She loves him so much. She goes to work and comes back to a messy home. She cooks dinner, helps the kids with their homework, and hands over her paycheck to her spouse who has been home playing video games all day. It is about 4 a.m. when she hears his key in the door. She lets out a sigh of relief, spritzes some perfume and welcomes him home and into her arms. She can smell the booze and something else on him. She loves him, but how does she feel about herself?
He is hardworking and straight as an arrow. He takes pride in providing for his family. He is no Idris Elba Jared Leto, but he loves his wife and will do anything for her. She berates him, spends money unwisely and compares him to richer, “better looking” and more “manly” men. The more she puts him down, the harder her tries. He no longer has any hobbies or friends. He lives for her approval. He loves her, but how does he feel about himself?
In 1998, I presented my first seminar on Soul Care; I should have just titled it Self-Love. The seminar arose from my growing concern about how I saw students and others interacting on the college campus where I worked. So many were desperately searching for a repository of their ‘love’ and they liberally bestowed that ‘love’ on everyone but themselves. The result was much pain and despair, depression and in quite a few cases burdened by it all, the students went on to flunk or drop out of college.
20 years later, I am more acutely aware that too many of us see love as something to give and share with others, but we rarely think about what it means to love ourselves. Some, completely reject the notion that we cannot possibly give what we ourselves don’t yet possess. Even the Bible tells us to love one another as we love ourselves. It follows that until we can practice self-love, whatever we think we are sharing with another, is anything but love. So, what is self-love?
The definition of love is ambiguous even though we all purport to know what it is. The most precise definition of self-love I have found is from Dr. Deborah Khoshaba. She writes, “Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love is dynamic; it grows by actions that mature us. When we act in ways that expand self-love in us, we begin to accept much better our weaknesses as well as our strengths, have less need to explain away our short-comings, have compassion for ourselves as human beings struggling to find personal meaning, are more centered in our life purpose and values, and expect living fulfillment through our own efforts.”
How much do you appreciate yourself? Do your daily actions reflect that? How often are your choices driven by your life purpose versus what feels good or is expedient at the time? Are you daily taking steps to support your physical, psychological and spiritual growth?
Here is my Three-Step Prescription for Self-Love.
Study and embrace what God says about you. God is not only your creator. He is the originator of love and the Bible tells us He is love himself. When you can believe that you are wonderfully created, when you can trust that you are so precious that even your tears are stored up in heaven, when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are so precious that God sacrificed his Son just for you, you get a better and truer sense of your value. This allows you to embrace your uniqueness, expect more of yourself and you stop allowing people to devalue and disrespect you.
Forgive yourself. Think about it. How willing are you to love and appreciate someone you can’t stand, someone who has betrayed you? The same is true for ourselves. When we’ve let ourselves down, made poor choices with grave consequences, we often harbor resentment and unforgiveness towards ourselves. Subconsciously, we actually make choices that exact pain on ourselves and we begin to believer that we don’t really deserve anything good. Forgive yourself so you can love yourself.
Practice self-care. This is the art of nurturing yourself. You make better choices for your health, physical well-being, emotional and spiritual growth. You seek out only healthy social interactions and you look for and do work that advances your goals and is in line with your values. You make decisions based on your needs, not wants and eliminate toxicity in all forms from your life. You choose to love yourself by nurturing yourself.
Are you currently looking for love everywhere but in God? Are you hoping someone will love you when you can’t even stand to love yourself? It is time to practice self-love. It may feel awkward at first, but don’t give up. You are worth it.
Aya Fubara Eneli is the CEO of Aya Eneli International, a best-selling author and a sought after speaker. She, her husband and their five children reside in Central Texas. Follow her on Twitter @ayaeneli, like her at facebook.com/ayaeneli or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pre order a copy of Aya’s latest book, Reclaim Your Life at http://ayaeneli.com/crossroads