We have heard the phrase “love yourself first” ad nauseum and many of us can believe that we’re living this precept only to find weeds growing in our lives because the reality is, self love isn’t part of the equation at all.
Self Love has many shades and definitions, but the constant in its measurement can be found in the portrait which is our life – the living breathing canvas of all the decisions we make day to day that result in either a living life of integrity and meaning or having evidence of a life that will live and die by the ego.
Let’s quickly dismiss what loving ourselves isn’t: It isn’t loud, it doesn’t prove or justify, it doesn’t require approval or attention of others, it doesn’t seek to gain advantage, have power over, compete with or harm others. It’s not superficial, it doesn’t shirk responsibility, it doesn’t ask us to lie, hide or pretend.
“Climb the mountain to see the world. Not so the world can see you”
The things I’ve just described are called “loving ourselves” but its clear to see these are just ego stroking, attention seeking behaviors which serve to substitute with ego, what’s lacking in the person’s identity. It’s ego building in absence of true character possession.
When we genuinely love ourselves, it is evident in the fruit we bear, the type of things we’ll say yes and no to, and the type of people we will allow in our lives. We can’t give lip service to being a healthy, self respecting person with self worth, while simultaneously having an extramarital affair with a narcissist who abuses us. The two can’t co-exist. The ACTIONS gain credence while the words are seen as the mute drivel of a hypocrite.
The Three Behaviors of Self-Esteem
Let’s look at the actions which indicate that we are truly loving ourselves:
1. Self – Honesty
This is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth as it pertains to ourselves inside and out. We all have issues. But we don’t say, we all have issues to AVOID addressing them…we say it…and then we EXPLORE them.
Digging into yourself – really admitting what’s there and then doing something about it takes COURAGE and responsibility.
It takes the vulnerability to say, “I dont think I’m as together as I previously thought I was”. “I think I need to admit this about myself, because it’s hurting others / myself”. “I am not always nice. Sometimes, I’m downright mean. I mean well, but my intentions don’t matter here, my behavior does.”
One of the main reasons narcissists are incapable of loving themselves and thus others is that they aren’t able to be self honest and do something with it; they can’t suspend their shame, perfectionism and ego drives long enough to give a realistic appraisal of themselves and effect any change.
Not being perfect is NOT a crime, despite having learned that to be less than perfect to a narcissist IS a crime. Reality dictates here – PEOPLE ARE IMPERFECT. Sometimes in BIG WAYS (like narcissists) and sometimes in normal ways – like most people.
Understanding ourselves, knowing who we are and who we aren’t, having a realistic self appraisal and acceptance of ourselves as a blend of good and not so good qualities are key ingredients of healthy self love.
2. Having Appropriate levels of responsibility
This goes back to the serenity prayer precept of, having the “courage to change the things we can” – ourselves.
When we are accurately aware of what is ours to fix and what is NOT ours to fix, we will have the right amount of time to devote our energy to the things we “should”.
When we are busy working on our feelings, our thoughts, our actions and our words, we honestly just don’t have much time left for what everyone else is doing.
It all comes back to how we respond to things anyway. Even learning about narcissism isn’t so that we can “help” the narcissist but rather about learning enough to help ourselves (and other survivors).
When we aren’t trying to fix others, we can get busy with the business of fixing ourselves.
3. Establishing Boundaries that Affirm and Protect Our Worth
Boundaries are so fundamental to our self concept that a whole section alone can be devoted to boundaries as it pertains to self love.
In brief, there are decisions that we make every second that involve our boundaries. When we choose between one thing we like and one we don’t, we are establishing our identity. When we make it a conscious, constant decision to be committed to a life of integrity, we will be diligent about our choices (or boundaries). We make choices about what we wear, what we eat, who we talk to, how we talk, how we let others talk to us, that show us without much in-depth psycho analysis EXACTLY who we are.
Behavior doesn’t lie and neither do our choices.
When we love ourselves, our choices and thus behavior will reflect and indicate that we do. If I say I value myself, but my behavior illustrates that Im willing to defile my body, beat up on myself about my flaws, or remain in the company of someone who’s lifestyle and values I don’t respect, then I’ve got some self reflection to perform.
Loving ourselves by setting healthy boundaries would look more like this:
Not talking to someone of the opposite sex who is married, giving myself enough rest when Im tired or stressed, walking away when someone raises their voice at me or verbally abuses me.
Knowing our limits and adhering to them, keeps us in line with our values and sense of integrity. Walking the walk over talking the talk, gives us a life that reflects we know ourselves and value ourselves enough to make healthy choices, despite the temptations.
By tending to our own lives; our Honesty, Responsibility and having appropriate boundaries, we can guarantee that the choices we make will bring into our lives an abundance of life giving friendships, jobs, mates and experiences.
Everyday let’s strive to make the sometimes tough choices, say what we truly mean and want in our lives and say no without explaining why we want what we want. We are the gatekeepers for what enters our life; if someone negative has slipped in, we must take responsibility for giving them the boot, and SWIFTLY!
Image courtesy of Ponsuwan at freedigitalfotos.net