I’ve always revered the passage in the New Testament where the apostle Mark recounts Jesus’s description of the two greatest commandments: that God is One, and that we should love God with all our beings, and second, that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Regardless of religion, I think the foundation of a happy life is to love and respect the intelligence and beauty of the universe and to respect and love oneself as part of that universe—so that we can be happy and really love others. Without love, life is a vacuous enterprise.
What does it mean to love yourself? The immediate connotation may seem self-centered, but we are not talking about the ego. The ego and the self are two different concepts entirely. To love yourself is to place value, to take care of, to nurture, to restore and to surrender to the intelligence within the Self, your soul.
First and foremost, loving yourself means telling the truth to yourself. So it means paying attention to what we tell ourselves in our own heads. Is there a negative voice in there pointing out your shortcomings and undermining your aspirations? Is it critical of others? Love yourself and turn off that voice. Change the narrative. You can change the negative to the positive, but you have to pay attention.
When we are completely honest with ourselves, monitoring our thoughts, we can notice our deficiencies and think about what we would like to improve upon, but do it in a spirit of being open to change rather than a spirit of self judgment. You can change the quality of your interior life, and when you do, your outer life will follow.
Loving yourself means getting a handle on negative emotions. It means not reacting to all the stimuli around you. Count to ten. Observe yourself. Are you being spun by events or are you poised, calm and aware? For example, are you afflicted by consistent negativity while driving, or can you decide before you turn on the ignition that you are not going to poison yourself with anger no matter what other drivers do? It is within your power to enjoy driving regardless of circumstances. Getting control of your mind is the key to happiness.
Externally, loving yourself means taking action to help yourself, such as finding employment in a positive work environment where you are valued and can use your skills well to benefit others. It may mean switching to a line of work that permits you to maintain a healthier work/life balance. Loving yourself means getting enough rest.
Loving yourself means managing your contact with negative people and situations, in such a way that you can avoid passing judgment, and can still be kind. Your attitude toward yourself reflects in everything you do. When you value yourself properly, your capacity for kindness grows.
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Our ability to love others exists in relation to how we love ourselves or believe ourselves capable of loving.
To be continued…