The Greatest Taboo of Love
Do you love yourself?
Even asking this question makes people feel uncomfortable, even generating anxiety. The concept of self-love has become twisted, resulting in a widespread belief that loving yourself is the equivalent of conceit, selfishness or greed. Admitting that you love yourself is often met with an assumption that you are the snobbish epitome of self-centeredness. It is truly the greatest taboo of love, and has contributed to millions of people afraid to love and appreciate themselves.
In reality, it’s the opposite of that.
To find out why, let’s first investigate the meaning of the word love.
The Bible describes love as being patient, kind, honorable, selfless, forgiving, calm and rejoicing in truth (I Corinthians 13:4-6). R. Buckminster Fuller described love as a grounding force when he said, “Love is metaphysical gravity.” “Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish,” advised Thich Nhat Hanh. With descriptions like this, what better place to start applying these virtues than within our own hearts and minds?
In my experience, the absence of loving oneself leads to all types of destructive behavior. When we are not patient, kind, honorable, giving and forgiving, calm and truthful with ourselves, it makes it easy to mistreat ourselves. Do you worry about letting down someone that you don’t care about? Perhaps that’s why we so often easily let ourselves down, break promises to ourselves and endlesslessly engage in harsh self-judgement.
If more people loved themselves, we’d see less greed, not more. Less conceit, not more. Less selfishness, not more. Love is defined by accepting, caring and giving. Someone who loves themselves knows they already have everything they need within. They do not need to take from others to fill a need. On the contrary, they give to others to fill a need…the need to express the love they feel inside.
People who love themselves do not engage in habits that hurt them, nor do they purposely do things to hurt others. They do not harm their bodies and they do not desire to harm others. They recognize that how they see others and treat others is entwined with how they see and treat themselves. When they see others, they recognize a sameness. A oneness. They know that harsh judgement of others results in more judgement of self. Unforgiveness of others means they are not forgiving themselves. In order to love self, you must love others. To have peace with self, you must have peace with others.
The world would be a better place if we all practiced more self-love.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. So how do we move past self-loathing, self-judgement and years of conditioning that loving yourself is bad? How do we move into the bliss of self-love that has no choice but to spill out into loving and serving others?
I believe the answer lies in examining how we grow to love someone else.
When I first met my husband, I did not love him. Love grew within me for him as I watched him go out of his way to help others, when he made me laugh and did sweet things for me. When I first met my best friend, I did not love her. Love sprang up naturally as she was there for me in my need (so many times) and as she inspired me by pursuing her passions with all her heart. There have been times I’ve been angry with both of these special people in my life, but because there is love, there is always forgiveness.
Perhaps learning to love yourself begins with forgiveness – an understanding that you are like other people, and demanding perfection from yourself makes as much sense as demanding perfection from others. Think of your best friend. If they had done what you are holding against yourself, would you tell them they are not worthy of forgiveness? Be gentle with yourself. Be patient. Be kind.
Then learn to love yourself in the same way as you grow to love others. Make yourself laugh. Do nice things for yourself. Help yourself out. Be there for yourself. Vigorously pursue whatever you are passionate about. The more you treat yourself like your best friend, the easier it becomes to be patient and forgiving of yourself. You will eventually take off the blinders are see the truth of what you are: a blessed creation, complete with amazing talents and beautiful flaws; a being truly worthy of and deserving of love.