“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”
The month of February focuses our attention on loving others. Cards are bought, candy is given, kisses abound. Everything seems red and pink. We buy roses and give our love to others in various ways. But what about loving ourselves? How many of us can truly say: “I love myself, just as I am, unconditionally” – and really mean it?
As the poet Mark Nepo says in The Book of Awakening, loving ourselves can be as difficult at times as “seeing the back of your head.” He goes on to say “It can be as elusive as it is necessary.” So from this author’s point of view, loving ourselves is not only difficult – but necessary – a requirement of sorts. Yet how do we do this and where do we begin?
Historically, self love has often been seen as a moral flaw, akin to vanity and selfishness. In 1956, however, psychologist and social philosopher Erich Fromm proposed that loving oneself is different from being arrogant, conceited or egocentric, meaning instead caring about oneself, and taking responsibility for oneself.
In my own life, I have learned that loving myself is not about being selfish or egocentric – and certainly not about neglecting others. It is, rather, about having faith in who I am and about caring deeply for myself. It requires me to be courageous like never before. Loving asks and requires each of us to believe in and commit our loyalty to something no one else can see: our own worth.
So how do we do learn to love ourselves? Few of us learned in school how to believe in the person we are and how to trust ourselves and trust our goodness. In my own past, I recall being corrected harshly, overpowered by adult figures, and often shamed. Do any of you remember hearing: “Shame on you!” and seeing a finger pointing toward your face? It has taken me a long time to heal some of those experiences and begin to see myself with fresh eyes.
In doing research for this post, I discovered several excellent articles and blogs on loving oneself. As I digested the ideas, I began to truly understand how important it is to love who we are. I don’t mean we must feel happy about everything in our lives or to have no regrets. Rather, we must learn to embrace our goodness: that core knowing that there is good in everyone, beginning with ourselves, and honoring that goodness.
Loving ourselves means letting go of judgment. It means allowing our mind to bombard us with the many thoughts and images that occur continually – and letting them go, returning to our goodness. Love is accepting, affirming and honoring. It is patient and deeply understanding. Love holds what is, tenderly, with no demand to change anything.
The lesson in loving is learning to embrace, not deny, the less-than-perfect you – the one who “has not measured up” or who has “failed” in some way. This person needs love and acceptance, compassion and forgiveness in order to rediscover who she really is. And it is a deep and abiding love that will soothe, reassure, and support the wholeness and expression of her most honest and healthy self.
Our purpose, then, is to accept all that is in our lives right now and begin to let love – forgiveness, compassion and kindness – lead us more deeply into our wholeness and into our goodness. Self-love is important to living well. It influences the person we pick for a mate, the image we project at work, and how we cope with problems in life. So where do we begin?
We begin with action – with wise choice. Self-love is not simply a state of feeling good. Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions taken that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth and development. Self-love is alive; it grows by actions that mature us. When we act in ways that expand self-love, we begin to better accept our weaknesses as well as our strengths, have less need to explain away our short-comings, have compassion for ourselves as human beings struggling to find personal meaning, are more centered in our life purpose and values, and expect engagement and fulfillment through our own efforts.
10 Ways to Create and Nurture Self-love
The following are ten suggestions for creating and nurturing self-love in your life:
- Practice Mindfulness. People who have more self-love tend to know what they think, how they feel and what they need. They are mindful of who they are and act on this knowledge, rather than on what others want for them.
- Practice good self-care. You will love yourself more, when you take better care of your basic needs. People high in self-love nourish themselves daily through healthy activities, such as sound nutrition, exercise, proper sleep, and healthy social interactions and connection.
- Build a precious community. Create support and love from people around you to stay motivated and on track. Loving along with positive energy is contagious, so whether you’re building a community for yourself or planning to go to a fun event, it’s always important to have people you value around you regularly.
- Explore your spirituality. Faith is the foundation for self-love. Believing in something opens your soul to the beauty of belief and trust. Faith will build your intuition and help you make decisions based on your intuition. When you explore your spirituality, it will invite you on a journey of learning about yourself. Those new thoughts, feelings, and passions, will assist you in appreciating yourself for being who you are.
- Live in Gratitude. Be grateful for both the little and big things in your life. Consider that the “little things” could be “big” and never take a moment for granted. Cherish everything. No exceptions.
- Forgive yourself. As humans we can be critical of ourselves. It is possible to take responsibility for our actions without punishing ourselves for mistakes made in learning and growing. Practice forgiveness when you make a mistake. Remember, there are no failures: only natural consequences, feedback, and learning.
- Be generous in loving others. Practice empathy, compassion, and forgiveness. By loving others we are better able to love ourselves. According to Sanaya Roman: “People who love themselves come across as very loving, generous and kind; they express their self-confidence through humility, forgiveness and inclusiveness.”
- Build your letting go muscle. We’re constantly holding on to things in our past, and it can weigh on our souls, creating low self-esteem. Healing takes intention and, often, outside resource. Don’t hesitate to join a group or find a counselor to help. Doing so will assist you in reaching optimal self-acceptance and self-love.
- Do something you’re good at. Self-esteem and self-love often go hand in hand, and participating in a hobby you’re good at will not only boost your endorphins, but will bring out the best version of you. Even if what you’re good at is simply trying something new, do so! If you love to cook, then take on a new recipe. If you love to walk or jog, head outside or hop on that treadmill.
- Live intentionally. You will accept and love yourself more, whatever is happening in your life, when you live with purpose and creativity. If your intention is to live a meaningful and healthy life, you will make decisions that support this intention and feel good about yourself when you succeed. You will love yourself more if you accomplish what you set out to do. Setting intentions will assist you greatly.
It is also important to learn to embrace silence. The following is a short meditation to support simply sitting quietly and getting in touch with your core goodness. Please give it a try and notice what happens when you do so.
Sit quietly and let each breath guide you into your center – without judgment or criticism.
Breathe into this part of you that has been there all along.
Imagine connecting to this deep and true part in others as well.
Remember the words of John Lennon: “Imagine all the people, livin’ life in peace”.
Continue to breathe, just as you are, for a few more moments.
In conclusion, I offer a quote that sums it all beautifully :
“A deep love resides inside each of us. This love is independent of the desires, thoughts, and opinions, good or bad, which are readily offered to us. It is a love that is gentle and kind, accepting and nonjudgmental, playful and spontaneous, courageous and curious. It is always encouraging and always evolving. This love can be discovered only through turning off the noise around us, coming to ourselves in silence, meditation, and prayer. If we listen carefully we will hear the murmurs of our inner voice tell yearnings of our truest selves. What is available to us is a profound understanding, appreciation, and full acceptance of self, all of the good and all of the bad. Only when we truly know that we are able to tap into this part of ourselves can we begin to love others fully. Love for others is the manifestation of love for self. We cannot love another more than we love ourselves. Life is a mirror. If you want to know what love for yourself looks like, look at your love for others. If you want to know what your love for others look like, look at your love for self. When you love yourself this way, you love God this way. This relationship is the divine love triangle; self, God, and others in any order.”
—Marlon Hartley Lindsay
I hope this information has been helpful to you, feel free to share it with someone you care about. Have a comment? I welcome anything you might have to share or ask me about.