I read an article recently that a friend posted on Facebook about self-love. The main premise of the article was that self-love does not leave enough room for compassion and that you learn to love yourself by loving others. My perception of this issue is a bit different.
Let’s take a step back here and look at love. As described in the article, love is unconditional, universal, and undying. As the author of the article put it:
“Love cannot be lost, nor earned, nor proven, nor stolen, nor traded. It is just forgotten and our choices help us to remember that love has been here all along” (McClaskey, 2014).
Love has been here all along. What a beautiful statement. And it is true; we are all, in essence, love. We have been told this time and time again by mystics, religious leaders, and pop icons. And yet, because we are human, we continue to break love apart, dismantle it into pieces that are easier for us to understand, and in the process we create a very myopic view of love. There is romantic love, platonic love, self-love, unconditional love, parental love, puppy love, and so and and so forth. But love is love.
Now, back to the topic at hand. Does self-love leave room for compassion, for error and space to learn and grow? My answer is a resounding yes.
I am not advocating perfection here, because depending on how you look at things, perfection doesn’t exist or everything is perfect. Either way, striving for perfection makes no sense. Loving yourself doesn’t mean being perfect, it means loving the imperfect parts of yourself as much as the perfect parts, or even seeing all parts of yourself as perfect just as they are. Ample room here for mistakes and growth.
Self-love and self-compassion are one in the same. When we truly remember to love ourselves, we are gentle with ourselves. And because we become more gentle and loving toward ourselves, we become more gentle and loving toward others. And this is where the author of the article got it spot on for me:
“You learn to love yourself by loving another person because that person gives you feedback about who you are, the impact you have, and new perspectives. Then you get to decide what to do with that” (McClaskey, 2014).
Except for the first part of the sentence, that is. You learn to love yourself by loving yourself. It is just like any other habit, and loving another person can help you along, just like the author discusses above. But loving another person before having some sense of self-love can also derail you and bring you careening back into self-loathing. We call this enmeshment or co-dependency; we feel the only way we KNOW we can be loved is if someone else loves us, usually in the way we want to be loved. But we forget that we are love, we are worthy of love, and we can love ourselves without anyone else even liking us. That is the beauty of self-love.
Now, this little musing wouldn’t be complete without touching on the oneness topic discussed in the article. Rebekah has this to say:
“If we are all one, all a mix of the same elements, all just recycled souls; then I suppose loving yourself is equivalent to loving everything. The kindness you show the microcosm that is you has the potential to ripple out to the macrocosm” (McClaskey, 2014).
Very beautiful words. Hard principle to put into practice. As Rebekah says, while we live in a unified field (according to quantum physics) we experience this reality as dualistic and mutually exclusive; I am me, you are you, we are separate entities. And this leaves us feeling lonely. But dive into self-love and self-compassion, really begin to practice it, like you would practice a language, an instrument, or studying for a degree, and then tell me you are alone.
Again, I don’t mean to say that self-love “fixes” anything, because there is really nothing to fix. You will still feel happy, sad, mad, frustrated, elated, depressed, content, and everything in between. This is life and it won’t ever be perfect.
But you will come to the realization that you are not alone and you are not broken.
Thanks for reading!
Creating Mindful Balance
R McClaskey (2014, October 17). Maybe We Don’t Need to Love Ourselves First.