It recently struck me that the phrase “love your neighbor as yourself” is far more instructive than I had ever realized.
I always took it as be kind to others and I generally am. I think that I have put some of the emphasis on the wrong syllable.
What does it mean to love my neighbor as myself? I think it means that to truly love someone else, I need to love myself. To be kind to someone else, I need to be kind to myself and to be empathetic to someone else or forgive someone else, perhaps I first need empathy and forgiveness for myself.
I’ve been playing around with what that could look like. A friend and I made a “friend pact.” We are no longer allowed to put ourselves down to the other person. It’s fine to say: “I made a mistake and I apologize.” It’s not fine to say: “I was really stupid yesterday.” We both experience that we have cut down on this negative talk with other people and ourselves because of our pact.
Maybe, in changing our language we can change our thoughts. Maybe, in putting less negativity about ourselves out into the universe, we will experience less.
Painted on the walls at my new gym are the words “judgment free zone” and “no critics.” When I saw it, I thought it was hokey. But, here is what I find: as I run on the treadmill, I actually do not judge others or care if they are judging me. I am much kinder to myself. Before I would set goals and harangue myself to achieve them, now I set goals and just meet them, kindly. And here’s the crazy thing, I am running faster, better and more than I have in years. Yesterday I braved the weight machines and felt no shame as I wandered aimlessly searching for my favorites. In the past, I think I would not have done that—all from some words painted on a wall.
I do think a big part of loving ourselves is learning not to judge ourselves and I believe that as we judge ourselves less, we judge others less.
I always nod in agreement when friends and fellow coaches talk about self care and how important it is. In yoga class, at the end when they say that by raising our own levels of peace and awareness we can raise the tide for the world, I gently nod as I slip into my relaxed state.
I strive to be positive supportive friend, spouse, daughter, sister and aunt. But, I don’t always believe it or apply it to myself. I criticize myself when my patience runs short and I snap at someone, when I don’t exercise, when I eat something that is not good for me and even when my house is a mess (which it usually is).
When I started writing this blog post, I thought it would be about the six things you can do to love yourself more. But, here is what I realized—it is not about the behaviors, those are secondary. It is about listening to your heart when your head is mumbling criticisms or screaming invectives at you. It is about treasuring and valuing yourself and your worth.
I do think there are steps we can take that make this easier: I try to get enough sleep, I write in my morning pages (sometimes), I exercise, I married the right man, I have an awesome poodle, I cuddle babies and I try to spend time with people who nurture my soul. And it is all really, really awesome.
I believe that in doing these things we open the space in our hearts and heads for self love. By being aware of how we feel when we treat ourselves well and how it expands to those around us, we begin to love ourselves more and in that, perhaps, we can change the world.
It is the inside journey of trusting our hearts and valuing ourselves that matters.
What keeps you from loving yourself? How will you nourish your heart and soul today to take one step on a beautiful lifelong journey towards self acceptance and self love so that you may truly love your neighbor as yourself?
Maybe what the “world needs now is love, sweet love.”
Author: Wendy Kuhn
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Daniela Vladimirova/Flickr