Ep. 38 What Does It Mean to Love Yourself?
Love Yourself. Two simple words with the power to change your life.
But what does “love yourself” even mean? And what does it mean for you, you specifically? What does it mean for you to love yourself?
Let’s start with the general concept of “love yourself.” The root of this concept is about your relationship with yourself. Let me say that again, your relationship with yourself.
If thinking about your relationship with yourself is a newer idea for you, I find the easiest way to let this sink in is by looking at what you have learned from the other relationships in your life.
In order to better understand what it means to love yourself, let’s start with what we know about love from other relationships.
These are relationships of any kind - a friend, romantic partner, role model, family member, and so on.
Oftentimes the first notion of the word “love” is that it is a feeling.
This is true. One aspect of love is that it is a feeling, but how well would any of the relationships in your life fare if the only role you let love play was as a feeling you experience?
Not good, right?
Love is not only a feeling, love is also an action. The different actions chosen is love being displayed. Love being shown. Love being expressed.
Love as only a feeling is not enough for a healthy relationship of any kind. Love must also be an action that is continually practiced for a relationship to be healthy.
When you don’t practice love as an action in a relationship then it is like withholding water from a flower. It will start to wither, it will start to starve, it will do the complete opposite of bloom.
We all experience this at different times in life. Times where either you were giving to the relationship, but the other person wasn’t, or the other way around. At some point in life we all learn that love as an action must be practiced in order for a relationship to be healthy.
The same is true for your relationship with yourself. Love as an action must be practiced in order for your relationship with yourself to be healthy.
Now that that concept is in place, the question is what does it mean for you to love yourself?
A great place to start with this question is also by looking at relationships in your life.
You can pull wisdom from the healthy and unhealthy relationships in your life to see how healthy or unhealthy your relationship is with yourself.
In order to do so, I want you to do the following soon after listening to this episode. Make two lists. In the first one, list specific actions that communicated love and respect to you. In the second one, list specific actions that communicated the opposite of love and respect.
These can be the actions of people currently in your life or one’s that were only in it for a season. Be sure to explore this from multiple ages of your life because that will provide a lot of good insights.
Clearly, there are countless actions others in your life have taken in your relationships, but the actions that will stick out the loudest to you are the ones you will write down. After a while, you will see some common themes in the actions you wrote down.
Those themes are how you specifically want and need to be loved. Not just in external relationships, but your relationship with yourself as well.
To give you an idea of how to do this, I’ll share an action that came to my mind when I did this exercise.
One of the many actions that has communicated I am loved is when someone sends me a card with thoughtful handwritten words about what I mean to them. That action communicates to me that I am loved by that person.
As I reflected on that, I realized how often I save cards, emails, and texts from people I’m close to when they express how much I mean to them.
That realization showed me that words of appreciation and people taking time from their life to express those words are one of the themes of love in my life that communicates that I am loved.
Another theme that popped out from the actions I listed were people checking in to see how I am doing on deep levels, not just on the surface.
There are more actions I listed and more themes that revealed themselves. These are just a few to give you an idea of how to go about this exercise.
You may share some of those themes I mentioned as well, or they may not be ones that resonate with you. We are all unique and that is why this exercise is designed to show what communicates love to you specifically.
I know this exercise may be painful when thinking of the unhealthy relationships in your life. Relationships in which actions communicated the opposite of love or respect. This is especially true if someone has abused, manipulated, or in other ways harmed you. If any of those actions were taken against you and the person called those acts of love, know that those were not acts of love. They were acts of control, disrespect, cruelty, and all the things that love is not.
If you have experienced anything like that, then it may be difficult to know what is a loving and respectful act and what isn’t. If that rings true for you, I highly encourage you to talk to a counselor or read some books to help you unpack the effects of those acts. You deserve that kind of healing in your life.
Ok, we are coming to the end for today. As a reminder, your challenge is to make a list of actions that communicated love and respect, and a list that communicated the opposites. Then reflect on those lists to pull out some themes you find, and write those themes down.
In the next episode I will show you what to do with those themes as we explore the question further of “what does it mean to love yourself?”