Loving yourself does not mean
being self absorbed;
it means welcoming yourself
as the most honored guest in your own heart.
– Margo Anand
Recently I have been asking friends, family and acquaintances if they love themselves. This question often catches people by surprise, and makes them stop and think. Most people can list things they like or even love about themselves, but it's often difficult to acknowledge or feel love for themselves as a whole.
Anyone can name those they love, whether a partner, family,friends,or pets and can usually describe what love feels like. Yet people often have a much harder time discovering, acknowledging or feeling love for themselves.
More often then not, our culture teaches us that loving ourselves is the equivalent of being self absorbed, selfish, egotistical, or narcissistic ( In Greek mythology the already vain Narcissus fell in love with his image in the water, not realizing it was himself, couldn't bear to leave his "Beloved" and eventually drowned).
Children are taught to not be selfish and to share, which are great social skills and tools for developing empathy when in balance with a healthy valuing of self. Yet the ingredients of perfectionism and shame often make it into the mix, creating a fairly lethal concoction of self-loathing.
What would it be like to begin to shift away from the expectation of perfection, and accompanying shame for not achieving it? What might it be like to give up the feeling of being an impostor or a fake and stop hiding from yourself and others? Can you imagine beginning to welcome yourself EXACTLY AS YOU ARE, as the most welcome guest in your own heart? Can you imagine loving yourself as fiercely, passionately, and wholeheartedly as you love your Beloved, your children,your cat or dog (despite their flaws)? It would be nothing short of revolutionary!
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley