Love Yourself May 2, 2009

It’s a good idea to love yourself. It’s easy advice to give and so common it approaches cliché. When we take a good look at what it takes to truly love ourselves though, we find it takes faith, courage and willingness to change. We can begin to look at what it takes to love ourselves by exploring a few key concepts.

Self-esteem

Self-esteem is the way we see ourselves, a mental picture we carry in our mind. When we have high self-esteem, we love, trust, believe in and respect ourselves. People with high self-esteem have better relationships, careers, school performance, less anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, eating disorders, alcohol and drug addiction.

Some people have a self-defeating pride which is rooted in insecurity. People in this category overcompensate for this insecurity and this leads to seeing other people in a hierarchy; everyone is below them.  When self-worth is dependent on being super-human, any small mistake threatens self-worth.

A self-defeating shame is on the other end of the spectrum. People in this category see others as above them in a hierarchy. They see themselves and sub-human and attempt to keep themselves safe by keeping expectations low.

People with self-esteem see others as fellow human beings, neither in a one-up or one-down position. People have different abilities, yes. I might be able to play the piano while you can run a six minute mile; but these are things you can say about us, not who we really are. They can recognize areas of improvement without judging themselves as less than. They embrace humanity in themselves and others.

External vs. Internal Self-Worth

External self-worth is measured by money, social standing, popularity, beauty, personal achievements and is constantly changing. We feel good about ourselves when we get into our favorite school, feel bad about ourselves when we fail a test, love ourselves when we graduate, hate ourselves when we can’t find our dream job. Are we worthwhile or not? In this case, it depends on what has happened around us lately. If human worth equals external accomplishment, then only the rich and powerful have worth. By that logic, Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler have more worth than Mother Teresa. (Schiraldi)

A baby is an icon of internal self-worth. She can’t walk, talk, feed herself, drive a car – she can’t even use an Excel spreadsheet for crying out loud! By any external measure she is without accomplishment. But if you see a mother gaze into the eyes of her newborn child for the first time, it is abundantly obvious she is the most precious thing on earth. This baby doesn’t have to earn love, she is love.

Unconditional self-worth means separating external events from our true inner value, our Genuine Self. When things must always go our way before we can be fulfilled, we give away our power to live our own life. Living a life of love and joy is just too important to put in anyone’s hands but our own.

This doesn’t mean we can’t strive for excellence and ask for positive things in our lives. Rather, we embrace the uplifting events and learn from the challenging events and recognize neither one defines us.

How to Love Yourself

  • Unconditional Self-Worth. I recognize I am a precious, important and valuable person. I don’t do anything to earn this self-worth; it is a birthright.
  • Unconditional Self-Love. I choose Love even though there are imperfections. I acknowledge the things I would like to change without self-judgment, blaming, or making myself wrong. My mistakes do not define me.
  • Positive language. I notice when my inner-critic gets more attention than my inner-counselor and give my inner-counselor a voice. I notice internal or external self-criticism and substitute a positive statement.
  • Self-forgiveness. Healing is the application of Loving to the places inside that hurt. (Hulnick) I forgive myself for judging myself as being less than, of not being worthy of love. Each self judgment I release moves me one step forward in loving and accepting myself.

This short paper only serves as a brief introduction to self love and compassion. Other areas worth exploring include self-care, positive body image, service to others, and spiritual growth just to name a few.

So how can we overcome a lifetime of negative messages and learn to Love ourselves? Love is a choice, one we choose one moment at a time. When I look inside myself  I must ask, at this moment:

Am I in my Loving?

Am I in Compassion?

Am I in Integrity?

If the answer is no, then my true life’s work is clear.

Every moment we are alive we have the choice to love ourselves or blame ourselves.

Which will you choose?

“Small things with great love. It is not how much we do, but how much we put into the doing.
It is not how much we give, but how much Love we put in the giving.”

– Mother Teresa

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