You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.
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So many people are afraid of doing things for themselves or even worse afraid of thinking for themselves because they are worried people will think they are selfish. I have been there at times and have put my needs last so that I could please or help others. I was at church last Sunday and the priest was talking about how self-love is selfish and that we should be focusing on God first. While I understand what he is saying in terms of putting God first I think it was disappointing that the priest made it look like self-love is a selfish act. He has self-love confused with being selfish and Narcissism which I think a lot of people may confuse as well. I wanted to talk about what self-love is and what it is not because if we don’t love ourselves we cannot love others and that includes God.
What is self-love? Self-love is the understanding that you don’t’ have to be perfect and that you are already worthy of love. We are all part of existence. There is nothing to prove that you are worthy and loveable. You don’t have to be thinner, smarter, more loving, funnier, etc. Self-love is knowing you don’t have to be different from the self you already are. You will never get wholeness from outside sources because it is a false sense of self. You will never be fulfilled by those things because you should know you are acceptable as you are right now. This changes everything when you finally understand this. There is no conditional love for your self. When you give yourself conditional love for yourself others will also love you in the same way. For example, you might say I will start loving myself when I lose weight. This is conditional love for yourself, not unconditional love. What if a partner said this? This is not love. Why would you do that to yourself? Would you say something like this to your child? “I will only love you if you get straight A’s.” No you wouldn’t that would be awful so why do we think it is ok. God also doesn’t give us conditional love which is why the idea that self-love is selfish is ridiculous. Even self-improvement doesn’t change our worth right now it is only an expansion and something you can add to your life to grow yourself but you already are valuable regardless.
Selfish Vs. Selfless. As you can see self-love is actually being selfless because you are giving yourself unconditional love. A selfish person would love with conditions. “I will only love you if… is something a selfish person would dictate. A selfish person also thinks that when they give love they should receive the same love back and more. When a selfless person loves and gives they know it's not about receiving anything in return. Selfish people judge and criticize instead of support you in the state that you are in right now. If your partner told you that you are selfish for self-care they are selfish. Why would anyone want to stop someone from recharging, distressing and loving yourself? Selfish people don’t care about how other people feel. Selfish people give to get love which is false love set on conditions, attachment or obsession. Selfless people give without wanting anything in return. I can really go on and on here about selfish vs. selfless people but the bottom line is knowing when you are giving love conditionally or unconditionally this is how you will know. Now accepting abuse or addictions is something you cannot accept blindly you still have to set healthy boundaries as you will still love the person but having conditions based on these situations have to be set. Setting boundaries are not selfish they actually are put in place to help grow relationships when they are worked on together. I wrote an entire post on boundaries and it’s a must read and a must in any of your relationships. You must learn how to protect yourself as you can be dealing with an extremely selfish person who might be classified as narcissistic.
Narcissism. Now a narcissist is a more extreme selfish person. Narcissistic people think they are God’s gift to earth or even think they are better than God himself. A narcissist seeks power for power and attention and has a strong sense of entitlement. When their personality is challenged they can become aggressive and resentful. A person with extreme traits of narcissism can be classified to have a narcissistic personality disorder. A person who loves themselves has compassion for others and would never think of themselves as superior to other people. Having empathy for others is something a selfless person who loves themselves and has a full cup of love to give to others. A person who loves them self unconditionally is different than a narcissistic person who has a grandiose view of themselves. For example, this guy commented on a photo of a fat woman in a bikini saying “she doesn’t deserve to be called beautiful. I work out 6 days a week and work hard for my body and people like me should be the only ones viewed as beautiful.” Narcissistic people want constant attention even if that means hurting others or putting them last a lot of the times this is their own partner or children. Again I don’t see any of these traits of narcissism that equate to someone who loves themselves thus it is not self-love it is narcissism.
Knowing the differences between being selfless, selfish and narcissism is so important because we have to learn to love ourselves and not truly knowing what self-love is will hold you back from it. You may have thought that loving yourself meant being selfish when in fact loving yourself is necessary because you will know your worth and value and have a full cup of love to give others. Our relationships will reflect how we view ourselves and love ourselves and we must know what kind of love we are putting out there. Loving yourself is ok and self-care is ok so don’t deprive yourself of it.