Loving yourself isn't about being selfish or self-absorbed or consistently behaving as if its only your own wants, needs, and ideas that matter. Self-love is about knowing who you are and treating yourself as someone to be valued. It's about embracing your individuality, expressing your uniqueness, and acknowledging yourself as a wonderful creation by God. When we love ourselves it's how we are able to show and tell our future or current mates, friends, and family how we should be treated. Self-love is also about taking care of ourselves so we can in turn, better care for those we love. Like a lot of women, and even plenty of men, we've been raised with a superwoman/superman mentality: doing for others at the expense of our own well-being, protecting others at all costs, always being nurturing and giving. This is false ideology. You're selling yourself short and those you love if you aren't meeting your own needs first. For me, this means taking time for myself whether its getting a facial, reading a book, taking a walk, or pursuing meaningful personal goals. We all need time to decompress, to get centered and regenerate so we can survive to love another day. (Even Jesus did this plenty of times when he wandered away from the disciples to pray or be alone). If we don't take time for ourselves, we soon find that we can become snappy, short-tempered, nit-picking harpies. (My husband can definitely attest to that!)
I myself am recently learning the extreme healthy benefits of self-love. In my past I was always people-clingy, only feeling worthy if someone was paying me attention and showing their devotion. I thought I could win both by bending over backwards and denying myself what I wanted for those I cared about. Back then I thought it was the best way to show my love and devotion. In reality, it is the quickest way to push loved ones away. All I did was make myself and them very miserable, especially when I would feel that they weren't showing me the proper 'gratitude' so I would remind them just how much I sacrificed and just how much I did for them. I soon learned that no one wants to hear that! First, no one likes a martyr, especially one that tells you about it on a regular basis. Secondly, to those that truly love you, your happiness is what they desire and if you're doing things to make yourself miserable and telling them it was because you 'loved' them, you're making them feel guilty for things they didn't even ask you to do! Thirdly, I needed to relax! Love is meant to be a joyfully (and freely) shared experience of expression, warmth, and kindness. I had been doing Love a grand disservice by making it into an endless, miserable process of work, demands, and self-righteous sacrifice.
My behavior has not been without its consequences. Not only have I a hurt a lot of people, permanently damaged a lot of meaningful relationships, and missed out on a lot of growth opportunities, I have also hurt myself. All hope, however, is not lost. Each day is a new opportunity to set things right. Today, and every day hereafter, I plan to do my best to love myself and those around me with open arms (a more accepting attitude), a cheerful disposition, and more patient kindness. I also intend to place more importance on achieving my personal goals and pursuing personal HEALTHY desires. No one person can be everywhere or be all things, all the time, for everybody. Only God has that role and Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice. I will do what I can in the time I have, which includes accepting my own limitations when it comes to loving others while also occasionally taking time out for myself. God himself rested on the seventh day. Surely I can too!
I challenge you, reader, to examine yourself. Have you been spending too much or not enough time loving yourself? How has that affected those you care about?
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