellness … that’s one of the times.
One of my regular blog readers recently sent in a great question: “How can there be so many of us that don’t embrace self love?” What I got out of her question was a request for some suggestions on making self-love more accessible. With that in mind, we’ll explore a few key tips.
- Learn the subtle distinction between self-love and self-absorption. In my world, self-love means you care for yourself as you would a beloved other. You create a nurturing and safe environment for yourself, attend to your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, and place yourself in the presence of those who support your highest good. From a place of self-love, you are healthy and balanced enough to allow your grace and light flow over onto those around you, spreading the joy. Contrast that with self-absorption, meaning that in your mind, “it’s really all about you.” Not healthy, not balanced, not nurturing, and certainly no extra grace for the guy next door. Let’s just back away and forget we mentioned it.
- Learn how little beings become big ones. You are not the bad one… The developmental psychologist part of me is taking over for a moment. When babies are born, their brain development is not complete. Babies can perceive when something really big and important, sometimes even traumatic, occurs. They cannot place that event in context. Therefore, when something troubling happens (as it inevitably does), a baby assumes that they are the problem. That they are bad, or unlovable, or dangerous, or not worth the trouble. Not true! Feed your spirit on this thought: God made you. It wasn’t a mistake.
- Bless your family of origin and move on. If you happened to have been born into a family where nurturing was not at the top of the checklist, understand that your parents undoubtedly raised you as best they could with the resources they had available. It is natural for a young child to interpret their parents’ actions as being “all about them” (see the previous tip), but that generally isn’t so. Your parents’ actions are about your parents. If they were seemingly too critical, too distracted, too strict, or too lenient, understand that any other person born into your family on the same day would have most likely found the same situation. Parenting style often has more to do with the parents’ beliefs and resources and less to do with how an individual child is as a human being.
- Make an independent choice about how to experience your cultural environment. Some cultures use criticism and fear as a way of controlling the minds and spirits of their members. Think of the stories you’ve heard about restrictive fear-based cults. While you may not have been raised in such an extreme situation, consider that some of the fear that may have intentionally been cast around you had more to do with controlling you than about the truth of who you are. You are fine. People who use fear in an attempt to control you are most likely insecure. Love yourself enough to move yourself to a place of safety and bring more supportive people into your life.
While a brief article like this one is by necessity just an introduction, the issue of self-love is critical to your health and well-being. You teach other people how to treat you. Until you can treat yourself with generosity and compassion, you’ll be walking a rough road. Professional therapists, counselors, clergy persons, and teachers or coaches are available to support your transition into a healthier state. If you’re struggling to reach a place of self-love, please find someone you trust to support you on your journey.