I’ve been thinking about the host of cultural tropes surrounding “self-love.” We’re told to “love yourself first” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” We are urged to “be our own best friend” and to “fall in love with the person in the mirror.” All good advice, but there’s a problem: self-love doesn’t feel authentic, at least most of the time.
We are all too familiar with our own shortcomings.
Much of our self-criticism is based in fear, and that fear is organic. As animals, we’re wired up that way. We can’t survive without the support and approval of the community around us, and so we fear the rejection that could result from exposing our flaws to the world. We try to step outside ourselves and see ourselves as others do, and many times we don’t like what we/they see.
We judge ourselves so harshly sometimes.
I try to remember that our culture has framed “love” as a romantic feeling, where we bubble over with warm affection. But love isn’t always romantic, and self-love is seldom like that. We must take romance out of the equation, and ask ourselves, how would I act lovingly toward another person? Well … I would probably comfort them when they are feeling down, reassure them when they’ve made a mistake, fix them a meal when they’re hungry, put a blanket over them when they’re cold.
In other words, I would care for them. I would nurture their well-being.
That person in the mirror? That’s who you’ve been given, to take care of for a lifetime. And the better care you take, the more potential she will have to live a happy, wholesome, and giving life.
You don’t have to feel hearts-and-flowers love toward the person in the mirror to nurture her with adequate sleep, healthy eating, and moments of enjoyment. Just as you’re not madly in love with your car when you fill it with gas or get an oil change, you won’t always be feeling a great sense of self-love when you schedule a dental appointment or take a shower.
I’ve heard it said that “you can’t love another till you love yourself,” but that’s such a loaded statement. Self-care is the key. You can’t give care to another unless you give care to yourself. If you don’t fuel yourself, you’re no use to anyone, including the person in the mirror.
Be good to yourself today.