It’s a common theme that if you don’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone else. It’s not strictly true, of course. You can love someone else even if you don’t love yourself, but you won’t be able to fully receive the love you are given by others without cultivating love for yourself. You won’t be able to be in real loving authentic relationship with another human unless you can find ways to open yourself up to loving yourself.
For years, I struggled with this. When people truly loved me, I was sure that if they found out who I “really” was, they wouldn’t anymore, so I kept my emotional distance. And if they abused me, I thought, “well, that’s the best I deserve.” Having dysphoria and hating the body I had didn’t help at all.
Here are some definitions that might be helpful:
Self-compassion is the moment-by-moment willingness to hold yourself and your feelings with gentleness and without judgment. It’s a decision you can make in each moment, a choice to respond to yourself in a particular way. Treating yourself with compassion doesn’t require you to feel any different – it just requires you to do something different.
Self-love is something that needs to grow over time. It’s a larger way of being, a loving orientation toward yourself, and toward life. When you love yourself, you do your best to appreciate yourself exactly as you are. Then, from that place of self-appreciation, you make choices that are truly in your own best interest, rather than ignoring, denying, or sacrificing yourself.
Self-compassion is not self-pity. Self-love is not arrogance, nor is it narcissism! It’s not self-centeredness, either.
Self-compassion and self-love are the keys to being resilient and joyfully alive.