Is it okay to love yourself?
I sat with a group of adults the other night discussing the concept of self-love. “What does it mean to love yourself?” I asked. Most of the individuals were uncomfortable with the idea. “Isn’t it selfish to love yourself?” Josie wondered. Bill recalled this his mother was self-centered and self-absorbed. She demanded a great deal from others. “I don’t want to be like her!” he remarked.
Yet, it was effortless for each person to consider what loving others mean. The verbs flew across the room onto the white board—acceptance, respect, compassion, forgiveness, kindness, concern, non-judgmental, appreciation and care. It’s easy to think about loving someone else.
By why can’t I feel this same way about me? Shouldn’t I accept and respect myself? Shouldn’t I show myself kindness, concern, and care? Why not have compassion and appreciation for myself too? Don’t I deserve to care for myself as much as I do for others? —No more, but no less?
Everyone wants to have good self-esteem. Who doesn’t want to feel good about themselves? Yet, how is self-esteem different than self-love? For many, the idea of self-love means putting your self first. Shouldn’t we put the needs of others before our own needs? Otherwise, doesn’t that make us selfish?
So how can we love and honor ourselves as much as others, no more and no less, without being self-centered?
Seek balance. Today, I want to take a hot bath after work rather than help Diane with the laundry. But tomorrow, I am happy to do the grocery shopping so that she can take a dance class. It doesn’t have to be exactly 50-50 (is anything completely equal?). But at the end of the day, by seeking balance, we will both be able to meet our needs. I want to balance my needs and desires with those of my family.
Each one of is equally as important and valuable. It’s true. We all share the common desire to be happy and have the causes of happiness. None of us are more important, more valuable, or more worthwhile. Therefore, all of our needs, including our own are equally as important as our neighbors. It’s a radical idea!
Take care of yourself. Taking good care of yourself doesn’t mean that you can’t take good care of others too. But don’t neglect yourself in order to take care of loved ones. Don’t wait for others to take care of you! It’s your responsibility to take care of yourself.
Your children don’t need everything they want. Of course we want our children to have happiness! But does that mean they need to have everything they want? Kids can be insatiable—they want every new toy, device, or game they see advertised on TV or that their buddies have. At the end of the day, all of these new bangles end up in the garbage heap. But appreciation, attention, and love are the real enduring gifts. They become the seeds of self-esteem and self-love that flower in adulthood.
Nurture yourself as much as you nurture others. When your cup is full, there is much left over for others. When you have wellbeing, you are happy to help others. When your tank is on empty, you have little to give. Make sure that your emotional, physical, and spiritual tank is full! Then you will be able to be the generous person that you want to be!
Asserting your own needs is caring for yourself. It’s important to ask for what is important to you. Modeling balanced self-care helps children turn into adults that can take care of themselves.