In theory, it’s easy to try to explain what self-love is. In everyday life, it can be a true challenge.
Your boss won’t forgive you if you show up late at the office because you need more sleep in the morning.
I continue to find self-love a difficult topic because I always struggle with a sense of guilt whenever I prioritize my needs or desires.
It’s always a sort of conflict, inside of me. Is it okay to go visit Florence with its museums, and spend all that money, while my mother is working hard and can’t afford to go anywhere? I feel guilty and selfish.
What’s the right choice in these situations?
When a dear friend of mine was fighting cancer in a hospital in Bucharest, I went to see her almost every day for about a month. I tried to take care of her needs and do everything in my power to help. She was completely alone.
It was a lot to do and, after a while, I felt exhausted. I was too tired to take care of my friend. And full of guilt.
I was hosting her at my house, going with her to see doctors, cooking her meals, bringing her medicine, supporting her with all that she needed. And trying to stay optimistic and encouraging that everything was going to be fine.
During that month, I had many problems of my own to resolve.
Also, I had a great passion for the theatre. I would buy tickets to any possible show I felt was going to be of high-quality.
I remember one of those February days, going to talk to a popular Orthodox priest to ask for help and advice. I like doing that from time to time. It gives me a lot of energy and transforms thoughts into action.
That wise man taught me a few important lessons about self-love and self-respect that I will share with you.
1. It’s Ok to Do What You Like, as Long as It Doesn’t Hurt Someone Else
Doing what you like isn’t bad and you mustn’t feel guilty for it, as long as it isn’t built on someone else’s suffering or your own.
If you for instance are someone who likes consuming drugs, even if you do it with your own money, you must be aware that in the long-term, you are hurting and killing yourself and probably hurting people who close to you. Even if it gives you pleasure at the moment, it’s destructive long-term.
I had tickets to the theatre that evening, so I had to choose between going there or to the hospital to visit my friend.
I asked the priest what I was supposed to do. I was very surprised when he said, “Go to the theatre. You can visit your friend tomorrow.” It’s important to do what you like, from time to time.
2. It’s Mandatory to Respect Yourself
I was having some relationship issues. I was much younger then, with less experience.
The priest gazed at me very seriously and said it was mandatory to have self-respect in life, especially as a woman.
He said men and people, in general, will have respect for me if I have respect for myself.
3. It’s Mandatory to Take Care of Your Health
In COVID times, this advice seems more obvious than ever.
Don’t get burned out just to please your boss. At least, not all the time. Don’t sacrifice your health just because your son asks for more money from you. Try to educate him better instead.
It might be hard and there are situations in life when you need to do what you need to do. But not all the time.
In the long-term, nobody will benefit from you getting sick. You’ll only spend the hard-earned money on doctors and hospitals.
So, you need to build a good balance in your life to take good care of your health.
4. Treat Yourself With Kindness, Even If Other People Don’t
From experience, I know that self-love is about treating yourself with kindness. And that is a very wise thing to do.
Maybe you like to buy yourself some nice body lotion to reward yourself after an achievement. Maybe you like to see a friend or a relative who is kind to you. You could buy yourself a music album you’ve longed for. You could get a pet.
All these things are part of being gentle and kind to yourself and will teach you that kindness is made of simple things you can do every day.
5. Make Time to Heal Your Traumas
It’s extremely important to have peace with yourself, understand, and heal all the traumas from your past.
Let go of the past. Learn the lessons you need and let it go. It’s not going to come back anyway. You can’t change anything about it.
Try to heal, to discover yourself, educate yourself, for whoever you want to be and achieve in life.
Take time to go through therapy, if necessary. Embrace spirituality.
Find a master, a coach, someone who will guide you and will truly have at heart your happiness and health.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of people who are older and wiser than you.
Work with yourself. Don’t let old habits and beliefs hold you back from the life you want to have and whatever you want to achieve.
6. Respect People Around You and Treat Them the Way You Want to Be Treated
Maybe you haven’t thought that loving yourself has to do also with respecting other people.
It’s simple: you get what you give. In most cases, people will treat you the way you treat them. So, when it’s possible, treat people how you want to be treated. If they don’t respect you for that, move along.
7. Try to Find Someone Who Loves You
I think one of the best ways to start loving yourself is to find someone who will genuinely like you, appreciate, respect, and even love you.
I think love is something we often learn from someone else.
In the end, self-love isn’t separated from the love we receive from other people. They are one.
8. Learn the Difference Between Good and Bad
All the time, I meet people who aren’t aware that it’s good to act in one way, and bad to act otherwise.
I had a boyfriend who thought that treating me bad was a “good” or “normal” thing to do.
I had a teacher who told me I wasn’t going to be able to go to a good university, even though I had the highest grades in my class.
These people don’t truly understand the difference between right from wrong. If they do, they don’t care. But long-term, it’s going to reflect on their lives. They’ll be unhappy.
You must, at all costs, try to educate yourself, be able to understand what’s good and what’s bad in life, and how to behave, to have good relations with everyone around you.
You will feel much better, as a result.
9. Avoid People and Situations That Bring Out the Worst in You
Sometimes, you find yourself in unbearable situations. People who disrespect you, scream, and abuse you.
In those situations, you must consider whether it’s worth staying.
When you are in an environment where you receive no respect and appreciation, and you’re putting real effort into it, maybe it’s better to leave.
If you try to communicate but you are not being heard, if no one cares about you and your needs, if you are just someone’s little slave or little pet, if your opinion never matters, if they treat you like you have no worth, if they bully you or laugh at you, LEAVE.
Do it in an educated way, if possible, but do it. There must be a more fulfilling way to spend your time and energy.
There must be a way you can create, with your life, the most beautiful love story that has ever been written.
I know self-love can be challenging. But I feel that in a way it’s what life is about.
I remember that February when our sick friend almost died in my arms and me, desperate and alone, had no clue what to do. She passed away at the hospital a few days later. And I know that one of the reasons she got sick was because she was working very hard and probably didn’t respect her wellbeing, needs, and boundaries for a long time.
She probably didn’t love herself as she should have. She died alone, even when she had seven brothers and sisters, and a son.
In general, I believe that self-love is about having the right balance between self-care and work duties, family, wanting to help someone in need, and so on.
Money is good, work is good, helping is good, but too much of something is not healthy.
You can take care of a sick person and meanwhile, from time to time, do something for yourself, like taking a break to sleep or read or whatever makes you a little happier and disconnects you from the present pain.
Finding time to feel good and accomplishing your goals will benefit the people around you, too. You will spread positive energy and bring value to yourself and the world.
You will be more kind and supportive and live a better life.