What would it be like if we had an epidemic of self-love? Is self-love even a healthy thing? I argue yes. Self-love, I believe, is the way to find healing and get unstuck in any area of life.
Get comfortable with the idea of self-love
It’s taken me a long time to even feel comfortable with the concept of “loving myself”. It’s such a fad right now, this idea of self-love and self-care.
But in my journey to become healthy and balanced, I kept hitting one pretty major road block: myself and my own inability to do things I needed to do to be healthy. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the concept of self-care and self-love that everything began to change for me.
Now mind you, this hasn’t been an instantaneous change (no overnight sensations here) but it has been the only thing that’s worked to break down walls of self-loathing, unrealistic expectations, perfectionism, and procrastination. That lovely laundry list that most of us deal with are actually the things that keep us from reaching our most deeply desired goals.
You see, I was raised in chaos like 90% of humanity and the idea of love, let alone self-love, was a mixed bag of tricks. So when I first heard about self-care I honestly struggled to understand what that actually meant. How do I do that? What does that look like? Isn’t that self indulgent? Won’t God be pissed if I love myself? But I don’t want to be like Gwyneth Paltrow…on and on the list of doubts would go.
Deal with your obstacles to healthy self-love
I can tell you I’ve tried self-hate and I think I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that it never works.
Actually, it works for keeping me stuck. And that’s OK. It’s probably what I needed at the time. Sometimes I get myself stuck so I feel safe. I can forgive myself for that. But now I’m in a place where being stuck doesn’t serve me and it’s sure as hell not benefitting anyone else. My 31 year study of self-loathing is coming to a close and I’ve decided to try something new. As Marianne Williamson is famous for saying,
Your playing it small does not serve the world.
This is why I’ve come to believe that self-love and self-care are the only real and sustainable methods that get us to where we want to go.
Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with this self-care practice daily. It’s a moment by moment battle, but who else could ever really love me and care for me the way I could love and care for myself? So even when I’m not fully embracing this practice I remind myself: Only you are the expert on you. You’re the perfect person for the job.
What does self-love mean to you?
One man’s self-care is another man’s chore. Basically, I’ve got to light my own fire and get comfortable with filling my own tank.
I’ve got to get really clear on what fuels me – body, mind, and soul – and do that. And I have to accept that its totally free. All it will cost me is intention. Which is a lot less than what not doing it is costing me now.
Before I can dive into explaining my assertion, I need to make a few points very clear. It almost goes without saying that the disease of narcissism has begun to seep into almost every aspect of popular culture and maybe even daily life. People, especially those 30 and under, are being given more and more permission to elevate themselves, to make much of their surface qualities, and to garner “at-a-girls” for achieving what is essentially hollow internet micro stardom. What’s more, is this contingent of self-lovers have no excuse not to promote themselves.
In fact, they have every reason to. They’re rewarded for doing so. They’ve been given the most powerful tools in human history to carry out their fantasies of smoothie-bowl success. So as I begin to talk about self-love and self-care know that I’m extremely aware of the need to be ultra clear about the difference between self-love and self-adoration.
Here’s what self-love is not.
What self-love is not.
Self-love is not love of “self”. It’s not narcissistic or selfish.
Self-love does not mean and cannot mean self obsession. It does not mean infatuation with the self. The point of self-love is to love others well. But in order to love others well you must have love for yourself, for your care, and for your person.
We’ve all heard the saying, “You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself”. This is what I mean. Lest I get trapped in trying to explain what love is, let me at least try to sum it up by saying that love is having a commitment to a person, thing, or cause. Its having a healthy estimation of limits and lacks and still committing to care. Love sees both the good and the bad and still gives provision. In short, to love is to know and be fully known. Knowing yourself through and through — and having a balanced view of both your greatest virtues, and your worst faults and foibles. That is love.
So, tell me what’s more selfish?
- Taking exquisite care of yourself and letting the overflow (the bumper crop if you will) pour out to the people around. Or?
- Being stuck, sick, and so sad that you become a burden on others?
Self-love is being true to yourself. It’s the greatest gift you can give to those around you, your kids, your grandkids, the world. Because when you’re properly caring for yourself and have a healthy estimation of your qualities, needs, and limitations you’re not seeking to be made “whole” by any other means or by any other person aside from yourself.
Its not anyone else’s responsibility to care for you and your needs.
When you put yourself first then you have the resources to give back to others around you. That’s when you do your best work. Does that mean you’ll do it perfectly every time, every day? No.
In fact, you’ll fail at it a lot. But that’s OK! You’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. And no one expects us to be. So give yourself a break. Perfectionism is the enemy of health and happiness and I’ve heard it said perfectionism is self abuse in the highest order.
Putting yourself first and being responsible for your own needs is a bold claim. However, I don’t want to fall into the trap of making blanket statements. When I speak of self-care it can mean physical self-care, but first and foremost it means emotional, spiritual and psychological care. Obviously not everyone is able to care for their physical needs. And not everyone is able to care for their unseen needs either.
But for the sake of this article, assuming you’re a healthy adult (within reason) you are indeed the sole proprietor of both your most basic corporeal and temporal needs.
Healthy self-love will help you become who you’re meant to be
You will not protect what you do not value.
The thing about becoming the person you dream of being, is that it won’t happen if you’re at war with yourself.
Speaking in terms of health and wellness, we often lament, “I’m my own worst enemy.” Self-care is the cure. Self-care cuts to the root of why we do not do the things we want and need to do.
Self-care is a strange alchemy which cures both self-loathing and perfectionism, but also procrastination and self-sabotage.
If we’re an enemy of ourselves, no matter what action we take toward self-improvement, it will be forever and unconsciously punitive, restrictive, and abusive. How do you suppose anyone would respond to that kind of feedback?
You will be tempted to force this
Call a truce. We can’t force ourselves to change.
Force is tempting. It seems quick and effective. But the most effective way usually doesn’t appear to be the most efficient way. Yet, what is most effective is always most efficient even if it takes eons.
Force hates patience, acceptance, and peace. There’s a difference between internal force and external force. Forces acting upon us which are beyond our control can cause change. This can be for the good or bad. Sometimes this is discipline, tragedy, or blessing. However, forces from within rarely result in holistic change. We try to use this internal force to change our lives and bodies. Think in terms of self-will. Again not always a bad thing. But in most cases self-will despises the long game. Self-will is tempted by quick results, unrealistic outcomes, and shiny promises.
However, self-control is a fruit of Love. Self-control is loving in action. Whereas self-will is like a wild colt — powerful and determined but terribly dangerous to tame and horribly destructive when provoked.
But when we can’t muster our own internal force (which we never really can — at least not for very long) we begin to seek force from outside sources.
In my opinion, people are drawn to forceful figures — abusers if you will — because subconsciously we’re looking for what’s familiar. We’re used to trying to force ourselves and when we fail to get what we want, we look elsewhere. We look for that “force” that will force us to change.
This is why we revert to self-abuse in the form of addiction and negative self-talk. This is also why we accept abuse covertly and overtly from others be they boyfriend, spouse, boss, or Donald Trump.
Think about all the negative self-talk you have going on in your mind. If you were to say it out loud to another person, what would it sound like? What if you were in a relationship with someone who verbally abused you the way you verbally abuse yourself?
This is nothing more than intimidation, manipulation and coercion.
What if your boyfriend or wife cajoled you the way that you do? That would be straight up abuse. And you wouldn’t tolerate it. At least I hope you wouldn’t. Yet, we tolerate abuse that is self-generated and self-focused.
You are in a relationship with yourself
If you think you’re a piece of crap, you will treat yourself like one. If you don’t think you’re worthy of anything else but struggle and suffering, then guess what? You’ll just keep struggling and suffering.
If you’re your own worst enemy that means you’re also always the victim. And victims never get what they want. We victims are constantly putting ourselves in situations where we can’t seem to access what we want or need. No matter how hard we try, we always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.
But there’s always a payoff. There’s always a reward or else we wouldn’t keep coming back for more. Right? Steven Pressfield alludes to this in his book Turning Pro. The payoff is incapacity. The payoff is becoming immobilized. We get stuck. When we’re stuck, maybe we’re a little safer than being out there on a limb. Maybe when we’re stuck we’re off the hook — we don’t have to perform or deliver.
The fastest way to get out of this cycle is to realize that you are the only person responsible for your self-care. Self-love is the way to get the health and life that you desire. Because all things are possible when love is present.
Only you can love yourself and give yourself what you want most.
Friends, this is so important. Take this seriously. How much longer do you want to be at war with your body and life?
You want this year to be like last year? I don’t. Do you want to see what it feels like to care for yourself on a profoundly kind level? If you want to raise the white flag of surrender, then I invite you to do so now. Change won’t happen overnight. At least not the kind of change we all long for. It won’t happen in one week, one month, or one year. This kind of change, therefore, must be enjoyed and savored. Think of it like a road trip.
This is a process — a journey. Enjoy it. Soak it up. You are a temple and an architect. If you were building a temple would you build it alone? How long would it take you to plan and scheme and draw and build? Be patient with yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Take a risk and embrace this process. Be your own friend and hero. Stop the rotten self-abuse.
And for goodness’ sake, learn to love yourself one moment at a time. Then and only then will see yourself and the world around you change.
What about you? Do you struggle with self-love and self-care? If so, what’s one take away from this that you can start working on today? If you’ve got any tips on how to have a healthy view of self then I’d love to hear you share in the comments below!