What words, images, adjectives pop into your head in response to the term "self-love?"
What does self-love mean to you?
At times we're conditioned to think about self-love through the popular worldly paradigm, which can associate self-love with chasing after material comforts, consumption, or competition; while the christian philosophy associates self-love with the dignity of being a being inspired by the Holy Spirit, called to a life of love. We may also associate self-love with taking care of our physical and mental health. Just as every relationship is unique, so is our approach towards self-love…
Take a moment to compose your own definition of self-love…
Here is mine:
"Self-love is my awareness of the great dignity of my being created in God’s image, hence a commitment to treating myself (and others) with encouragement, compassion, support, and respect..."
The fullness of our reservoir of self-love-matters!
Our reservoir of self-love impacts on so many psychological processes within our mind: how we look at the world, how we cope with stress/conflict/disappointments, how we handle ourselves, even how we experience our faith.
It determines whether we approach the various circumstances in which we find ourselves from a place of "fullness," or "deprivation."
For example, when our levels of self-love are high, we are more likely to perceive that our thoughts,
feelings, values, interests, beliefs… matter.
We are more likely to carry this awareness of the significance of our inner attributes, or our inner self,
into how we experience ourselves, our faith, our interactions with others…
I believe that so much of our suffering relates to a lack of self-love.
When we are lacking in self-love, we are more vulnerable to disregarding the significance of the
experiences and journey of our inner self, perhaps forgoing too much of our personal power to external
influences: people, situations, etc…
With regard to our coping, this may lead us to cope in a placating manner, or may lead us to experience greater amounts of frustration and unease...
We know that how we feel distorts our perception. For example, when we are experiencing stress, we
may be more likely to overestimate the likelihood of danger, magnify perceived obstacles, and
underestimate our resources and other avenues of support.
Similarly, when lacking in self-love, we may be more vulnerable to perceiving the world through the
eyes of various insecurities; more hierarchical, judgmental, threatening…
This could also extend to our experience of faith, whereby we may relate to our God not as our Father and merciful Savior, but more as a judgmental critic...
Unfortunately, many of us downplay the importance of attending to nurturing our self-love and our inner experience.
Elsewhere I go into more details about the historic and social factors that contribute to this.* For many
of us, it may feel easier, more "natural," to give, serve; than attend to the nurturing of our inner development.
What then, can we do, to nourish our experience of self-love?
The following ideas are adopted from Gary Chapman’s “5 Love Languages:”
Time: Carve out quality time for ourselves and God, whether through developing a skill, journaling, praying, etc.
Touch: Take time to savor our enjoyment of nature via our senses, or engage in a faith based ritual, etc.
Words: Compose messages of praise and encouragement, affirmations, etc.
Gifts/Acts of Service: Offer ourselves a gift/act of service that would nourish our health, personal development, or faith…
More reflections about Self-Love:
"Keeping our love tank full helps us to engage with our loved ones from a place of emotional fulfillment/fullness, impacting on our levels of patience, helping us to access positive attitude."
"People who attend to their own self-care and have opportunities to nourish other areas of their lives, are more resilient against burn out and depression."
"An inner experience of high self-worth protects you from taking on board others’ judgement. It is based on your being’s existence: the uniqueness of your body, mind, and spirit."
"No matter what steals your attention and hijacks your emotions, I hope they will ultimately find their homeward path in drawing you towards that which is of value, purpose, and passion for you."
* Zawisz, B. Strong Within: The Christian Woman’s Guidebook for Nurturing Self-Love and Personal Power
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