Whitney Houston sang: “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”

 Currently Justin Bieber is on the radio with a very snarky song about loving yourself, as in it is a very self-centered, selfish thing to do. To give you a flavor of the song, one line is,

“My mama don’t like you and she likes everyone!” 

 Well which one is it? Is it selfish to love yourself or is it necessary to love yourself? Is it the greatest love or is it the puniest? Is it self-absorbed and narcissistic? Or is it expansive and enlightened?

Perhaps the confusion comes from what is self-love? The original meaning was one of excessive attention to self, but now most of the dictionaries define self-love as looking after one’s well-being. It is seen as positive and desirable. 

Many writers believe that self-love is not a feeling but rather actions that one takes to establish self-worth and well-being. 

I believe that self-love is closely related to self-esteem and self-respect. I agree that if you don’t love yourself, it will be very hard if not impossible to love someone else. When my self-love is solid, I am a good friend. I can take criticism and negativity with greater ease than if I am feeling emotionally fragile.

The aspect of me that gets in the way is my inner critic. You likely have one of your own. The inner critic always makes me feel small and incapable. The most difficulty I have in maintaining my self-love, and staving off the inner critic, is when someone tells me I am not doing a good enough job and I secretly agree with them!

A recent incident catapulted me into rigorous self-inquiry. What am I making this mean? What can I learn about myself and my habits that would help me live  a more self-confident life?

I hear myself saying things I SHOULD have done! With every SHOULD I give away my self-respect. One of my early teachers taught me to change the “should” to COULD. That certainly brings more clarity while maintaining  a shred of dignity. So instead of, “I should have called my Mom.” I could change it to  “I could have called my Mom but something else took precedence.”

I believe it is valuable to do things you are good at. It is valuable take some quiet time for observation and reflection. Self-love does not mean over-spending, over-eating or over-indulging. Those are all kinds of self-contempt.

Now the truth about it is that you and I are made in the image of Spirit, whole complete and perfect in every way. One of my favorite and most-powerful affirmations is four simple statements of Truth: 

“There is only One Life.  That Life is God’s Life. That Life is perfect. That Life is my life now.”

 I think the world would be a much lovelier place in which to live, if we all practiced one act of self-love every day. I stumbled across the following poem which I think is exactly what I am attempting to say. It is by Suzy Kassem, titled “Apply Within.”

You once told me
You wanted to find 
Yourself in the world –
And I told you to
First apply within,
To discover the world
within you.

You once told me
You wanted to save
The world from all its wars –
And I told you to
First save yourself
From the world,
And all the wars
You put yourself