Is it easier to love other people than it is to love yourself? Your behavior and emotions is a tell-tale sign you have difficulty showing yourself some love.
A common phrase I hear from women of all backgrounds is: “My children come first.” Of course it is easier to love an innocent, smiling baby and we tend to commit to taking care of our children and other family members and friends above our own needs. This even happens in intimate relationships.
How did we get here?
Where does this habit of putting others first begin? In childhood. Parents typically impose certain priorities on their children — get a good education and be responsible —to ensure their children are positive influences in society. But this emphasis on external behaviors reinforces the idea that doing a “good job” and appearances are more important than self-care. Meanwhile, there is no immediate gratification in teaching self-love and self- compassion to children. Therefore, adults will tend to adopt a parenting style that focuses on behaviors, rather than emotions. This produces children who grow up into adults who also focus on external behaviors instead of emotional and psychological well-being.
Therefore, as we age, we continue a pattern of doing and giving to others because it’s what we’ve been taught. Yet, in the process of building a career and family, we don’t give ourselves time to understand how to cultivate self-love, self-compassion and emotionally-healthy relationships. When our children become adults, they continue the cycle taught by their parents.
And the struggle continues.
Why is self-love important?
Self-love is essential for healthy relationships because it tells us what we want and need. Oftentimes, we enter into relationships hoping to continue the same cycle as we learned as children (i.e. to give) with no insight into our own desires and need. However, it’s important for individuals to understand their unique love language and emotional needs so they can determine the difference in healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Here are some practical ways to nurture self-love:
- Spend time alone — If you’re single, take time to enjoy your singleness. Learn and explore new things. Be adventurous and enjoy quiet, peaceful activities at home. If you’re in a relationship, find time to spend it alone and participate in enjoyable activities by yourself, which may include exercising, community activities, or eating out.
- Try something new — Meet new friends, join social groups, or simply do an activity outside of your normal routine and comfort zone.
- Learn to tell others “no” —Reduce the need to please others by inconveniencing yourself. Feel free to offer a rain check or alternative activity on another day or time. If you’re dealing with someone who is often ‘a taker,’ then just say no. This can feel liberating and empowering.
- Surround yourself with 3 types of people — Someone who lets and makes you laugh, (2) Someone who will allow you to think out loud without giving unsolicited advice, and (3) A career/goal-oriented person, someone who keeps you grounded and focused.
Self-love is not something you can touch or see, but it is definitely something you can feel. Learn to trust your body because it never lies. Self-love is the foundation for all relationships. May you continue on your journey of self-love to evolve into the person you want to be and to cultivate healthy relationships?