Many people believe that to love yourself means that you do whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want and with little to no regard for others. Many Christians believe that to love yourself is selfish, wrong and, in fact, a sin. Not only that, but that you should put others needs above your own, even at the cost of meeting your own needs.
The Bible says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind… and love your neighbor as yourself.” So why is it that we rarely hear about what it means to love yourself.
I have been on a quest to find this answer for several years now. Not simply for the intellectual knowing, but for the visible, experiential knowing. I have listened to many teachings on how doing charitable or community volunteer work is good to do, for yourself and for others. I have also heard many teachings on how to love God and love others, but I have heard very little on how to love yourself appropriately.
I have observed others and saw that many didn’t take care of themselves well, who were busy trying to fit in and or become somebody else. I even observed instances where some were hurting themselves, whether physically, socially, emotionally, or even spiritually. I can also attest to my own lived experiences, that I did not learn how to love myself in my family of origin. For you see, I was raised in a very abusive home and learned early on that in order to survive, I would need to become ‘a good girl’, as perfect as possible, so as to hopefully avoid pain and suffering and be loved and accepted. In spite of all my efforts, I still endured pain and suffering including emotional, spiritual and sexual abuse in and outside the home. The first time my father said “I love you” was near the end of his life, and the first time my mother said that was when I was in my early 20’s. I knew deep down that I was loved, but I was often confused as to why the corresponding words or behaviour did not match.
Those are some of the reasons I believe why we don’t love ourselves as we should, and maybe even believe we don’t deserve to be loved.
In my search, I did find some valuable insights including practical applications that one can apply in their own life. It seems that unless and until we live authentically, we may not experience true love for ourselves. This requires loving ourselves for who we really are, in all of our uniqueness, and that we accept ourselves as we are and where we’re at (in life).
Here are some things that you may find helpful in learning how to love yourself well, and apply it practically in your life, starting today. You may find that this improves your relationships with others and even with God.
Trust that loving yourself well is a life-long process. And if you’re like me, we can say, "I’m not where I used to be … but I’m on my way to becoming the best I can be, which includes loving myself."
Written in Love, Anna Z