Love is probably the most discussed, described and sung about concept ever. We humans apparently see love as something beautiful and very much want to experience and express it. But in practice it’s not easy at all to sustainably give substance to love.
Love is also a comprehensive concept. For the sake of convenience we often mix up all phenomena, but there are many distinct sorts of love. For example think of the love between a mother and a child or a young couple in love; those kinds of love are not of the same order. Traditionally, the Greek language offers a lot of possibilities to describe the various types of love. Where agape is about pure, divine love, eros is about intimate love and philia about love in friendly relationships. And with these types I by far haven’t mentioned all types.
Love is often misunderstood too. For instance, many people think that it always has to do with others: your spouse, family, friends, you name it. All this loving of others surely isn’t a bad thing, but if it’s limited to that something is missing. A famous quote says: love thy neighbour as thyself. So, nothing wrong with neighbourly love, but the love for yourself is at the same level! Surprising, isn’t it? This raises the interesting question: can you love someone if you don’t love yourself?
Some might think: “So you’re saying I don’t love myself or what?”. Of course most people have some kind of self-love, but how often is that being overwhelmed? How many people feel a sense of inferiority? This is characterized by thoughts like ‘I’m a nobody, I don’t deserve this, I’m ugly, I’m not good enough’. The self-esteem is then being determined by negative convictions. And those are being confirmed in real life, because that simply is your conviction and that’s just how you see life. A matter of cause and effect. And that’s how you can be a prisoner of your own thoughts.
We often are tough on ourselves. Most of the time not on the outside, but our thoughts can be strict and even ruthless. They can devaluate or destroy anything that we do. Love for yourself starts with a little kindness, with a mild judgment of yourself. Then you can start accepting who you are with all your characteristics. And in that respect there is hope for everybody, because the strong way in which your thoughts can work in negative aspects, the same way they can work the opposite way, as a positive strength! A straightforward example: if you go to bed at night thinking that you cannot sleep, there’s a big chance you stay awake for a long time and keep on thinking and worrying. I really am convinced that helping thoughts are effective and lead to tangible results. Not only with this simple example regarding falling asleep.
By the way, is it possible to love yourself too much? I don’t think so. I do think that you can love yourself in a wrong way, namely out of a self-centered attitude. That can lead to a situation in which you’re not sensitive to others needs at all and probably that you pursue happiness at the expense of others. Is that the purpose of self-love? Somebody who has sincere love for himself also wishes love and happiness for others.
For me, the most beautiful form of love is unconditional love; love without any condition, term or requirement attached. This means that I do not only love someone who does what I say or lives as I want to. It means that my love flows towards others no matter what.
A special story about a father and two sons illustrates this. One day the youngest son claims his inheritance and sets off into the wide world. He spends all of his money and comes to a point that he has no more possessions at all. Finally, he puts his best foot forward and remorsefully returns to his father. His father sees him coming, has compassion and runs towards his son, then hugs and kisses him. The son expresses his regret and even says that he is not worthy to be called his son anymore. The father says no word at all about the past en organizes a grand celebration…
Love is constructive and has the power of growth. In my living environment I benefit much more from a cheerful person than from somebody who is always cranky and grumpy. A powerful, balanced person automatically stimulates its environment. In our lives we have the chance to grow and to flourish completely. We don’t have to remain a flower bud, but we can blossom and show our beauty! In all our diversities. If you look closely, every flower is a wonder of nature. People are like those wondrous flowers. They do need the right care to be able to prosper and also to dare to open up. Sincerely loving yourself is an essential element for that. And also simply allowing yourself to exist.
Just do it
And you are allowed to exist. Just be who you are or at least try to become who you are. Do not remain a flower bud. Investigate, experience and do what makes you happy. A little child exactly understands that and chooses purely for itself – during the learning process sometimes very egocentric. And what makes you happy? What gives you an awesome feeling? Then do precisely that! A popular song is called ‘Shine bright like a diamond’. It’s totally okay for you to be who you are. Show your talents and shine. That’s a part of loving yourself. It might even be a guarantee for a happy life to share your love unrestrictedly with yourself and others. And the special thing about love is that you don’t run out of it, but that it multiplies by sharing it. So don’t be afraid: I love me… and you!