Learning to Love Yourself

Many people make the claim in therapy that they have no clue as to how to love themselves. Usually theis topic is accompanied with statements like “I’m not worth it, I haven’t accomplished anything, I’ve screwed up too much.” My favorite one is “There is no reason to love myself.”

One reason people struggle with loving themselves is because they believe that love is something you have to earn or justify. I simply ask these people if they have children and if they do I ask them if they love their children. If they say yes, as they all do, I ask them, “why do you love them?” They usually stumble on their words and end up answering something like “because.” I like to press the issue and ask when they started loving their children. Again, they seem confused and eventually answer saying, “as soon as they were born.” At this point they still don’t get the point so I begin to explain. “You see, for you to love your children they didn’t have to earn it and you didn’t need a reason to justify loving them. The truth is you can love someone by simply choosing to. That’s it!”

I want people to know that they do not need a justification for loving themselves. They don’t have to earn it. It simply a choice to commit yourself to promoting your own growth and wwell-being Your newborn child didn’t have to do anything special to be loved and neither do you.

Still, the resistance to loving oneself persists with fears that loving oneself is vain, self-centered, even sinful. This I find very laughable. Somehow love gets redefined when you love yourself. Love for others is defined as patient, kind, slow to anger and not vain. But, somehow love of oneself is defined as over indulgent, vain and sinful. Isn’t love just love regardless of whom it’s directed toward? Love is constructive caring behavior whether it’s for yourself or someone else. When it is directed toward yourself you are not being selfish you are being responsible! If you were raised adequately you’ve learned to take good care of yourself. You are a responsible adult. If you don’t take care of yourself who is supposed to? The disposition is immaturity. People who don’t love themselves are nothing but immature. It’s not only ethical to love yourself it’s your job!

Of course, I am not suggesting you idolize yourself - that’s not love. You will not be well rooted in reality if you idolize yourself. Love is a very down to earth decision to care about someone and the first person that you need to learn to care about is you. Learn to tie your own shoes, learn to discipline yourself, learn to forgive yourself. Once you’ve accomplished this you can then start to learn about how to love another adult. Finally, you can then learn to love someone who has no idea how to love himself - a child.