~Never allow someone to be your priority, while allowing yourself to be their option.

-Mark Twain

Selfish love…is that not an oxymoron?  Is it ever selfish to love?  Your first response would likely be, “no.”  Then why, I ask, do so many of us feel it is selfish to love ourselves? To at times, put ourselves first? For the majority of us, it’s obvious it’s not because we are incapable of love…we extend seemingly endless supplies of love, care and compassion to our families, friends, even virtual strangers. Are we not worthy of the same love we extend to others?  I mean, how can it ever be termed selfish to extend love to any living thing? Why is it different when we attempt to extend that love to ourselves? After all, we are biologically wired for self-preservation. And what is more inherently healing than love itself? Where then is the breakdown?

“Wait a minute,” you think, “what about narcissists? Isn’t that an example of selfish love?” Rest assured, the kind of self-love I speak of is a basic human right, it is emotionally healthy and it comes from an internal place of peace and gratitude; an understanding that your worth comes from within and is not based on exterior value. This is wholly different from unhealthy narcissism which many people feel is rampant in our society today and is one reason why people “run” from the notion of loving the self and risk appearing self-absorbed. But contrary to popular belief, narcissism robs the effected person of the ability to love the self. (Stay tuned to next month’s newsletter for a more in-depth look at narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.)

Furthermore, what happened to the belief that human life is to be valued? Does that not imply that we all have inherent worth simply as human beings?  You know, the all-lives-matter slogan we have been hearing lately all over news and social media? We are all flawed in one way or another, but so is the person next to us and the person next to him. So why would we be any less deserving than our neighbor? Henceforth then as human beings why don’t we believe that simply be-ing is enough to warrant love?  Why must we keep ourselves so busy being little human doers in an effort to prove our self-worth to ourselves and other’s instead of simply practicing be-ing human beings?  Appreciating our own be-ingness allows us to stay present in life, enjoying the here-and-now, moment to moment, rather than getting trapped in the doing which thrusts us headlong into the future, making us feel that if we just achieve this or that, then only then might we be happy, might we be loved. I’d like to share a parable, which further illustrates this idea of inherent worth:

According to an old Hindu legend, there was once a time when all human beings were gods, but they so abused their divinity that Brahma, the chief god, decided to take it away from them and hide it where it could never be found.

Where to hide their divinity was the question. So Brahma called a council of the gods to help him decide. “Let’s bury it deep in the earth,” said the gods. But Brahma answered, “No that will not do because humans will dig into the earth and find it.” Then the gods said, “Let’s sink it in the deepest ocean.” But Brahma said, “No, not there, for they will learn to dive into the ocean and will find it.” Then the gods said, “Let’s take it to the top of the highest mountain and hide it there.” But once again Brahma replied, “No that will not do either, because they will eventually climb every mountain and once again take up their divinity.” Then the gods gave up and said, “We do not know where to hide it, because it seems that there is no place on earth or in the sea that human beings will not eventually reach.

Brahma thought for a long time and then said, “Here is what we will do. We will hide their divinity deep in the center of their own being, for humans will never think to look for it there.”

All the gods agreed that this was the perfect hiding place, and the deed was done. And since that time humans have been going up and down the earth, digging, diving, climbing, and exploring—searching for something already within themselves. (Author Unknown)

Could it be that our “divinity” is that love? Unconditional love? I believe it is. Divinity is just another word for God or Godself. And love has long been a synonym for God. God is love and that love within is your Godself. It is simply inside us as it has always been, so deep inside, that we foolishly cannot see it and instead seek outside of ourselves for that sense of love and belonging in this three dimensional world.

So where then did this seemingly erroneous notion come from that loving oneself is selfish or bad?  Was this perhaps a covert, insidious message delivered to us over and over again through the years by loved ones, friends, even society as a whole? Yes, I do believe our environment plays a huge part. Have you ever been told self-sacrifice is to be admired and valued?  The message can be as simple as an employer commending us on working through our lunch hour to get that last report done.  Or if you are confident and self-assured (i.e. high self-love), others with less self-worth and self-esteem will inevitably see you as a cocky and arrogant, right?  After all, all that confidence and self-esteem can be downright scary and intimidating if you don’t possess it yourself!  So the confident person gets torn down with harsh words (or worse) in an effort to make the other look and feel better.  And thus, the message received is: “it’s not good to be this way, this is wrong. I must change.”  Or do you find yourself always giving and giving to others, making sure to put yourself last, if at all?  I believe we all carry a purpose in this life to give, love and serve, but how well will you be able to give, love, and serve if you don’t first give, love and serve yourself?   And we are all probably guilty of sending the message that loving yourself is selfish at one time or another in our lives, even if inadvertently. For example, have you ever made someone feel guilty for doing something for themselves when you really wanted them to be with you? Has your ego-self ever cried out for love and companionship from another, when they were just trying to be themselves and do their own thing?

So what happens when we hear that message over and over again, that loving and doing for ourselves is selfish?  Well, there is a slow breakdown, it goes from a simple thought or idea to a hard-wired, subconscious belief, one that most definitely damages a healthy self-esteem.  That belief is interpreted by the self as “I don’t deserve love” or “my needs are not important” or “I am not good enough.” Beliefs have strong roots indeed, which is not a good thing when that belief is negative and self-limiting.  However, beliefs can be changed.  Just as it took time to create that negative belief; it will take time to create a new, more life-enhancing belief to take its place. But it can be done with a little self-awareness and of course, a whole lot of self-love.

~Interested in exploring the thoughts and ideas in this article further? Please feel free to contact me at 314-502-9072 or kelly@happy-brain.com

Kelly Locker is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Hypnotherapist at Happy Brain Counseling, LLC.