Lately, I have been pondering the command that Jesus gives to “love your neighbor as yourselves” (Matthew 22:39). When I read that popular scripture for what seemed like the thousandth time the other day, I had to stop for a second and ask, “How do I love myself?” If I am called to love others in the same way I love my own self, then it would make sense to first determine what that love actually looks like in action.
While the term “self-love” has been given several meanings, healthy self-love is not narcissism or arrogance. I find it best described as understanding our true value and meeting our needs with balanced care and responsibility. The way that we love ourselves determines how we relate with one another (Tomorrow’s blog). But for today, take a moment and ask “how do I love myself?”
Maybe you just cringed for a moment, recognizing tendencies to express self-love in a “me-first” point of view, good for you being honest with yourself! Perhaps, you just realized that like the majority of women, you unconsciously resist ‘self-love’ and instead prefer to sacrifice your needs for others, even at the expense of your own health or priorities. It is also possible that you are smiling because you have learned healthy boundaries and protection of your priorities. Good for you!
However, don’t worry if you are thinking, so what do I do if I don’t like the answer that just came to me? Let me propose a few recommendations for the woman who struggles with establishing healthy ‘self-love.’
First, make time to care for your body and mind.
Exercise, relaxation techniques, or talking with a friend are all great ways of being intentional in caring for ourselves and are essential to mind and body health.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries.
When you are feeling overwhelmed by the kids pulling in all different directions, friends calling for advice, or work wanting you to stay a little longer. Stop and ask yourself, “Will I be a better mom/friend/employee if I say no and take some time for myself right now?” Properly learning to love ourselves and others as ourselves, relinquishes the guilt that would otherwise creep in when you go for a run and leave your spouse to care for the kids for an hour or you say no to filling every date on this month’s calendar. Establishing healthy boundaries is a key to keeping you healthy and energized.
This no doubt requires balance. Committing to your quiet time in the morning even when you are tired, using part of your lunch break to walk or jog, or saying “no” sometimes, are all part of establishing priorities. Prioritizing is not an all or nothing attitude, it is not “me or others”, it is balancing the many areas in life for greater overall effectiveness (this take practice!)
Applying balanced care for ourselves builds the foundation to love others with the same respect and consideration.