“Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good.” — Proverbs 19:8 (ESV)
Loving Yourself Is Not Selfish
One message that I received growing up was, “You are so selfish!” As a strong-headed, feisty Midwestern teenager in the ‘80s, I wasn’t exactly aware of how my behavior came across to my parents and sister. I knew that being “selfish” was not a compliment and definitely not something you want to be called by the people you love.
Many of us have “luggage” (as Javier likes to say) when it comes to the concept and practice of self-love. “Self-love” may feel awkward, self-helpish, hippy-dippy. . . you get the picture. I thought that loving myself was being selfish and not okay. “Who am I to love me? All I see are my mistakes, shortcomings, and faults. I have to work harder to prove myself so I can find a partner who will love me. I need to fix myself so I deserve love.”
I was driven. Determined to be worthy to receive romantic love, my overachieving personality-on-steroids kicked in. Work out, get a good job, join a dating site. I told myself that if I could just do enough and achieve enough, then I would earn love and be rewarded with a life partner.
It took some time, but gradually I learned that, thankfully, this is not how God works. And it is not how self-love works. You cannot control, earn, or force your way to an amazing relationship and marriage. God is in control (not you) and surrendering this sooner makes the path a lot less painful.
Of course, it is healthy to look at your past relationships and childhood and reflect on your values and what you truly want in a partner. However, we cross a line when we start to feel that we need to work our way to worthiness or bargain with God in order to attract a partner when, deep down, we don’t recognize our innate worthiness in God’s eyes.
I learned this after spending many years away from God. When I was twenty-eight years old, I decided to get back on the Christianity bus. I spent a lot of time wandering and searching, and then I found a church to call home. My burdens lightened and my heart softened. God and I got reacquainted.
Soon, I discovered that His love covers all the bases. I am precious in His eyes and am automatically worthy just by being alive. It was a big momma, lightbulb, Thank You Jesus moment.
You Are Lovable by Birthright
I am worthy because I’m a child of God—warts, calluses, stretch marks, mistakes, wrong turns, and all. Done deal. Stop stressing. That internalization pretty much changed my life forever and always.
I began to really dig into my prospects. Instead of going on Match.com and dating strangers, I decided to date myself. Yep, self and I needed to get right. I “took a break from dating.” All my previous relationships ended in disaster so why not try something new?
The con was over. I knew that my primary relationship was between God and me. I didn’t have to earn it. I eased into this idea—it’s all good and it’s all God—and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you thought or what you did before.
Self-love is the magic formula for a deeply-connected and intimate relationship or marriage. I’m sure you’ve heard, “You can’t give what you don’t have.” It is the foundation, the big enchilada, the first master lesson of finding your true partner in life.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
Faith was a huge part of this for me. Meditation, prayer, affirmations, and therapy were game-changers in moving me into higher consciousness. And, I prayed and prayed and prayed. Not to find “Mr. Right” but to become “Ms. Right” and that was a whole different banana.
If you want love, give it graciously to yourself. Be generous, not stingy, and feed your primary relationships—with God and your new BFF, you. By holding yourself up to a new standard of conditional love, you open the door for blessings to come into your life.
The truth was shocking to me. I gave love and forgiveness to everyone else first, and I maybe got the leftovers. You have to nurture yourself to be a vessel and messenger of God. There is no other way. At the end of the day, who can be with you if you cannot fully be with yourself?
We invite you to take your self-love temperature. Is it cold and clammy or hot and on the rise? Who do you see when you look in the mirror? Wink at yourself in the mirror and say, “Hello, sexy beast!” after you wake up. You will crack a smile.
Do you enjoy your own company? I learned to love to go out to dinner and enjoy a movie by myself. I truly appreciated my own companionship with God at my side. The silence, the stillness, and the pure simplicity of hanging out alone became a joy.
God doesn’t have to be found in someone else first. He is in you and with you, all the time. My ability to love me changed my world. It reframed my view of others and they began to treat me differently.
Our prayer for you is that you love yourself as God adores you—wholly, fully, and unconditionally. Yes, it is a lifetime of work, but start with giving yourself some mercy. With Him at your side, your marriage will move your self-love dial so that when you lose sight of your perfection—because you will—you will reconcile this illusion more quickly and frequently.
What Is the Story You Tell Yourself?
As a child, I remember when the summer started, my Dad arranged a month-long vacation. One time during the six-hour drive, I decided to count every tree I saw from the time I left my home to the house that we rented by the beach. That summer was memorable. I wrote down the number of trees and how many times my dad made me laugh.
Now that I look back, I see how important it is to capture the good in life and write it down. We are often absorbed by digital technology, emails, notifications, alerts, and the daily grind. We can overlook the good inside of us and in our lives.
I started journaling daily nine years ago. I wrote in a notebook every morning about what was happening in my life—my struggles and victories. I covered it all from the birth of my first daughter to the time when my startup CEO boss fled the country and left me and my fellow employees without a paycheck.
I eventually realized that I typed the same storylines over and over in my entries like “I’ve gotten fat and it’s hard to lose weight at my age!” I focused on continual complaints like, “Why can’t I get the job of my dreams?” My journal was a depressing song on repeat.
Every entry had the same theme: struggle. The same old problems didn’t go away. Once in a while, a bit of personal praise or mention of victories popped in, but it was too rare to be uplifting.
It became clear that I felt no self-love at all. Perhaps because of that, it was easy to blame the world for my insecurities, health challenges, career struggles, and relationship conflicts.
I was my own judge and jury, sentencing myself again and again to misery. Compassion was missing in my life—compassion for myself. I was a loving husband and father, but what about me? I wasn’t encouraging myself or looking for the wins from day to day. I wasn’t grateful or thanking God for the gift of life every day.
Loving Yourself Makes Miracles Happen
I tend to think of myself as an extrovert. I love talking to people and sharing my stories, and yes, giving all the suggestions I can. I also suffer from social anxiety. Every time I am in a social setting where I don’t know people, I go into my head.
Questions come up. Do they like me? Are they okay with what I am sharing? Do I fit in? The more I doubt myself, the more I see people becoming distanced. The more I accept myself for who I am, the more interactions become natural. It is truly incredible that how we feel about ourselves can change our surroundings.
Miracles happen when you start loving yourself. When you shut down the voices in your head that are constantly judging and protecting you from the truth of who you really are, you open yourself to the moment. You see more clearly.
It sounds weird, doesn’t it? I can say out loud, “Javier, I love you.” Or give myself a high five. “I am amazing!” But it’s more than a moment of praise. It is about cultivating patience and gentleness with yourself, knowing that you are a worthwhile human being who deserves forgiveness from your biggest critic—you.
The honest truth is that the majority of men wear a mask to show the world that we are okay. But deep inside we are a mess! We battle daily with regrets, fears, doubts, and worries.
I was doing this very thing every day. I would wake up in the morning with an inner critic telling me I would be doing better if my parents hadn’t died when I was young. From there I would move into an elaborate “What If” fantasy, recreating a make-believe scenario of having a wonderful upbringing with healthy and perfect parents. No one had problems in my fantasy and everything turned out just right.
In addition to telling me that my life would have been smooth sailing if my parents had lived longer, my inner critic liked to point out the many other disappointments I’d faced over the years, from getting into debt at the age of seventeen to not finishing college to not being satisfied in my career. I would journal those thoughts and list complaints about my life and create more “What If” situations.
In the morning, I would wake up with the same mindset, hoping for a different result. I wasn’t looking inside myself. I fixated on others or my environment to show me my next step. I wasn’t looking forward in my life and having a vision of the man I wanted to be. I was stuck between the past and present.
I regretted my past—the pain and disappointment it brought. I punished myself with thoughts of “I am not good enough.” I emotionally recreated my trauma in a vicious cycle. I would fantasize that I had parents, a healthy childhood, and no lack of the material things that I wanted as a child. I even fantasized about being taller and more muscular than I was.
The world will never show you the truth of who you are.
I did not like the Javier inside of me. I would look at other people and see they were happy and satisfied, especially some of my religious peers, and I would rant in my head, “They are fakers! Look at them pretending to be happy just because they are children of God.”
The truth is that God wants you to fully and unconditionally love yourself first. Why? If you don’t, how can you love others in the same way? If you don’t look for the good, the great, and the amazing in you, how can you look for it in others? If you don’t praise and support yourself in a moment of struggle, how are you going to support others in a meaningful way?
I was living a lie inside myself. I was giving, but not receiving from the source. My Holy Father desperately wanted me to love myself every second of the day. He wanted me to learn to love myself fully so that I could move forward with the plan that He had for me. Jesus calls us to change the world but if we don’t fully love ourselves, that fire inside will never light up.
Have no fears, doubts, or worries, as God is with you. Once we act from our faith in God, He will reveal his next step for us. We might not know His master plan, but we can trust that He will take care of the big picture. We grow to love ourselves as He is loving us. We are His creation. There is no imperfection, and His love through us can change the world.
Once you allow love and compassion into your heart, you become powerful beyond belief. Love is life; love will conquer darkness and set you free. When you love yourself, you also allow others to be more compassionate with themselves. If you trust this process, you can change the world, starting with loving yourself.
What action can you do today to show your love for yourself?
When you look in the mirror at yourself, say, “I love you. I really love you.” How does that feel? Can you look yourself in the eyes?
What are the proudest moments in your life? Share this with your partner.