You cannot love others without first loving yourself.
How does the above comment strike you?
Did you squirm a little when you read it? Do you feel that it would be conceited to agree with it?
Or do you perhaps agree with it wholeheartedly?
I agree with the statement fully now but there was a long time in my life that I did not agree with that statement at all. It made me squirm and it just sounded wrong to me. I didn’t understand anything about what it meant to love myself.
For so long I was full of self loathing that the concept of self love was thoroughly foreign to me. I was searching for love and acceptance in all of the wrong places. I wanted desperately to fill the gaping hole in my life but I was looking for the answers where they were not to be found.
Where it Began
I remember when I was in the fifth grade and suddenly a majority of the kids in that grade were obsessed with popularity and being cool. I was not among those kids, I was happy reading books and doing my own thing. I had zero interest in being told what to do in order to receive approval.
You can imagine how well that went over.
I’ll skip a bunch of painful details but by the end of the year one girl who decided that she didn’t like me (though we’d been good friends in the past) who had climbed the ranks of popularity used her power to turn nearly the entire class against me. The following school year I learned to hide and be as close to invisible as possible, I didn’t want to have any confrontations I just wanted to take the path of least resistance.
By the time that school year was over this pale-skinned, freckle faced, frizzy haired, super skinny, shortest girl in the class felt like a total freak. (At least it was the very late 80s so the frizzy hair wasn’t seen as bad as it would be by today’s standards!) I really felt like there were no redeeming qualities in me and that I’d been cursed by the universe.
I didn’t feel like I had anyone to talk about what a freak I believed I was so I took all of my hurt and frustration out in writing. I wrote book after book about these two rivals, one was the most popular girl in the class and the other was the nerdiest girl alive. At least I got some writing skills out of the whole thing! I now love to write and would still love to publish a novel.
I was fortunate enough to go to a junior high with a different group of kids than I’d gone to elementary school with so the following year was a fresh start, though I did still feel like a freak I at least knew that I could start over. I made a good group of friends and I started to feel better about myself, but not completely.
I still felt like a freak and I still did not like myself. I had come up with an idea that would solve all of my self love issues: I would get myself a boyfriend. That would surely be the recipe for success! Not only would someone love me but then I could show the world that I was worthy of someone’s love.
Did I ever have a lot to learn about relationships! My whole motive for starting a ‘romantic’ relationship was to fill my emotional holes and show the world that I was worthy of love. I had no thoughts about what I would give to the other person, it was all about me and my needs. I ended up constantly having boyfriends throughout my teen years, I don’t think that I ever went much more than a month without one.
I was so obsessed with boyfriends that I alienated myself from most of my friends and I convinced myself that I didn’t care. I was only concerned with having a boyfriend, with being worth something.
This pattern continued through college though I began making changes in my thought patterns and beliefs after becoming a Christian. I learned that I was not designed to hate myself – the second command is to ‘love others as yourself’, the assumption is that we are to love ourselves!
A Rude Awakening
A few months after graduating college I got married and I still held onto many of my old beliefs of needing a man to fill my emotional holes. Those holes became even more obvious after getting married when (surprise, surprise) my husband did not meet all of my needs and fill all of my emotional holes.
For a while I thought that he was the problem, that it was his fault for not making me feel whole. I thought that if he was doing his job I would feel like a princess and love would shine out through every cell of my body.
Obviously I had some very unrealistic expectations that I had to let go of and I had to find a way to feel whole, to experience self love, on my own. It wasn’t going to come from another person, only I could find those answers for myself.
Even if my husband, or anyone else for that matter, was able to be perfect and love me perfectly I would not be able to experience it without first loving myself. Any love that I was given was not entering my experience because it contradicted my beliefs and my self loathing. It was like trying to get opposing magnets to attach.
Eventually though I did learn how to love myself…
8 Self Love Lessons Learned
1. Loving yourself is not selfish. If you want to be truly selfless you need to give love to others, if you don’t love yourself you can’t love others.
2. You can’t give someone else what you don’t have. If you don’t first love yourself you are incapable of receiving fully the love others have to give you and you are also incapable of truly loving others.
3. People that love themselves treat others well. You don’t see someone who loves him or herself treating others poorly. They love themselves and find great joy in sharing that love with others.
4. Self love is healthy, conceit is not. Conceit is not coming from a place of love but a place of lack. People worry about being better than someone else when they are insecure about themselves.
5. Self love means acceptance. When you love yourself you don’t need to beat yourself up for mistakes, you learn from your mistakes and make amends when necessary. A mistake is something that happens to everyone and someone who has self love and security can look at a mistake and simply say, “Lesson learned!”
6. Self love means that you can laugh at yourself. You know that you don’t have to be perfect or live up to anyone’s standards so you can laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously. You can have fun with life, friends and yourself.
7. The more you give it away the more it grows. There is a song by Michael W Smith that says that love isn’t love until you give it away and it’s very true. The more of your love that you give away the more your own love will grow within you. That’s one reason that people love to volunteer, more is gained than was given.
8. It is a work in progress. You are always growing and learning, you never “arrive” or “achieve”. We also experience setbacks which can be a great time for growth.
I want to hear from you. What does self love mean to you? How has this view changed over time? Please share in the comments!
To Your Success,
I was very honored when Evelyn Lim of Abundance Tapestry invited me to be a part of her Self Love Series. This post is part of that series and will be included in a free ebook so if you enjoyed this post keep a lookout for my announcement about the book when it is published.