Self-love is a popular topic in the arena of wellness, and with good reason. If we don’t value ourselves, we are not well. For many of us, self-love is a concept that takes some effort and consideration to accept and embrace, let alone embody. Because of staid and well-established social norms, it can be easy to confuse this kind of love with selfishness, but things become clearer when we have a better understanding of the nature of love. The fact that we have a lot to learn about love indicates that we have some work to do to become a healthier society. However, we do have a yardstick for this kind of love, which is, at its core, the recognition that we all have intrinsic value.
We tend to value human life intrinsically when it is brand new – babies being born into this world – or when it is almost over – people on their death beds. As babies and on the brink of death, we are the closest to an existence beyond this one. . From all accounts of those who have had near-death experiences, who have visited the existence beyond this one, it is understood that we have great value. In the case of those who experience the beyond, this value is felt in the form of a love so profound that no one wants to leave that loving existence and return to this one. This love is innate and part of our true selves. It is why so many who delve within to explore themselves more deeply begin to heal and become more whole.
So how do we lose our innate sense of self-value and love? It happens in many ways on an individual and societal level, and it begins when we place value on what a person does or doesn’t do above who they are. As children, the focus on our accomplishments is very high, beginning with when we start to talk and walk, then school, lessons, and measurements of all sorts. It’s easy to lose our sense of self-value in focusing on what we’re ‘good at’ or ‘not good at’ and how we measure up to others. These comparisons and measurements begin there and grow as we get older.
We also value ourselves based on what we do for others – how we benefit others as a measurement of self-worth. The premise being that our only value lies in what we offer others rather than the simple, intrinsic value of who we are. Children pick up on all of these signals related to value, which is often focused on appearance, abilities, and certain kinds of accomplishments. It’s how things have been for generations. Perhaps it’s time to change that now.
I have been focusing inward a great deal over many years as part of my wellness practice, and this experience continually emphasizes that self-love is a fundamental aspect of well-being. More people are delving within and becoming aware of this profound truth, which is a sign of positive change and signals a generational shift that bodes well for the future of humanity.
The struggle many face with this concept of self-love is due to the influence of the past and the continuing and residual attitudes that permeate our society. Many of us have come from backgrounds filled with praise for being ‘selfless.’ It was quite a revelation to me to begin to operate from a position of ‘self-service,’ which has been an essential theme throughout my healing journey. I found it surprising and ultimately liberating to embrace ‘what serves me,’ realizing that some things that I had considered to be self-serving in the past were not truly serving me at all. Not if I was operating from the place of love.
There is certainly value in serving others as well, and when we are in a state of self-love while exploring and using our unique gifts as a testament to this love, we will inevitably be serving others in doing so. We each have a unique path to follow in this life, and the more we honour that, the more we contribute to a healthy society. Sometimes, becoming well is the most valuable service we can offer in this life. In each instance, it has an impact that expands outward to great effect – much greater than many realize.
An important first step towards self-love is self-discovery, and journeying within is an essential aspect of self-discovery. Instead of learning through outward reflections, this inward path allows us to connect with that innate state of love that is within all of us. Many who have done this and just allowed the lessons to come have realized that, like many of the shifts on this path, it takes time to make the big changes in perspective – to own them, apply them, and embody them. However, the smaller shifts are apparent fairly quickly. Once we begin to open up to another way of being, it changes us.
The greatest opportunity for me to appreciate intrinsic human value came when my dad was at the end of his life. He had been in long-term care for years before the end came, and a month before it happened, I had a deeply moving dream. My dreams can be important healing and teaching experiences, and this dream inspired me to write my father’s eulogy as I was giving this eulogy in my dream. During this eulogy, I spoke of some of my father’s finer attributes, but it became clear to me that these descriptions: kind, handsome, funny & gentle could be attributed to many other people. So what was it about my dad that made him so valuable and lovable? It was quite simply who he was. That unmistakable, unique essence of the man we knew and loved so well. There was a clear recognition of his intrinsic value. We knew this without question as we grieved and thought about his life and the time we shared with him. Can we know this without question about ourselves too? Can we embrace this ultimate truth about all of us that others will experience when we pass? Through this eulogy that I actually gave at his funeral, my father offered me a most valuable lesson that I’m passing on to you. Recognizing the power of it and the simple truth of it is important. One of the deepest truths that I have learned through the path of personal growth is that who we are and how we regard ourselves is felt by others without us even saying a word.
Our self-regard is a signal that we send out into the world that is being responded to all the time. So, if we regard ourselves with love, we create the best possible experience for ourselves in this life. Once we orient ourselves to valuing ourselves in this way, we can cultivate a society that recognizes the intrinsic value of humanity. This reflects outwards in positive ways that will change how we exist – how we educate children, for example, which can change everything. After all, if we place such value on ourselves, we will place more importance on learning about ourselves in the earliest stages of our lives – a giant gap in our education system.
We have work to do to bring about this great shift, but it’s fully underway. It’s a progressive, intentional evolution that must begin on an individual level. It all begins with self-love. Who knew this could be such a learning curve? But it is, and once we intentionally take it on, we begin to learn and embrace what it means to recognize our intrinsic value, knowing the profound impact it can have in our lives, on the next generation, and in our world. Just think of how many aspects of our society would change if self-love was a core value that had to be considered and adhered to before making any policy, product, or program. Make no mistake, loving yourself and recognizing your intrinsic value is important work. I hope you begin this work today and open up to the wondrous possibilities that come with it.