Self-Love or Selfish?
Thinking of self-love can be a perplexing process. In one sense, our western culture has emphasized that self-love is selfish and self-centered. On the other hand, we are told that to enjoy a strong self-esteem, it is essential that we learn to love ourselves before we can truly love anyone else. With these two conflicting positions, it can leave a person feeling somewhat confused and unsure as to what is healthy or unhealthy self-love.
To be selfish or self-centered is completely self-serving, and unbecoming for a person of character. Selfishness is to focus only on oneself, without regard or consideration for others. It is a very immature focus on life. One in which a person is unable or unwilling to see things from others’ points of view.
Self-Love, on the other hand, is taking care of one’s self and ensuring you have what is needed to live a healthy life. Self-love is the mature practice of understanding the personal responsibilities of living consciously and purposefully as a member of your family, society and world. It is the identification and recognition of what is needed to survive and to be able to take responsibility for the process of getting these needs fulfilled. Self-love is accomplished only when others’ needs are kept in mind. To love self not only requires respect for your person, but it understands and gives respect to everyone else at the same time.
Unconditional self-love is a mature way of being. Where there exists a mutual respect for peoples’ rights and an understanding of personal rights as well. Americans have been taught, from a very young age, to love our neighbors as our self. We have been reminded throughout our lifetime that it is important to treat people the way we want to be treated. But, do we understand that this principle of love has two sides to it? We first must learn what it means to love our self, before we can love our neighbor in a healthy way. We must love who we are, unconditionally before love will flow from us. Second, we also must understand that to love in this way may mean that sometimes we need to treat people in a way that is better than they have treated us.
Self-love is a process of relationship that doesn’t have room for selfishness. You need to keep others’ rights in consideration. As an adult, you are responsible for ensuring your needs are met as long as the rights of others’ aren’t violated. You must understand justice and injustice. There must be an understanding that kindnesses and generosities are gifts to share. When following through with self-love to this end, you will love more completely.
Establish A Balance
The bottom line is learning to establish a balance between your needs and the needs of others. Since you need other people in your life, you must take others into consideration. You need to be aware of those around you and their desires, wants and needs, as well as be respectful of those things. You need to learn that it is good to trust your own judgment when deciding on what would make you happy so you can enjoy a more fulfilled life. To do that, you must know your heart.
Picture your life as a cup which holds life-giving water. As you give to others the water is poured out from your cup into the cups of other’s – emptying your cup. But, as you have your needs considered, met and fulfilled; water is then in turn poured into your cup – filling it so you then in turn can continue to give. If you only give, water will only be poured out of your cup, someday leaving it bone dry. You have to allow the replenishment of water or you will have nothing else to give. To give to the point of being left empty is not good for anyone….your cup will be dry. Keeping your cup full (or at least filling) is your responsibility. No one else knows exactly what is needed to fill your cup – only you.
How Truth Helps to Fill Your Cups
Self-love, true unconditional self-love can be achieved, embraced and appreciated without guilt or shame. The key to self-love along with the other more mature life-focuses of forgiveness, health, happiness and peace, is truth. If you had only one thing to focus on to assist you in improving your self-identity (one rule and one rule only) and you chose to live a life full of joy and contentment; then all you have to do is to live more honestly. This one change would result in your self-love growing.
To live honestly seems simple enough. But to really live in truth you must examine, accept and incorporate all of the complexities of your life and hold them as part of you and accepting that they are okay. We must examine our life, accept what it holds, and integrate the lessons learned through living. Through this process of understanding yourself, your thoughts and your behaviors you can then bring an element of humanness to who you are. You will then begin to accept the idea that no one is perfect, even you; and that is not only okay but is the first step in good self-love.
To really embrace your humanness will take courage and effort. (It isn’t easy looking deep within yourself.) You see, being self-critical and self-defeating are old habits you’ve known since childhood. These habits aren’t easy to break or change. To do so takes curiosity, determination, and the desire to fill your cup full of joy, love, better health and happiness…an overall sense of unconditional self-love. The more you have in your cup, the more you will know about yourself. The more you know about yourself, the more you know what you need and desire. The more you know and understand your needs and desires, the more you can ask for those things that fill your cup. The more full your cup, the more you ultimately have available to give to others. And thus, the cycle continues on and on….
Questions to Help You Get to Know Yourself
* Who is the most important person in your life and why? Who is your hero? What role does she/he play in your life? How could/would your life be different without her/him?
* When do you feel inspired? Who and/or what contributes to your sense of inspiration? How does it feel when you are inspired?
* What is the most important thing in the world to you? Where does this importance come from? Are you living your life with this importance in mind?