Several years ago I ran a workshop for women on creativity and spirituality. Among the topics we covered was love. The participants jumped into this section vigorously and could easily describe their beliefs about love and the many ways they practiced love for others every day.
However, when I began to introduce concepts of self-compassion and self-love, making a distinction between love for others and love for self, the group stalled big time. Although all of the women identified how they regularly demonstrated compassionate thoughts and loving actions for others, very few of them recognized their own needs for love and compassion.
As the workshop progressed, I discovered that although many of us are really good at loving others, we are often pretty darn stingy when it comes to loving ourselves.
But here’s the thing: Self-love is a psychological imperative. It’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a must have. Self-love is as important for health and well being as air, water and food. When we don’t adequately love ourselves, we cannot fully develop, function or sustain meaningful personal connections.
Moreover, without self-love we are not really available to others or selfless in our love for them. Not loving yourself properly means that you are unconsciously putting conditions on the love you share with others, which shows up in the form of unrealistic expectations, resentment and neediness. Over time, a lack of self-love creates unsatisfying relationships and we scratch our heads wondering why.
Ted Talk sensation, Dr. Brene Brown puts it this way: “If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe we are worthy of love and belonging.” She also says that we can’t give to others what we don’t have ourselves.
The absence of self-love renders us emotionally homeless. Low self-esteem (the result of a lack of self-love) traps us in an on-going cycle of self-rejection. It prevents us from belonging to ourselves and leaves us searching outside ourselves, endlessly longing, desperately needy for others to fill the void within us.
When others cannot fill our bottomless aching cavern of need, we judge ourselves and reject the parts of ourselves we deem unworthy in the eyes of others. Then we project these negative feelings onto others and say that these others, these special few to whom we gave our time and love so selflessly, have broken our hearts, have let us down, rejected and wounded us deeply.
Lack of self-love keeps us walled off from learning and separated from ourselves and others. It banishes us to life inside a barricade of self-doubt and restricts us from connecting with the best that life has to offer, in ourselves, in relationships and in learning experiences.
Compassion toward and love for the self is the loving embrace that welcomes us home to the hearth of our heart and provides endless food and shelter for our soul. Self-love brings us out of the cold, and warms us beside the roaring fire of our own love. Positive self-esteem, the trusted companion of self-love, is always there for us.
Without developing adequate self-love we are simply unable to fulfill our innate potential. We continually build and defend barriers to protect ourselves from being hurt by others. When you’re on the defensive you literally feel under siege. continuously on the lookout for the next attack, you are unable to take risks or to maintain trusting relationships.
The antidote is self-love.
Self-love makes us feel solid within ourselves regardless of what others think or say about us or what happens around us. Self-love connects us in healthy ways to others and grounds our relationships in mutual respect, trust and caring. Developing a healthy attitude of acceptance toward yourself self creates a positive personal identity, builds healthy relationships and helps you navigate life’s complexities smoothly. The ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships is one of the hallmarks of maturity and a key to leading a satisfying life.
Our sense of self-love is a critical part of creating a healthy, vibrant personal story.
As Rumi says, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
If feelings of unworthiness are part of your story, consider booking an individual session with me.
Wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day and may your heart be fully open to yourself!