How many times have you heard people emphasise the need to love oneself?
It seems we are constantly being told that this is the pinnacle of self-worth, that we cannot fully and wholly love another until we love ourselves. Whilst this holds some water, I cannot help but feel that the real issue is about how we treat ourselves, and quite frankly, what’s love got to do with it?
After all, many of us have experienced or witnessed sincere love that is highly dysfunctional. Controlling behaviour, paranoia, emotional blackmail, neglectful tendencies and even physical abuse can be found in all sorts of close relationships where love still plays a large role. Indeed, most of us will have experienced at least some of these behaviours on a minor scale with friends, family and partners all of whom we may love very dearly.
So if love can be so dysfunctional, why are we placing such importance on loving ourselves?
Love alone probably won’t help us to fully appreciate ourselves. So take a moment and think about how you treat yourself on a day-to-day basis. Where can you see dysfunction in this relationship? Perhaps you are emotionally blackmailing yourself or engaging in guilt trips. Maybe there are physical issues such as substance abuse or unhealthy relationships with food. You may find that you are exercising the kind of controlling behaviour or lack of trust that would swiftly push you away from a friend or significant other.
We all remember the ethic of reciprocity; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. And what a great maxim it is. But I’d also like to see more doing unto ourselves as we would have others do unto us!
To love oneself is a bonus. To be kind to oneself, to treat oneself with respect, care and understanding is perhaps the more appropriate (and more challenging) aim.