They call it the greatest love of all. But what do we really understand about loving ourselves? What do we mean by self-love? Of course, there can’t be one definitive definition. That said, there most certainly can be some universal guidelines.
We Often Misunderstand What It Loving Ourselves Means
We’re told to love ourselves but how many of us feel comfortable about it? You see, sometimes this idea can be mistaken for narcissism and/or selfishness. We wish to avoid being seen as either narcissistic or selfish. To counteract that, we might sacrifice our needs for others and still not feel good about ourselves, but instead feel resentful and frustrated.
The foundation of loving ourselves is finding balance. What if we could each express self-love in a way that felt authentic to us? Responsibility and flexibility play a big part in our being able to love ourselves.
- Responsibility: No person is an island. Hence, we are held accountable for our actions by friends and enemies, loved ones and acquaintances, bosses and subordinates. We must also take responsibility for our own wellbeing and our perceptions about things.
- Flexibility: Life is a fluid process and self-love is an evolving concept. Our wants and needs change over time, sometimes in a flash. Loving ourselves means staying in tune with the continually changing parts of ourselves and being ever-ready to learn and grow.
A Few Fundamental Ways We Can Choose to Love Ourselves
This can be the most difficult step. Between peer pressure, social media, and pop culture, we can become our own worst enemy. Acceptance means letting go of perfectionism and connecting to all the different parts of ourselves and creating a welcoming inner awareness to acknowledge and listen to what is going on.
We tend to ruminate on our mistakes (or perceived mistakes) to the point that we get in our own way. Introspection is important but so is forgiveness, learning, and moving on. You likely forgive others all the time. Offer the same compassion to yourself.
This might be called the “direct action” of loving ourselves. A diligent routine of self-care not only helps create the best version of you, it also reminds you that you’re worth the effort. A well-balanced regimen might include:
- Stress management and relaxation techniques
- Regular sleep patterns
- Daily exercise and activity
- Healthy eating habits
Self-perception is quite a ride. How we see ourselves is a solo performance. However, everyone else influences the act. Self-love is a process that requires patience and a willingness to shift gears whenever necessary. Loving ourselves can sometimes mean questioning ourselves, staying curious, and being open to change.
Part of loving ourselves is sharing ourselves. Solitude can be part of your self-care routine but never forget that we are social animals. Loving yourself is a wonderful journey. Loving yourself and sharing that love with others is an invaluable experience.
Here is where all the above factors combine to generate universal love. Being there for those in need is an enriching experience. The goal, of course, is to help others. The awesome added benefit is how much we help ourselves in the process. Loving yourself is impossible without witnessing yourself in the act of compassion.
Sometimes, Self-Love Requires Some Guidance
A paradox of self-love is that we often need lots of outside help! As mentioned in the “community” section above, we need social interactions. One of the benefits of this “village” is how it inspires us to learn. Learn to breathe, slow down and ask for help. Many, many people have forged a path of self-love thanks to their regular therapy sessions.
You and your counselor can become a team. It’s not about coddling or denial. Loving ourselves often begins with peeling away the defense mechanisms and unhelpful thought patterns to seek out the sources of your unproductive behaviors or emotion. With help, you can see yourself more clearly and learn to love yourself deeply.
Posted by CounselingWise on July 19, 2018