“Love yourself” and “you cannot love someone else before you learn how to love yourself” are phrases we have probably heard so many times that I often wonder if we truly now what they mean and entail. For many us the concept of self-love remains a vague notion that we try to fulfill by indulging ourselves in a nice holiday or buying ourselves some nice luxurious item or simply taking some time out from our hectic, often stressful, routine. All this is well and good and most certainly needed. We have all experienced the relief of waking up and not having to go to work when on holiday or the excitement at wearing a new dress for some special occasion. But we also know that such relief and excitement is not long-lasting. We need such measures as a way of showing appreciation towards ourselves, but if we truly want to grow into loving ourselves, we have to engage in a different process.
So, what does to love ourselves entail? To truly love ourselves we need to listen to what our heart is telling us. Our heart is constantly sending us messages to tell us what fulfills us and what is not going right with our life. Loving ourselves begins with paying attention to such messages and addressing them. For instance, I may find myself feeling jealous, and that this jealousy is actually interfering in my relationships with friends, partner or colleagues. By allowing myself to truly listen to what my heart is telling me, I may discover that this feeling is actually the result of something else, such as a fear I may have of not being good enough or a fear of failure. Identifying such fear is a way of understanding what my heart is telling me. The next step would be to own responsibility for it and acknowledge that what my heart is actually telling me is that it is in some form of pain.
When we allow ourselves to listen to such messages we can choose how to respond: we can either ignore it, by, for instance, immersing ourselves in work or any other activity which distracts us or engage in some other excessive behaviour which numbs our feelings.
However, there is another option. We can allow ourselves to be drawn with compassion towards ourselves. When someone we love is in pain we feel compelled to offer our support and help. Why not when we are in pain? Responding to that call of help is the first step towards self-love.
We can respond to such call by taking some time out and engage in a process of honest self-reflection or we can choose to involve another person, a trusted friend or a professional counsellor, to assist us in gaining some deeper understanding of ourselves and help us find ways and means to overcome that pain. Taking this route towards healing our troubled hearts is the first step towards falling in love with the most important being in our lives – ourSelf.
Stephanie Caruana is a counsellor at Willingness. She offers counselling services to adolescents and adults experiencing some form of distress. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.