What if loving yourself first and foremost is NOT selfish?
What if the ONLY way in which you can truly love others is by loving yourself first?
I know this sounds counter to what many of us were taught. We've learned that it's selfish to put ourselves first, especially when you're a parent.
Many of us in the western world were raised hearing this Christian maxim:
Love thy neighbor as thyself.
Therefore, if you don't love yourself, how capable are you of truly loving those around you?
If you're stingy in your self-love, you'll be unconsciously stingy with your love towards others. You'll likely be expecting to be loved in return. That's not true love.
Without self-love, your outward "love" may in fact be more about co-dependence, attachment, earning approval, and securing loyalty from another.
Without self-love, our "love" for others tends to be fueled by fear more than true love: fear of being alone, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of sadness... fear of dying.
Without self-love, our "healthy" habits are also fueled by fear rather than love: fear of aging, fear of heart disease/cancer, fear of suffering, fear of being incapacitated... fear of dying.
The more we come to KNOW love --pure love, not romantic love-- the more we understand that we ARE love. And the more we reside in that awareness, the more we feel love pouring onto ourselves as much as it pours onto others.
We come to see that loving ourselves does not take love away from others. On the contrary, we realize love of self and love of others are one and the same love.
There is no separation. There is no expectation. There are truly no strings attached. No need for reciprocal love.
In self-love we are able to honor our needs as much as other people's needs. None is above the other, and when we find this balance we often see love and respect expanding. We inspire others to honor their own needs. We come together to support and love each other as whole, brimming with love human beings with a LOT to give.
How do you increase self-love when it feels so foreign?
For most people, self-love has dried up and is barely a trickle. It got that way through social programming since childhood. "It's bad and selfish to care for your needs. You must put others first."
Increasing self-love requires a steady stream of self-care practices...
..And/or diving deeply into spiritual practices that bring you to the place of KNOWING the love of the Divine for you and through you.
But let's get practical, shall we?
Just last week, a colleague (La'Vista Jones) told me she applies the 5 Love Languages to her relationship with herself. Brilliant!
I've used the 5 Love Languages in my relationships and with clients for years, but I'd never thought of applying it to my self-care.
The basic premise is that we each have a primary love "language" that when used by others, we feel loved. (You can access the link above to take the test and find your primary love language(s) or keep reading to see which language feels 'yummiest' to you.)
Here are some ideas of self-care/self-loving habits you can cultivate. See which ones feel most appealing and nourishing to you:
Love language: Words of appreciation
- Write love notes and praise for yourself
- Keep a self-appreciation journal - write 5 wonderful things about yourself each day
- Keep affirmations around you - your desk, your mirror, your car
Love language: Acts of service
- Hire a house-cleaner
- Delegate some work
- Get a baby-sitter so you can have an afternoon to yourself
Love language: Physical touch
- Book regular massage, or take a luxurious bath every week
- Get a manicure, pedicure or your hair done - ask for a scalp massage
- Ask for, give and receive a bear hug; or get some cuddling time with a loved one or pet
Love language: Quality time
- Book a date with yourself weekly. Keep it. Go fishing, hiking, shopping, to the library, to the movies, whatever is the most FUN for you.
- Carve out meditation, reading or quiet time for yourself
- Book a date with a friend, or schedule a game night.
Love language: Gifts
- Buy yourself some superb dark chocolate, or a special cheese or perhaps a bottle of wine
- Send yourself flowers. Perhaps even pay a florist to send you flowers weekly.
- Buy yourself the thing you've been wanting for a while
Some of these may seem superficial if they are NOT your primary love language.
This is also why romantic partners often fail to recognize the expressions of love the other one is offering. They're speaking different languages. He's polishing your shoes and cleaning up the kitchen, when all you want is a compliment or a bouquet of roses.
When these actions are your core language, you feel pampered. Loved. Cherished.
Your ego might chime in, and say, "But that's selfish! I'm not going to waste my time/money on that!"
If some version of the statement above is going through your mind, then ask yourself, "if ________________ (insert your child's/partner's/loved one's name) needed some love and pampering, would I say the same? What would I offer them?"
The more your fill your own tank, the more love you will have to give... even to your children.
AND... you'll be role-modeling for your children how to take care of their needs and have the self-esteem (aka. self-love) to have their needs met just as much as the needs of those they love.
Pick ONE thing. Do it this week. Schedule it.
Time to fill up the tank.