You cannot love someone else until you learn to love yourself.
Posted November 12, 2019 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
Most of us know what self-love is but do not understand it. You eat because you understand that you need nourishment. It is sad that most of us are trying to conquer external battles like finding love, finding success, or finding happiness, but we do not understand that self-love is the root from which everything grows.
How can we love the next person effectively before we have learned to love ourselves unconditionally? When you love yourself conditionally, you cannot love another unconditionally, because why give someone else something you do not have? Our understanding of self-love is learned during childhood from those that cared for us. In most cases, it is taught unconsciously; we just got a glimpse from watching those that nurtured us.
Self-love is more than just wearing nice attire and applying bouts of expensive makeup and then claiming that you love yourself. Self-love is an umbrella term for different acts of love we perform toward ourselves physically and non-physically. There are many well-groomed people that I know who have no clue what it means to love themselves. To love yourself is not an act of selfishness, it is an act of kindness toward others because when you love yourself, others don't have to deal with your unresolved problems.
Self-love comprises four aspects: self-awareness, self-worth, self-esteem and self-care.
If one is missing, then you do not entirely have self-love. To have it, we should be aligned with these four aspects. The journey of achieving self-love does not differ from confronting your demons. It is the reason most of us lack it, because no one wants to sit down and have a conversation with themselves. Self-Love is hard to achieve because it means having to do away with certain things and people we are addicted to. Our addiction to people and habits that go against the premise of self-love means that we compromise and hence love ourselves conditionally, in exchange for the momentary rush we get from these distracting things.
Self-awareness is being aware of your thought processes: your thoughts, how they affect your emotions, and how emotions cause you to act. Are you aware of the thoughts that make you feel angry and make you act impulsively? Where are they coming from, and why are they there? Why do they cause you to act the way that you do? The same applies to what makes you happy. Why does it make you happy? It is stepping out of yourself to examine yourself. Self-awareness is the key to emotional intelligence. What makes you mad might not stop making you mad, but you will know how to respond effectively or how to not respond at all. People with high emotional intelligence have emotions just like we do. But they step out of their emotions to process them effectively. This also includes moving away or avoiding situations that you know will trigger certain undesirable feelings and reactions within you. If you cannot move away or avoid the situation, self-awareness enables you to redirect the energy you are putting in those emotions. One way to improve your self-awareness is to keep a journal of your thoughts, emotions, and actions.
Because of the continuous negative programing that we face in society, we focus on the bad and unpleasant things and project this negativity onto ourselves so often without even realizing it. You are born with an endless sea of potential; You have it now and you will have it till the day you die. Just like we cannot create or destroy energy, we can only explore or hide potential. Self-worth is the beliefs we have about ourselves, and often we struggle to believe in ourselves. This is because of past unfortunate circumstances we have been through that we have not fully shaken off. Self-worth lies in all the good things about you. Everyone has something good about them. If you struggle to find your self-worth, find a day that you can spend picking out the things you have done right or the things that other people have appreciated about you. You may be a pushover because you don’t know your worth. There is never a day that you are not worthy. Self-worth is not determined by anything; you don’t have to do anything to be worth it. You just are. Know that and understand that. Your strengths, talents, and kind acts toward other people are just an expression of your self-worth.
Self-esteem results from self-worth. A high sense of self-worth results in high self-esteem. Self-worth is the realization that we are valuable regardless of what we have achieved or the qualities we may have; self-esteem is more tied to our qualities and achievements. The exercise mentioned above appeals more to self-esteem but I used it for self-worth because we work better with things that we can see rather than things we can’t. When you develop a sense of self-worth, self-esteem will come more naturally. Self-esteem deals with three factors—how we were loved as children, the accomplishments of the people in our age group, and how well we have accomplished compared to our childhood caregivers. Self-esteem has everything to do with being content and comfortable with who you are, where you are, and what you have. If you want self-esteem, improve your self-worth. Remind yourself every day that you need not justify your existence. Your need to accomplish certain things is often because of your need to justify your existence.
This aspect that has more to do with the physical but it is not entirely physical. Self-care is all the acts we do to keep ourselves healthy, like taking a bath, eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and doing things that we love. Self-care can also take form of watching what you consume, like the music you listen to, the things you watch, and the people you spend time with. Compared to the other aspects of self-love, self-care is easier to do. It is best to start here on your journey toward discovering self-love.
Ask yourself this question as often as you can: “What would someone who loves themselves do?” Ask yourself this question whenever you need to make a decision, be it trivial or important. This exercise will come with one tip and one warning.
- Tip: Trust your instinct; your inner self knows best.
- Warning: You will not always like what your instinct tells you to do.