If You Don’t Love Yourself, Then Who Will?

Last week I made a statement that I regret saying. I said, “I hate myself.” I was partially joking, but–and the scary part–was being somewhat honest. 

Hate is a strong word. Are there other synonymous words that you’ve used about yourself? Have you called yourself ugly, or fat, or stupid? These words all have a negative, downgrading energy about them. They hurt. They are excruciating. 

Where do we learn to hurt ourselves?

I don’t think I hate myself (totally). I’ve gotten frighteningly low many times. I’ve even contemplated ending this body’s journey on earth. Somewhere inside of me, though, at every dark corner, was a semblance of light. Something keeps bubbling up inside of me that keeps me going. It gets to the point where I’m too weak to continue, yet there’s a hand that pulls my limp body off the ground and keeps plopping me on my feet. Why? 

We aren’t here to ask why. It is one of those questions that we encouraged to ask, but we will never have the answers. There are a lot of those questions. Who am I? What’s my purpose? Philosophers and religious leaders (sometimes the same people) have asked and attempted to answer. They’re not right. They’re not wrong, either.

These titles are misleading.

I’m not trying to take you on a sophisticated, well-articulated academic journey in this article. I’m trying to keep it real. Forgive me if the titles don’t convey the message. Would you like something better to catch your attention? How about:

If you don’t love yourself, no one will love you.

I’ve got another one:

If you don’t love yourself, you won’t be able to love anyone else.

True love comes from the inside and works its way out. Jesus told the Pharisees that they have to clean the inside of the cup. Once the inside of the container becomes clean, then the outside comes clean, too. 

What? Don’t you like Jesus? Buddha said, “If your compassion does not include yourself, then it is incomplete.” Still not your thing? The Quaran says, “If you have the ability to love, love yourself first.”

If you don’t care for Jesus, Buddha, or The Quaran, then?

How about Mr. Rogers? I don’t care if you are Satan himself; you still have to love Mr. Rogers. The dude lived in Pittsburgh and sung about how beautiful his neighborhood was. You know the guy is a saint. So, let’s dive into a Mr. Rogers quote to convince me, and you (my neighbor, won’t you be?) that we need to love ourselves.

I don’t know what an active noun is. I’m pretty that’s the definition of a verb. Anyhow, I’ll agree with Mr. Rogers that love is an action. Love is present tense. Love doesn’t worry about what happened in the past. Love doesn’t calculate what might happen in the future. Love is now. 

I told my therapist, “I’m not happy with who I am now.” She said, “this is a red flag for me.” Before getting myself committed to a hospital, I needed to clarify that it wasn’t a future version of myself that I was going to love. The point is, I don’t want to stagnate. If future me isn’t growing, then I won’t like that version. 

Now for a paradox: I believe in loving yourself now, but I’m addicted to growth. I’m not perfect, but it is time to realize I can love imperfection (as long as any faults are work in progress). I can cherish a mess (as long as I’m working to clean that mess.) 

Here’s the truth: once I fully love myself, in all my faults and falters, then I will be able to be the same with other people. My goal is to love everyone. You read that correctly. Back to Jesus, “love your enemies.” The prophet also said love others as yourself. If you rearrange that sentence, you can’t care for other people more than you care for yourself. Love others AS yourself. 

Let’s drop the pretense of hating ourselves. Let’s make an honest effort to spread the love by loving ourselves.

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