Why caring for yourself is the greatest kindness

Caring for yourself is important. It’s necessary. It’s not a “nice to have”, but is critical for your emotional well-being and your emotional growth. I believe that self love is the greatest kindness you can offer the world. Because once you take care of yourself, you can take care of others. You can do great work. You can be available for all kinds of people, projects and possibilities.

What is Self Love?
Self-love is something that is born within you. It is a feeling that you are worthy and good enough for anything life offers. To have a healthy sense of oneself does not imply that we are so focused on ourselves that we become uncaring towards others. Actually the opposite is true. I am not talking about self love to the point of narcissism or self-absorption. That’s an entirely different thing. Narcissism is where there is such a one-eyed fascination with self that the person develops a belief that special treatment is their god given right. Narcissists believe they are more important than anyone else and crave attention and admiration. As a result of this complete self-absorption, they lack the ability to truly care and have empathy for others.

What I am talking about when I talk about authentic self-love is the ability to accept and love yourself for just being you. This is loving the good, bad and everything in between about yourself.
Self-love means that while we care for others we also care about ourselves. When we act in ways that expand self love in us, we begin to accept our weaknesses and our strengths.

This love for oneself usually extends outwards towards others. This is why people who care for themselves are so wonderful at caring for others. If we are unable to love ourselves first and foremost, we are unable to give love to anyone else. We cannot give unconditional love if we do not possess it ourselves. This is because we tend to judge others by the same ‘harsh critic’ with which we judge ourselves.

Distorted Messages

For many, it has been a life-long condition to put others before ourselves. When we explore our psychology as a child, more often than not we find that our needs as children were often not met. We were told how to think, feel and what to do. Paying attention to our own needs, feelings and goals was perceived as wrong and selfish. We were told that to put ourselves first was egotistical and self-centred.

Our identities merged with our family. Our family environment and the messages given to us did not encourage us to share our own authentic and individual feelings and thoughts. We learned to be there for others, and to put our own needs aside.

As children we need security and healthy modelling of emotions in order to understand our own inner signals. Unfortunately, many families are running on outdated structures and beliefs of what a family should look like. These beliefs have been handed down from generation to generation. We have been taught that the family as a whole is more important than each individual.

Let me give you an example:

With Self Love
If I do something for you, I do it because I want to and without expectation that you do something for me in return.
If you do not like what I do for you I will likely feel a little sad and disappointed, but I can accept your decision and response. No matter what your response is, I know that what I did was a loving gesture and my sense of self love and self-acceptance remains strong.

Without Self Love
If I do something for you, I do it because I need and expect you to like it. I also need and expect you to like me for doing it for you.
If you like what I do for you, I need and expect you to praise and approve of me. Only then will I feel good about myself.
If you don’t like what I do for you, I will feel extremely sad and disappointed and possibly angry. I will have thoughts about myself that I am not good enough. My sense of self decreases if you don’t like what I did for you and I have not got the love and approval I needed.

Happiness and contentment becomes possible for those who take up the challenge of “being selfish” and discovering who they really are.

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Vanessa Finnigan is the founder, editor and publisher of Holistic Bliss.
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