The Facets of Self-Love
Self-love isn’t Selfish
One of the most significant things a person can do in life is to shower themselves with nonjudgmental and unconditional self-love. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done as many people struggle with this notion. So, why is it so easy to love others but so hard to love ourselves?
From the moment that we begin to have conscious thought, we become aware of what those around us think and expect from us. The pressure to not only attain but also maintain these standards may build up, resulting in increased levels of stress and anxiety. For many, this can manifest into thoughts and feelings of self-doubt, “I am not smart enough, talented enough, attractive enough, tall enough, good enough,” etc.
This negative self-talk precipitates low self-esteem, which prompts us to seek outward………..
Need for External Validation
Individuals have an intrinsic desire and need to be liked, loved, adored, respected, and appreciated by others. In many regards, this is considered “normal” and “healthy” and serves as a good ego boost. But, there is a fine line between healthy need and unhealthy need for external validation. The deciding factor is whether or not the opinions of others determine how we feel about ourselves: “Tom doesn’t laugh at my jokes, therefore I must not be funny. Vicki said that she loved my outfit today, therefore I must have a great sense of style.”
I have often compared this concept to that of a piggy bank: when given a compliment or praise, a coin goes in (increased self-esteem) but when we hear a complaint or criticism, a coin goes out (decreased self-esteem). This can quickly turn into a rat race of highs and lows, promoting more stress and anxiety.
So, the question now becomes: How can we manage our own piggy bank without the incessant need of others?
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love & affection.” ~Buddha
Loving and Caring for Ourselves
What if we were able to internalize these situations differently, “Tom doesn’t laugh at my jokes, he must have a different sense of humor than me. Vicki complimented my outfit today, it’s cool that we have similar styles.” This way we are neutral to other’s opinions because we already believe that we are funny in our own way and like the clothes that we choose to wear.
Self-love involves valuing our strengths, appreciating our differences, forgiving our mistakes, and trusting, respecting, and accepting ourselves through thick and thin. If this concept does not come easy, individual therapy can help. There are a plethora of tools and techniques used to increase self-love. These include: reviewing personal accomplishments on a regular basis, identifying strengths, chanting daily affirmations, increasing positive self-talk, discovering new interests/hobbies, taking the day off, splurging on a massage, and learning the art of self-soothing to name a few.
In a culture consumed by perceptions and judgments, the most empowering thing we can do is to love ourselves unconditionally.