"To love one’s self is the beginning of a lifelong romance…” - Oscar Wilde.
Unfortunately, the Victorian playwright/poet/novelist didn’t entirely understand the idea of “loving yourself,” as his later history shows.
Loving yourself in a real way doesn’t mean becoming a narcissist or an egomaniac. Modern psychology agrees that to fully love others, you must love yourself first.
Respecting Your Intuition And Feelings
Do you sometimes feel pressured to suppress your feelings about something important to you by people who claim to know better? Do you sometimes go ahead and do something you don’t want to do because “everyone else is” and you want to fit in?
A person who loves themselves learns to respect their own feelings and, if needed, stand up for them. Suppression of deep feelings leads to resentment and, sometimes, even rage. It can be hard to speak up at first if you’re not used to it. You will need to find a way of expressing yourself without necessarily being confrontational. For example, saying “I understand that you speak to your child that way, but I don’t feel comfortable with you speaking in that way to mine.” As psychologists put it, “Describe the behavior; don't label the person.”
If you’re prone to “going along with the crowd” when the crowd is doing things you don’t like, that isn’t loving yourself. Learn to respect your intuition telling you that this behavior is not right for you. It sometimes can mean having to end relationships with people you thought were friends. However, you’ll find other friends whose interests and lives are a better match for yours.
Learning To Say No
As the holiday season rolls around it’s so easy to get overwhelmed with requests (often kindly meant) to volunteer for six different “Nutcrackers,” to bake six dozen cookies, to give money or time to a million worthy groups. Women, in particular, frequently have a very hard time saying, “No” to people and organizations who do need help.
Have you ever heard the expression: “If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person?” That’s because busy people (especially women) are often super-organizers who manage to fit in three—or ten—more things. However, two results often come from this: The super-organizer begins to feel put-upon and resentful, and those who actually could take on a little more, but have the reputation of being unreliable, get out of the tasks again.
Self-love involves learning to say “No” nicely, but firmly. Strangely enough, the world seems to go on anyway when you do. If friends, family and employers are not used to you saying, “No,” there will be an adjustment period, but you can do it!
Getting Rid Of The “Shoulds”
A dear friend of mine, who’s a therapist, is fond of saying that we all need to get rid of at least a few of our “ I shoulds.” By that, he doesn’t mean we don’t need self-discipline, as in “I should go to the gym,” “I should eat a healthy breakfast,” “I should take care of my skin.” Self-discipline within reason is also a form of self-love.
After a while, the “shoulds” begin to mount up. You start to feel pre-programmed and that your life is not your own. Take a hard look at how many “I shoulds” you bombard yourself with in a day. How many of them are truly vital?
Again, it may be hard at first not to feel guilty when you off-load a “should.” Practice turning off that nagging inner critic. Ultimately, you’ll feel more in control of your own life.
Caring For Yourself… What A Concept!
If you are a caregiver, whether to children, an aging parent, someone who’s ill, or a disabled person, it is super-hard to think of taking time for yourself. Another famous saying goes: “You can’t give what you ain’t got.”
Yet, some of the obvious answers to caring for yourself may not be the best ones.
Shopaholics know that a spending spree is almost always a temporary high, followed by buyer’s remorse (“Why did I buy another pair of black shoes?”). If you love shopping, try thinking in terms of small, affordable “luxuries” that are a treat but won’t break the bank. How about an ultra-fragrant soap that provides a sensory escape every time you shower? Or a pair of fun socks with a Monet print on them that cheer you up whenever you put them on?
Many ways of caring for yourself don’t require money at all, or very little.
- Take the time to acknowledge your small successes and accomplishments, perhaps even in a journal.
- Listen to your body and make changes it’s asking for. Go vegetarian three days a week. Do five minutes of yoga stretches each day before dressing for work. Sit at your desk, whether at home or work, and take five very deep breaths, followed by five even deeper exhales.
- Think about how to let go of all those “stories” about yourself you’ve been carrying around for years: “I was always the last person chosen.” “I never follow through on anything.” “My ideas aren’t worth sharing.” These stories are holding you back. Let them go.
- Create a “sanctuary” in your house where you can be alone for a few minutes.
- Take yourself to the cheap matinee of a movie no one wants to see but you. Laugh out loud or cry…all by yourself.
The sky’s the limit on ways to be self-caring and, no, you do not need to feel one morsel of guilt.
Love For Self Means More Love For Others
When you stop and think about it, it’s totally logical that a person who isn’t filled with guilt, resentment and/or anxiety has more space in their emotional pantheon to care about others.
The late singer/actress Eartha Kitt once said, “It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self-love deficit.”
If you can be loving and present with yourself, you can be loving and present with others. That is truly the gift that keeps on giving.