Self-love might sound like something that belongs to the realm of personal development with little relevance to the fast-paced world of business.
The thinking goes, if we get too much into this feeling stuff, we lose the plot—we lose our hard edge in competition with other tough players.
When I grew up, I noticed that some of my peers at school were completely confident in whatever they did. They were not necessarily the best, but simply by being confident, they appeared talented. Their confidence made them among the first picks in sports and other things.
At the same time, I noticed how other individuals were extremely good at what they were doing—playing guitar or drawing, for example—but received little or no attention because they were shy and scared. Lacking both in assertiveness and confidence, they would never make it unless someone discovered them and dragged them into the limelight—an unlikely prospect.
Personally, I found myself on a tipping point. Sometimes I was too scared to show up, and others I was just strong enough to do my thing—play music.
It puzzled me there was such a big difference in confidence, both within myself and among my peers. I found it unfair.
In later years I have come to understand that usually, this confidence is based in self-love, and that self-love can be cultivated if it’s not already present from childhood.
What is self-love? It is basic emotional connection and care, loyalty, and approval of myself prior to any evaluation based on achievements and success.
Self-love comes before self-esteem, which is based on how we value ourselves, and self-confidence, which is how confident we are that we will perform well.
So, is it possible to have high self-confidence and high self-esteem and low self-love?
This is actually quite common among high achievers. Many people push themselves so hard simply because of a basic lack of self-love that constantly needs to be compensated for. I know this from my own personal experience.
In this respect, the topic of self-love is relevant for most walks of life. So why focus on business and leaders?
Business and leaders influence society greatly, and having good management on top is important for all of us in the working world. Lack thereof may have catastrophic results—as seen in recent times.
Let’s start by looking at how lack of self-love negatively influences a person.
Self-love is like the keel of a sailboat—the bottom part of the boat that provides ballast and direction. It gives the boat stability in all kinds of weather. Trying to sail a boat without the keel is still possible, but it’s much harder to steer, and the chances of capsizing are much greater. It requires more skills and harder work.
A person with low self-love has to be more skillful and work harder to stay on track and to stay in balance, as the mind is forced to work overtime to compensate, leading to stress.
Self-love lies at the core of a person’s identity. Without it, we lose ourselves. Life becomes a bit meaningless, as the protagonist of our own story is not really there. While the story might look good, it probably won’t feel good. We get by temporarily as long as other people approve of our story, but the moment this approval is withdrawn, our achievements don’t mean a thing anymore.
This dependency on other people’s approval is dangerous for business. Instead of making sound, independent judgments, there is a tendency to overly rely on what everybody else thinks and does.
History books are full of examples of how this has lead to catastrophic results for businesses—the crack in 1929 and the global financial crisis of 2008, just to mention two big ones. The only people in business who got out of there in good shape were those not following the horde, but rather their own sound understanding.
So, how is loving yourself good for business?
>> Self-love gives us the stability to trust ourselves—to act from a solid foundation.
>> Self-love gives us a clear direction. We know what we want, and we know we deserve it.
>> Self-love gives us better social skills. Loving ourselves makes us authentic, so there is no need to pretend to be something we’re not. This creates trust and good relationships.
>> Self-love gives us less internal resistance. There are no split off parts of our personalities lurking in the unconscious, ready to sabotage our actions.
>> Self-love gives us a clear vision, as we become deeply connected with ourselves. We know where we are going and where we want to go next.
With these qualities in a leader, business can thrive. Without them, we become lost at sea. Let’s all work together to cultivate self-love in ourselves, and encourage it in our peers.
Author: Bjørn Årstad Seyffarth
Editor: Callie Rushton