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What Does It Mean To Love Yourself?By Dr. Margaret Paul
April 15, 2013
Many of us know that we need to be loving to ourselves, but what does this actually mean?
Since most of us had little or no role modeling regarding loving ourselves when we were growing up, it's often challenging to know what loving ourselves looks like. It's through my work with my inner child and my spiritual Guidance that I've discovered what loving myself really means for me.
"All I know about "loving oneself" is to not let anyone (anymore) abuse me in any way, including yelling, criticizing me, etc. As I write this, it sounds like I just described "protecting myself", so maybe I don't know what loving myself REALLY means. I would love to hear your definition."
Let's look at what loving yourself means and what it doesn't mean.
Loving yourself doesn't mean:
"I'm just going to take care of me and screw you."
"I'm not responsible for how my behavior affects you. That's your problem."
"If you love me, you will do what I want (whatever that is)."
"I'm only trying to help you and support you in what I believe is good for you –- even though you haven't asked for my help or my opinion."
"I'll put my full attention on you and sacrifice myself for you so you will put your full attention on me and sacrifice yourself for me."
"When I'm hurting it's your fault, and it's up to you to fix it."
"Since I need your attention and approval to feel good about myself, it's okay for me to do whatever I can to get what I need –- such as being overly nice, being angry, blaming you or withdrawing my love from you."
- "If you love me, and I end up disabled or dying as a result of not taking care of myself physically, that’s your problem, not mine."
Loving yourself does mean:
"I am responsible for learning to manage and regulate my own feelings so that I don't dump my anger, neediness and pain on you."
"I am responsible for defining my own worth and giving myself the attention I need, so that I am not in need of getting this from you, and so I can share my love with you, including supporting you in doing what brings you joy."
"I am responsible for managing my time, my space and my finances in ways that make me feel safe and don't place an unnecessary burden on you."
"I am responsible for learning how to access a spiritual source of love so that I can share love with you, rather than trying to get love from you."
"I am responsible for taking care of my physical wellbeing – eating healthy foods, getting exercise and getting enough sleep, so that you don't eventually have to take physical care of me, unnecessarily."
"I am responsible for the effect my behavior has on you when I have acted out in ways that are hurtful to you."
- “I am responsible for taking loving care of you when you are my responsibility -- because you are my child, or you are old, sick or disabled and I have agreed to take care of you. There are times when it is loving to me to put myself aside for you, like when you are an infant or toddler and you need me, or when you cannot take care of yourself."
It took me many years of inner work to discover what loving myself looks like for me, and it may be different for you, since each of us has different things that make us feel loved and important. What makes you feel loved and important?
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