Where Love Begins
Updated: Apr 29, 2020
The late Danish thinker, Soren Kierkegaard, known for his extensive and complex philosophical treatises, once wrote a 5-word essay: Don't forget to love yourself. The Jesuit teacher-priest, John Powell, followed this up years later saying: If you love yourself you’ve got it made because you’re with someone you like twenty-four hours a day.
Many quotes could be added that point out the difficulty of living with self-disapproval or even self-loathing. Literature on the human behavior often references how relationships with others is generally problematic when a degraded sense of self-worth is present.
Not loving oneself results from a knotty combination of factors. The key question is: how does one overcome them? How does one move from a debilitating self-image to a positive one? Answer: It takes conscious, purposeful, determined action resulting from a recognition and a desire to change. One might think, easier said than done. But to not work at it perpetuates the sad situation.
Space here does not allow for a necessarily extensive disquisition on the subject, but I proffer the following starter points.
Recognize that no one is perfect. Some are less perfect than others, but everybody in the world makes mistakes and needs improvement in various areas of their life. One can acknowledge one’s shortcomings, work consciously to overcome them, and affirm the goodness within oneself. Forgiveness is a key factor. If one believes in forgiveness and forgives others, one can forgive oneself.
Letting the opinions and judgments of others dominate one’s life is neither reasonable nor helpful. In fact, just the opposite. This is combined with the fact that negativity heaped upon one is quite (most?) often the result of low self-esteem in the heaper. DO NOT let what others think control what you think of yourself. As stated, we all have areas of our lives that need improving . . . but if you’re working on them and it’s not good enough for someone else, that’s their problem, not yours.
One cannot control the thinking of others. But one CAN control one’s own thinking. If I affirm/like/love myself, that should absolutely dominate my attitude and actions.
For anyone with a positive, forgiving God-concept, this is a key for loving oneself. If I believe God (however one might conceptualize such) affirms and loves me in spite of my failings, that’s a huge first step toward loving myself. While not everyone embraces this theology, it is the foundation on which my life has been based from day one to the present.