Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The only true love is self love

One of my readers recently commented on my Valentine’s Day post, asking me to expand on the meaning of self love, a topic that’s important for anyone recovering from addiction.

Individuals can spend a lifetime looking for someone to love. Others remain in toxic, unhealthy relationships as adults because they do not love themselves. In order to keep the relationship afloat, they distort who they are and they deny their own needs. But the reality is that, until we accept, honor and truly love ourselves, it is very difficult to establish a loving relationship with another person.

Often times the concept of self-love is confused with selfishness and narcissism. Many of us were raised with the idea that love requires denying our own needs for the good of others. We have this false belief that in order to prove that we love someone, we must do what they want or need. This creates an obstacle to self discovery and self honesty. It is fertile ground for guilt and shame to be the prime motivators in our lives.

In a sense we are taught from early childhood to be dishonest and to deny who we are. If we feel resentment toward our loved ones we have to deny that feeling because we believe it is not loving. The resentment creates feelings of guilt and shame, so we try to cover it up by lying to ourselves and acting as if everything is “ok”. This behavior becomes second nature – just another automatic response that we engage in without thinking.

Love is something we share; it is a gift we give to others. When we give love away we often do it at our own expense. In order to achieve a measure of self love, an individual must believe that their needs are just as important as anyone else’s. Not more important, but certainly not less. If we don’t believe we are worthy of our own love, what value does that love have to others? How do we allow others to love us?

There is a difference between sharing love and giving it away. It’s impossible to share love or anything else unless we have enough for ourselves, and for that we must nurture ourselves and keep our love “reserves” full.

It is no easy task to practice self love. It requires that we be kind and gentle with ourselves and that we put forth the effort to learn who we are and what we need. We can start by identifying things that make us feel good about ourselves, like finally getting to read that book that’s been sitting on our night table, or embarking on that exotic vacation we’ve been dreaming about for years. Paying careful attention to the way we talk to ourselves and eliminating the negative voices in our head is another way we can be caring. Most of us are quick to criticize, but we forget to compliment, so we need to practice positive affirmations and compliment ourselves often.

Learning to love ourselves requires courage, self knowledge and self honesty. Working a twelve step program and/or talking to a qualified, dedicated professional are good ways to find out who we are and what our needs are. For this we need a willingness to get better, and an open mind to ask for help, two traits that will lead us on the path to a Sober Mind.

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” --Buddha


Anonymous said...

This has become my daily required reading. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Lol on those toxic relationships.Been there & done that quite a few times.