I grew up in a Protestant faith tradition that taught me I was born in sin. Every week I was required to confess that I was a poor, miserable sinner. What do you think that does to a person’s psyche? It can’t be good. What about loving yourself?
Then you start thinking, if you were born “bad,” so was everyone else. That makes everyone a selfish jerk.
The same tradition taught me that you’re supposed to love your neighbor as you love yourself. If you think so poorly of yourself, how can you think any better of your neighbor?
I think this is a big part of the problem. We do love our neighbors in the same way we love ourselves, and we’ve been taught that we aren’t very loveable.
Early this month, I went to a friend who does spiritual readings for people. It wasn’t the kind of thing I’m accustomed to doing, but I’m trying to expand my awareness of things outside the box of accepted traditional thought. One of the things she told me was that I need to love myself more. I’m holding myself back from reaching my full potential.
But I was trained to think that loving myself is selfish.
How could she know I didn’t love myself enough? I’m sure she doesn’t tell everyone the same things, even though I could tell you that you don’t love yourself enough—and I don’t know you from Adam. However, this was important for me to hear. And I’ve been thinking about it.
I don’t fault the church who conditioned me to think less of myself. You don’t have to go to church to find people who make you think less of yourself. It often starts in the family, in school, in the neighborhood. Not everything you hear is truth. I’ve come to the conclusion that you have to decide for yourself what is true and what is not true, no matter who says it.
What is important is that you love yourself. First. Period. Then when you love your neighbor as you love yourself, it will be a good thing.
So what can you do to help to advance the process of loving yourself?
- Understand what love is and what it means to love yourself. Love is doing what helps you to become the person you were created to be and, at the same time, does not get in the way of allowing others to be who they were created to be. To love your neighbor is allowing them to be who they were created to be and not get in their way. If they don’t love themselves, how can they love you?
- Tell yourself that it’s okay to love yourself. The world tells you it’s selfishness or pride to think highly of yourself. They imply that it’s better to think that other people are more important than you. I admit it’s a fine line we are walking here. Yet, it’s okay to think highly of yourself as long as you don’t think you are better than anyone else. Because you will never love another person more than you love yourself. Never. Pompous bastards are the way they are because deep within they think poorly of themselves. So tell yourself often: “I’m worthy of my love. There is great goodness in me.”
- Trust your inner voice. Your heart knows what is right and what is wrong. Why? From a spiritual viewpoint, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., the Divine dwells within you. God is not a billion miles away. The Ultimate Good resides within your soul. That’s where goodness comes from. That’s the internal voice that guides you. Some people call it conscience. As long as it’s leading you to goodness and love, trust it.
- Treat yourself with love and respect. Take care of yourself physically, mentally, spiritually. Honor your needs as being equal to the needs of others. You can’t truly love them unless you love yourself first.
- Learn to meditate. This is vital to being in connection with truth. You are worthy of being loved. You are loved. And knowing this, you can be a force for love in the world.