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What does Loving Yourself Mean, How do I do it and Why Should I Strive for it?

Bob Livingstone, LCSW

It is echoed continually in our culture. You see it television and hear it on the radio. You read about it on the internet and in print media. They all shout from the roof tops that in order for you to attain a complete and fulfilling life, you must learn to love yourself. In order for you to love someone else, you must learn to love yourself first.

smiling womanWhat exactly does this phrase mean and how do you accomplish it? You hear it at recovery meetings and other self-help groups. This expression seems to have lost its message. Does loving yourself mean becoming self-centered and conceited? Does it mean that you pursue your goals no matter who gets hurt along your journey? Does loving yourself have anything to do with the acquisition of material items? How do you know if you are in the state of loving yourself or not? Do you feel euphoric when you love yourself? Do you have the combined strength of superman and superwoman?

None of this really accurately describes what it is and what it means to love yourself. It is not experienced like a 24/7 drug rush that never lets you down. You have moments when you are down even when you do love yourself. The length of time you are in a state of despair can be greatly diminished if you love yourself, but it won't totally go away.

You will also find time to harshly judge your actions and character if you love yourself, but you will find reasons to put an end to this self-hatred talk quickly. If you have experienced self-hatred, you can certainly live in a world of self love. If you know how to tear yourself down, you can learn how to build yourself up. Matter of fact, those of us who have experienced the depths of self-hatred can really learn to appreciate the positivity of self-love.

It is important to be aware when you are demonstrating self-loving behavior. If you can start to do this, you will begin to get a sense of what loving yourself means. Here are some examples:

  • Breaking up with a partner who has been abusive to you
  • Seeking out a new job because the one you have is a dead end
  • Confronting someone who has hurt you emotionally
  • Beginning a recovery program for substance abuse or overeating
  • Crying about emotional wounds that occurred in child hood.
  • Realizing that feeling your own pain is a major step in healing
  • Starting a new class or playing a new instrument
  • Beginning an exercise program
  • Finally going to the doctor to obtain a physical exam
  • Start going to therapy because you are unhappy

You are loving yourself when: you are able to live in the present rather than worrying about the future or agonizing over the past. When you are living in the present, there is no room for this dread; you realize that you are beating yourself up and then stop; You learn to focus on something other than feeling guilty or regretful; You actually believe that you are a decent person and have gifts to offer to the world; You help out someone who is less fortunate than you; You realize that you have had a positive impact on another. You are experiencing self-love when you are giving of yourself; You can accept that you are not perfect and never will be-you are at peace; flaws and all; you hear music that enlightens or when you see a sunset and realize that you are part of the beauty of the world.