If you can’t quite love yourself, you can’t quite love others. The river that dies, kills all its fish. It’s about loving yourself first. Love begins with you.
“If you love yourself, you love everybody else as you do yourself. As long as you love another person less than you love yourself, you will not really succeed in loving yourself.” – Meister Eckhart, The Art of Loving, Eric Fromm.
Do You Feel Shame To Love Yourself
It started when somebody told you that self-love was selfish. You argued against it. But even then it found its way deep into your unconscious. From that point you started your walk through life believing it was wrong to love yourself.
Perhaps for the first few times you just felt a bit guilty about loving yourself. Then it grew into a toxic shame. You stopped seeing yourself as your friend. You couldn’t forgive your mistakes. Then you started to blame and criticize yourself. And started spending hours judging yourself and obsessing over all your wrongs.
You even lost all empathy for yourself.
Somewhere along, you even crossed the line. Then came the self-punishments. You kept yourself up without sleep for 48 hours straight. You made yourself go without any food for 24 hours. Everything that was any fun in your life, you pulled yourself away from them all.
It might not be you. It might be someone else that you know who’s going through this. And you don’t know how to help. It’s a tragedy of our times that so many of us don’t know how to help those who fall out of love with their own selves.
That’s perhaps an irony too. We can help patch up two different people, but we can’t show them how to patch up with themselves. It is again because of the same guilt we carry in our minds – the catastrophic myth that self-love is selfish love.
Why Should You Love Yourself First
The river that dies, kills all its fish. But the river that gurgles in mirth and sparkles in sun, it keeps its fish warm with love.
Those who don’t respect themselves much, react with anger and hostility towards their partners. The psychologists Murray, Holmes and Collins found that out in their 2006 study. Two other studies (here and here) found that people who criticize themselves do not trust their partners as much. They were also dissatisfied in their relationships, and had difficulty being intimate.
And when you love yourself, it improves your relationships with others.
In 2014, University of Texas psychologists Neff and Beretvas got 104 couples to agree to take an online survey. For this, they were promised two free movie tickets each. In the survey, they were put through a test on a lot of things. Some of those constructs that got tested were their self-compassion, self-esteem, control, autonomy, verbal aggression, relationship satisfaction.
Overall, it was a batch of around 170 questions. I know what’s going on in your head – that’s a hefty price to pay for two movie tickets.
But the results Neff and Beretvas pulled out after analyzing the data from these couples’ responses were heartening.
Those who felt more compassion towards themselves, had better satisfaction in their relationships. They cared for and supported their partners more. These people didn’t try to control their partners as much, and gave them more space. They also showed less verbal hostility towards them.
In a sentence, they had more positivity in their relationships.
So, if you want more romance and security in your relationships, make sure you’re more kind to yourself too.
How To Love Yourself Without Any Guilt
You don’t have to be a narcissist to love yourself. You just have to get over your shame to learn to love yourself again. And it’s easy to do if you follow these 3 steps:
- Show Acceptance. First of all, realize that as human beings we have both strengths and weaknesses. You were not born as a God. You will always make some mistakes. Just as the rest of us, you will always do things in your life you won’t be proud of. At some points in our lives, we all falter and fail. Acceptance of this universal truth is your first step. You could practice mindfulness to build up this attitude of acceptance.
- Drop Perfectionism. Second, know that it’s a pointless exercise trying to build ourselves into perfect persons — or our work into perfect pieces of craftsmanship. Perfectionism never succeeds. It fails us because it never ends. It doesn’t let us enjoy the fulfillment of any of our achievements. Do you know that perfectionism can even lead to habitual procrastination? So, let go of perfectionism. Tell yourself, “Stop it,” and move on to the next important thing.
- Act In Self-compassion. Third, open your heart and let yourself be kind to your own self. Treat yourself with compassion. Self-compassion is being kind to yourself in the face of difficult situations and personal failures. Self-compassionate people have more of happiness, optimism, satisfaction in their lives. They also come out higher on emotional intelligence, wisdom, and resilience. So, instead of being one of those who criticize themselves, be of the ones who are kind to themselves.
The more you love yourself, the better your self-esteem, romantic capability, and survival chances. People who love themselves, grow themselves through good habits and healthy activities. They exercise daily, sleep well, eat for nourishment, and have great social connections.
Talking To Your Guiltless Loving Self
Don’t fall for this trap of telling yourself that if you don’t love yourself, then who else will. Because someday you may realize that it’s possible for you to love others while depriving yourself of it. Worse, you may start to believe that since you don’t love yourself, nobody else in the world can possibly love you.
Instead, a few things to say to yourself to proclaim self-love could be:
You could set one of these messages as reminders on your smartphone to buzz you at different times of the day.
I bet it has happened with you when you go into a day feeling grumpy without being able to pinpoint how you got that way. Sometimes, you might have got to the point that you’re being rough to your partner for no fault of theirs. And they wondered, often aloud, what was wrong with you.
Your feelings are there to tell you what’s right or what’s wrong. Your emotions contain key messages. But if you’re too busy moving ahead pushing yourself aside, you may end up missing all of those cues. So, sit beside yourself, and listen to the messages your emotions are trying to deliver.
Don’t ignore that person who doesn’t leave you wherever you go. You could be keeping yourself away from the greatest love you can ever have a claim on.
Love the person that’s you, yourself. Without any guilt.
A Book To Read
In The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brené Brown emphasizes that above all other ingredients of living an emotionally healthy life is the importance of loving ourselves.
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