Do we need a holiday about love to be reminded to love others? Probably not. How about a reminder to be kind and loving to ourselves? When things go wrong and we make mistakes, our natural reaction may be to beat ourselves up, but this response doesn’t provide the joy we all yearn for in our lives.
Some people have a list of reasons for not loving themselves. The belief that “even a crumb of love” will lead them to become selfish and uncaring human beings might be included on that list. This assumption may be based on their mind’s unhelpful advice and negative experiences. Though this approach is ineffective, they become stuck with these views.
According to research, in order to experience better mental, physical and emotional well-being, we all need to treat ourselves the same way we would treat a dear friend who is having a difficult time.
You wouldn’t berate a dear friend for their mistakes and misfortune, would you?
If you are a Christian, you are familiar with the second greatest commandment found in Matthew 22:29, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” There are some people who hyper focus only on the first part of this commandment, “Love thy neighbor,” and forget the second part. Indeed, we do need to be kindhearted, charitable, and do the best that we can to serve everyone we come in contact with each day. God loves us and wants us to show love to others. However, God also commanded us to love others as we love ourselves.
If we truly treated others like we treat ourselves, what would that look like?
There are some who say, “I can certainly be gracious and charitable with others, but I’m not personally worthy of love.” They haven’t yet learned that if they were as loving to themselves like they are to a friend who is experiencing adversity, they could find more meaning and vitality in their lives despite struggles.
According to research, when you show self-compassion, you feel less self-pity. You can realize that you are not alone in your suffering and that others are experiencing similar challenges. Self-compassion can enhance your mental health. You can become less self-critical, ruminate and obsess less.
When you treat yourself kindly, you are able to see life and your troubles with a different mindset; you are not afraid to fail and can learn to own your mistakes. Your sleeping, eating, and physical well-being can also improve when you treat yourself as you would a dear friend in their suffering. You can find more overall life satisfaction.
Think about it, if you are struggling physically, emotionally, and mentally and you don’t love or like yourself, can you really give of yourself to others?
It’s certainly a process, but you can learn to acknowledge your pain during hard times, remember that you are not alone in your suffering, and be kind to yourself. As you do, you will feel more empowered and confident.
A brief self-compassion statement looks like this:
“This is hard. Others are struggling too. May I be patient and kind to myself right now.”
If you are a religious person, isn’t it wonderful to recognize God’s infinite love for us? Because he commanded us to love ourselves, we are able to navigate life’s journey with a different perspective and build resilience as we continue to love ourselves and others every day.
So, God has asked you to love yourself, the research has shown the benefits of doing so, now it’s time for you to find out for yourself!
“Loving ourselves points us to capacities of resilience, compassion, and understanding within that are simply part of being alive.” ―Kristin Neff
Go to Kristin Neff’s website to find more resources about self-compassion.
Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself (New York: William Morrow, 2011)