“Self-love” is more than just a buzzword. It is a commitment to treat yourself with love, compassion and respect, and a promise to avoid unnecessarily sacrificing your health, happiness or integrity for anyone or anything else. But this life choice is often seen as selfish and an excuse to ditch your duties to your family, community or country. So there are plenty of people out there who are eager to try and take you down a peg and attack your decision to put yourself first. Here is a reality check for those who may need to adopt this new attitude and those who insist on hating on other people's self-love.
What Self-Love IS
Self-love can be easily misunderstood by both its lovers and haters. Self-love means making your health and happiness a priority in life. It begins with the understanding that you are in control of yourself and no one else is responsible for your satisfaction or success. Once you take charge of your own destiny you'll stop relying on outside forces to fulfill your needs and make you feel better.
You can then take a personal inventory and figure out what is contributing to your health, happiness, peace of mind, support system, and other positive aspects of your life. You can also start to understand which parts of your life are draining you, and are being lived for others in detriment to yourself. These areas may seem hard to let go of and needed for survival. But if these conditions of your life can't be renegotiated they can still be neutralized by filling other parts of your life with joy.
Self-love is benevolent, encourages growth and progress, supports long-term positive mood regulation, acknowledges your faults and flaws while holding you accountable for your actions, and provides guidelines for how to deal with conflicting needs. When your family or community dictates you live your life for them and by their rules, self-love says you matter, too. In fact, you matter most. The needs of the group can be important, but your self-actualization and personal values, feelings and goals deserve the same consideration and respect as anyone else's.
But you need to be gentle, compassionate, attentive and supportive to yourself before you can be there for others. How can you give others what you don't have?
What self-love IS NOT
Self-love is not selfish. It is sharing with yourself all of the compassion, esteem and dedication you have to everything and everyone else. Being at the top of your own list does not mean you're the only one on it. It means you have to have all of your tools, skills and strengths in tact to take the lead in your own life and perform well in the lives of others.
Self-love is not unhealthy. You don't indulge every whim or give in to every impulse or compulsive behavior. It doesn't support destructive, obsessive or addictive behavior. It doesn't promote the use of dangerous or illicit intoxicants for mood regulation or pain relief; although use of controlled substances under supervision of medical professionals to help treat symptoms of illnesses or disorders is acceptable.
Why Self-Love is Necessary
You can't fully love others if you don't love yourself. You can't help others if you're sick. You can't heal others if you're hurt. How can you perform at your best when you are running on empty? If you're thirsty, drink. If you're tired, sleep. If you're sick, rest. If you want, work.
Self-love restores your reserves and makes the rest of life possible.
Why Self-Love is Easy to Hate On
The term self- love can be misused to fuel and excuse people's worst inclinations. Users, abusers and manipulators may try to justify selfishness and destructive behavior by claiming it is what's best for their health. But when responsibility and accountability are taken by everyone involved, other people are not harmed by self-love. They may feel harmed or need to reevaluate and rearrange their lives, but other people are in control of their own lives, as you are yours.
Haters often ascribe laziness, neglect, selfishness, narcissism, exhibition, mediocrity and lack of drive to self-love. They conflate accepting the present with abandoning the future. Or accepting where you are now with giving up on growth. You can have both. You can love your past, present and future self through all the changes and progress. Self-love does not mean stagnation. In fact, quite the opposite. When you love yourself you can become more motivated and capable of becoming who and achieving what you want.
What you feed grows, and self love is a decision to feed the positive and constructive in your life. You are the most important person in your life because you are the only one with the power to change it. You can be just as dedicated to others as yourself. You can win for you and the group. You can pursue satisfaction and build your family's foundation. Be gentle with yourself and give your mind and body what they need to function at their fullest.
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