Do You Love You? By Aya Fubara Eneli, M.A., J.D.
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?