Self-love is the foundation of well-being. All other areas of your life build upon it. Without love for the self, everything else becomes more difficult. You hear this a lot if you move in spiritual circles, but the term “self-love” can be quite vague to many people. The ironic thing is that the people who would benefit most from this wisdom are precisely the ones who don’t understand what it is speaking of. And how can you achieve a goal that you don’t even understand? What exactly are they talking about when they speak of “self-love”?
I was one of these people. The idea that self-love is crucial to well-being seemed correct to me, so I accepted the idea, but I wasn’t clear on what that term meant. I wasn’t aware of having any particularly negative feelings towards myself, other than occasionally being overly critical, so I assumed that whatever they meant by self-love, I must be okay in that arena. Years later down my path of self-exploration I discovered that was not the case. Suddenly I became aware of the empty space in my being where self-love was lacking, and I saw that its absence had contributed to many of the struggles I had faced up to that point.
It can be easier to grasp what self-love involves if you first look at the way you feel towards other people in your life that you love. What does your love for them involve? Usually the love we have towards another person makes us feel a deep acceptance of them for who they are, including any “faults” they may have. We see them in their best light, focusing on their strengths and not their weaknesses. Nothing they do or don’t do will make us love them less. They have our love despite any mistakes they may make or “failures” they may experience. We forgive them easily and always try to be supportive when they are experiencing challenges. This is the same type of love that we need to give ourselves. Does it really make any sense to deny ourselves the love that we give freely to others?
It’s important to realize that we have a relationship with ourselves just as we do with other people. The same things that poison a relationship with another person—unrealistic expectations or demands, criticism, having to “earn” love—will do the same for your relationship with yourself. Your relationship with yourself deserves to be a priority in your life and receive the same amount of nurturing as your other relationships.
It will likely take some practice to integrate this new relationship with yourself into your everyday life. You will need to notice when you are having judgmental thoughts and feelings towards yourself and consciously decide to let them go and feel love and acceptance for yourself instead. When you notice the negative thoughts and feelings, just imagine how you would feel towards a friend who was in the same situation and what you would say to them, and do that for yourself. It may be beneficial to incorporate your intention of developing self-love into a daily meditation, taking a few minutes each day to feel the love you are used to feeling for other people in your life and turn it inward towards yourself. With time it will start sticking, and the new support it gives you will make it easier to accomplish your goals and overcome any challenges you may face on the way.