Recently, a friend shared this article with me in a discussion about self-love, and it got me thinking about the world, the culture in which I live, and myself.

I don’t have a great self-image, and my self-love is rather lacking as a result.  I have times when I feel so low that I ask the few close friends I have to “tell me something good about myself”.  And while their words cheer me up, can I honestly say that I take them to heart and believe them?

I don’t feel like America takes self-care and self-love very seriously.  The impression I get from corporate culture is that it’s one that asks for constant sacrifice from us:  “Give 110%,” “Work through your breaks, your lunches, your weekends,” and “Put the company first.”  I feel like these words are rarely spoken, but often implied.

And while these work ethics are helpful in staying ahead of the corporate curve, constantly sacrificing yourself to any greater cause inevitably martyrs us.  You can’t give 110% if you’re skipping all of your downtime.  I’ve even heard from people who play video games as hardcore hobbyists preach about the importance of taking breaks every two hours or so.  And when the people whose hobbies are practically a second job stress the importance of breaks, I take the advice seriously.  It’s OK to work hard, but there has to be a balance.

The critical take-away part of the article for me was in paragraph two and said that developing self-love requires the support and assistance of others.  No amount of positive self-talk can replicate the benefits of having others tell you that they think you’re the cat’s pajamas.  Love, respect, and confidence have to be nurtured, and by those closest to us.  Those feelings do not spring, fully formed, from the void.

But nurturing each other in such a way also feels rare in our culture.  People are guarded, and moments of intimacy – genuine, real, you-can-get-hurt intimacy – are sparse.  I think many would agree that confidence is sexy, but how many of us are willing to be vulnerable enough to build that confidence in ourselves and others?

The only solution is to take a leap of faith.  We cannot expect trust from others without extending trust first.  Intimacy will only come from others only after we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with them.  Feeling love requires that we first offer it ourselves.

So be kind to others.  Tell them that they’re important – that they mean something.  Tell them you miss them when they’re gone.  Praise their virtues over criticizing their vices.  Help them to cultivate a positive voice within themselves.

Personally, I want to make the world a better place.  And helping people to love themselves seems a good place to start.  So let’s get started.

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