‘Self love is the source of all our loves’ Pierre Corneille
On Valentines Day we take time to express our love for others. We see how important it is to be able to show our loved ones how much we love them.
What if our capacity to love others was limited by our own capacity to love ourselves?
What if we can only love others to the same depth that we love ourselves? If that were the case then surely it would be imperative to develop as deep a level of self love as possible so that we can then share that depth with another. It would then seem that self love rather than being a selfish indulgence would in fact be the greatest gift you could give to others this Valentines Day.
You may have grown up in a regular or irregular family with parents who had regular or irregular demands on their time and emotions. Parents who behaved in fairly normal or abnormal ways. Even in a ‘regular’ or ‘normal’ family as a child growing up you may have felt at times ignored, over looked and not cherished. As a young child our self worth and self love is built on the positive reflections of those around us. If those around us have their own demands to face, it doesn’t mean we are any the less loveable. It just means that those around us may have been too busy with life to deeply validate us. This can result in gaps in our self love and its simply necessary for us to fill those gaps for ourselves.
To make it clear, we are not talking about blame here. We can assume, in the words of Louise Hay, that ‘everyone is doing the best they can’, even if that best impacts negatively on others. So first of all self love is about forgiveness, because if we can forgive those who we believe to have wronged us we set ourselves free. We do not condone what they may or may not have done to us, but what we do by forgiving them is that we set ourselves free from continuing to hold onto the pain. If we hold onto the pain the only one suffering is us and if we love ourselves why would be want to make ourselves suffer? Self love is about forgiveness.
If we love someone we are kind to them and we say kind words to them. Are we always kind to ourselves? In my experience we can be our own worst critic ‘Oh I’m so stupid I can’t believe I have done that again’ or ‘I am so angry with myself for forgetting X’ or ‘I am just such a failure when it comes to X’. If we start to really observe our thoughts and listen to how and what we say to ourselves it can be quite surprising how negative we are towards ourselves. Start to listen to your internal dialogue, do you give yourself a hard time? Do you set high standards for yourself and get angry with yourself if you think you have failed? Do you feel insecure or inadequate in certain situations, do you feel not good enough? Do you feel not attractive enough? Do you think you are somehow different to others? That others KNOW how to be or do something and you feel you are somehow inferior because you perceive them as somehow better than you? We might think ‘Of course I love myself’ but in actual fact we may have all sorts of negative thoughts and beliefs that we don’t even question. We have been thinking and believing them for so long that we don’t even realise that they are actually not loving thoughts or beliefs. Self love is kind loving thoughts and beliefs towards ourselves.
Sometimes we over stretch ourselves because we want to help everyone all the time, but if we keep giving over and over again then we will end up depleted and exhausted. Sometimes when we do things for others we are in fact (without meaning to) disempowering them. You see if we ‘over give’ then someone else may become dependent on us and not do things and learn things for themselves. It goes without saying that at times it is great to be able to show our love for others by giving of ourselves, be it our time, our advice, financial support what ever they need. To be in a position to be able to give freely, as and when we want to, we need the emotional resources available to us. To be able to build those resources effectively it inevitably means sometimes saying ‘No’ to people. If we say ‘No’ when we feel another’s request is perhaps not the best use of our resources it means we can then use those same resources elsewhere. Self love means saying ‘No’ sometimes.
To build our inner reserves we need to treat ourselves as we would treat our best friend. For example if you see your best friend is a bit stressed out you may do any number of things, you may validate them by acknowledging they are struggling, you may be kind to them you may do things like cook them a nice meal, you may check in with them regularly to see how they are doing. It is so easy for us to think of any number of ways we could support another. Self love is supporting yourself in that same way, often it is simply about acknowledging you are having a hard time (all too often we tell ourselves ‘I can handle it, I can get over it’). By sitting down and writing out how you really feel you can start to work out what you need to feel better. By checking in with yourself and seeing how you are regularly you can develop a new depth of self awareness and self love. Acknowledging how you feel and checking in with yourself is self love.
It can be hard to really know how we are feeling if we are busy all the time. By finding still moments and asking ourselves ‘How am I? Is there anything I need?’ we begin to develop a strategy for self love. You may realise that you feel overwhelmed with all of life’s demands and that you need some time to yourself to resource. After all, you don’t want to be so occupied with the demands of your life that you inadvertently send the message to your loved ones that they are not cherished. By taking time to stop and resource ourselves we then have the resources to give to our loved ones. Realising that you need some space to yourself and actually taking that space, that is self love.
The more you take time to listen to your own needs, take care of yourself, and resource yourself the more resources you will have to listen to and take care of others.
With all that in mind it would seem that self love is the most loving thing you can do for others. Happy Valentines Day.