Self-love — really? Isn’t it conceited, selfish, unpleasant, arrogant, narcissistic, vain and full of false pride? It is, if ego-based and full of self-importance. However, there is a different kind of self-love you really need.
The right kind of Self-Love.
Real self-love is a spiritually based attitude towards yourself. With it you recognize and appreciate your intrinsic value as a human being. You have respect for your life, time and energy. You nurture yourself with self-care. You do not allow others to take advantage of you or treat you badly. You accept yourself unconditionally with all your limitations. And when you have been less than perfect, you treat yourself with a compassionate mindset.
Be Who You Are
There is no true self-love without authenticity. In the course of life this often falls by the wayside. You may have tried to be so many things for so many people that your identity has moulded itself according to the expectations and messages from other people. As a consequence you may have forgotten who you really are. Group think, rules and unspoken expectations can all thwart the expression of your true nature. For example, trying to gain or maintain approval and fit in with others may only be possible by suppressing aspects of yourself and adopting ways pleasing to them but that do not really reflect your own truth.
Authenticity includes the honesty to be all you are — quirks, weird, wonderful, exciting — without trying to be different, defending or protecting it. Living with authenticity can be an uncomfortable way of being. It takes courage to cope with other people’s reactions and responses that may not approve of who you are and how you conduct yourself.
Discernment is still required; “letting it all hang out” is not always appropriate. But on the whole, authenticity means not being afraid to be yourself, talking your talk and bravely walking your own path.
Align with Your Values
Values are deep convictions you hold about the way to live, make choices and determine actions. Values relate to different areas such as family, partner/intimate relations, parenting, friendships/social life/community, environment, career, recreation/fun/leisure, education/personal growth and development, health/physical well-being, spiritual outlook.
Values are acquired in childhood by what was taught or modeled within the family as right or wrong, important or irrelevant. Later the values of society — people you look up to or socialize with, the media and advertising, social media or any other significant agency — also influence what you consider important.
Each person has their own set of values that inform their behavior. For example, if you value cooperation you will treat other people with consideration, openness, the willingness to consider their point of view, curtesy, fairness and so on. If self-control is of value to you, you will not let your emotions run rampant or smash dishes during an argument.
Living according to your values is not always easy. People close to you may have different values, but in order to hold the peace you do not express yours. This is no problem if it is an occasional occurrence. But if you deny them too often and in a fairly major way, it creates internal dissonance between your own values and living a life contrary to them. An example would be a person who valued freedom and adventure, but was locked into a life full of routine only to please another person. Sooner or later the dissonance of values will create psychological distress. It will also lead to an inauthentic life.
Like everybody else you probably have weaknesses, flaws and are not always your best or winning in the game of life. Self-esteem mainly looks at the positive side, the inner critic only at the negatives. But you are both, light and shadow.
Self-acceptance knows the whole picture. All the marvelous and special qualities you have and all those that live in the shadows. Whether you have messed up or are going through a really hard time, do not label yourself as good or bad. Accept yourself as you are and be okay with it unless you feel the need to improve.
Don’t let anyone diminish you. Bullies thrive on dragging you down and undermine your sense of value as a human being. Abuse and attacks are designed to damage your feeling of self-worth. Self-love can be difficult to sustain during challenging times filled with fears, self-doubt or self-condemnation. But whatever other people do, know in your heart that it is your birthright to feel okay about who you are or are aiming to be.
Pledge that you will deal with yourself in ways that are fair, understanding, encouraging, comforting, helpful, supportive, attentive to your needs, productive/proactive, realistic and hopeful. Choose thoughts and actions that help you accept yourself. Look within for comfort and strength. Know that loving yourself unconditionally is the foundation for inner peace, personal empowerment and a rewarding life. And never forget that true self-love is yours to claim and nurture.
How can you find self-love in your own life? What are your difficulties with it? How do you sustain it in challenging situations?