SELF-LOVE AS THE GREATEST LOVE OF ALL?
By Margaret Lampasi
When I was a teenage singer I loved belting out the song “The Greatest Love of All” by the late Whitney Houston. At the time I was studying musical theater and pop singing, and that piece was quite challenging for me. I was an alto then and the song really pushed the range limits of my “high belt”. Had I received proper instruction from my then voice teacher, it could’ve been made easier. But that’s not the subject here. Self-love is the subject of that song, and this post.
And that subject matter of “self-love”, I can confidently say was an utterly foreign concept to my teenage self. I was all about gaining people’s love and approval through my singing voice and my grades at school. Love from the outside, and not from within. Not exactly a healthy way to live or draw motivation. I now know that real joy can unfortunately fall by the wayside in pursuit of others’ approval.
What about self-approval and self-acceptance?
Self-approval, self-acceptance and self-love can sound like radical ideas to some. And the common misunderstanding is that self-love is selfish. In the true scheme of things, it’s anything but. More on that later.
The fact is that self-love is foreign to many of us adults. The famous song lyrics about self-love also say, “It’s easy to achieve.” I beg to differ.
Society at large, pressures at work, childhood experiences and even traumas can make developing the “self-love muscle” a real challenge. We all have many roles thrust on us from the outside and with some pretty hefty judgments as to what constitutes our worthy fulfillment of these roles.
We all need some love from the outside
You’ve probably heard it said that first you have to love yourself before you can truly love another. There is certainly truth in that, especially in the realm of romantic love. And another truth is that all of us also need some love in the form of support and acceptance from at least one person in our life. That listening and accepting person outside of ourselves can be a close or trusted friend, mentor, minister, therapist, teacher or significant other. Or if we’re lucky, we have an assortment of persons outside of ourselves that know and support us.
We all need to feel that we belong, that we and our opinions matter and that we are heard and accepted as we are—both weaknesses and strengths.
Living lives as human beings is not easy. We can’t do it all alone, as much as society might extol the virtues of independence. Those who pride themselves in being completely self-reliant can also be isolating themselves in a Lone Ranger-like syndrome, preventing others from truly seeing and knowing them beneath their mask.
When we let others know us under the surface, we can feel accepted and we can begin to know ourselves more deeply and truly. And from that place, we can learn to hold ourselves with more acceptance, and even self-love.
Self-love “in the trenches”?
Let me share an example from my own life. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a giver, wanting to help or inspire people in any ways I can.
Last month I promised a freebie to all my subscribers, and I ran into one tech obstacle after another (I’m still in the midst of trying to overcome them!). The plethora of roadblocks has been unbelievable to me. But it also makes complete sense because the world of tech endeavors is still a relatively new and foreign frontier for me. Even so, I still underwent some inner conflict about it because I hate the thought of letting people down.
Part of me was stuck in that role of helper, as if it’s my one and only identity in life. At times I even felt a “do or die” pressure building within me. And I could’ve stayed stuck in that role or place and pushed myself way beyond my energy limits—just as I did in my college days, pulling frequent “all-nighters” to churn out yet another paper.
But thankfully I recently came to a place of personal Radical self-acceptance(!). Here’s what I did:
♥ Asked for help –
While the ideas, practices and writing that this freebie require are well within my skill set, shooting videos and doing video or audio editing are not at all. I hired a wonderful and very bright college student to help me with the video editing and other tech aspects beyond my abilities.
♥ Made a shift in my mind –
I cut myself some slack. I released the “do or die” internal pressure. What would that serve anyway? Fact is we’re not meant to be productivity machines, but human BE-ings.
Just as I often encourage a voice student who’s not yet able to reach a certain note with ease, I can likewise extend self-compassion to give myself a break. I can take away some of the unreasonable pressure of having to know it all and get it all right and in the perfect time.
♥ Engaged in some leisure activities! –
It probably sounds funny to say but when it comes to leisure, I’m a bit of a newbie. I’ve always had a strong work ethic. But I can tend to overwork and many times in my life I’ve burned out.
It seems almost pathetic, but that’s why I found these simple cartoon-like pictures below helpful. All but one of them are activities I thoroughly enjoy, and frankly, I needed the reminder that every now and then I can do these very same things, too! Yes, believe it or not, I actually needed these pictorial suggestions to begin to grow my “leisure” muscle.
♥ Yielded to or let go of things beyond my control –
My freebie project has had its own timetable independent of my wishes and efforts to get it done. I will accept and honor its timetable. While I’m going to continue my steadfast work on the project, I’m not going to bang my head against a wall and exhaust myself. I can step back, regroup and go in an adjusted direction for a bit. Writing this post is THAT modified direction, actually!
Self-love is NOT selfish
As promised, I want to address the common misunderstanding that self-love is selfish. When we extend grace, compassion or nurturing care to ourselves we are in essence feeding our inner resources. It’s like that phrase, “Fill your cup and give from the overflow.”
Draining ourselves in the service of unreasonably high expectations isn’t always the high road. Often far from it. But exercising our self-love muscle and caring for our needs puts us in a far more real, joyful and abundantly positive place from which to create and connect with others we love and care about.
In my opinion, hard as it is to achieve, Self-love IS the greatest love.
It’s from self-love that we can find deeper and more genuinely human connections, free of judgment or reprisal.
In an ideal world, it is the love from which all other love more freely flows, and where all benefit.
This Valentine’s Day (and every day!), I hope you shower yourself with all the self-love you deserve, and find love all around you.