Selfish, unselfish, ‘love yourself’, love your neighbour

We’ve all heard it before: you can only love other people, if you love yourself. People saying that are generally speaking not the kind I personally take very seriously. However, as one reader told me in response to my last post (on my Dutch blog), I sounded just like them for a bit.

I guess that calls for an explanation.

What I’ve come to feel is that they’re right: you can only love someone else, if you love yourself. Just like you can only respect other people if you respect yourself. That last one was always easier for me to understand than the first, and I guess that says something about my amount of self-love.

But I’ve grown and I now feel it to my bones enough to repeat it one more time: loving other people starts with loving yourself.

HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean it’s a good plan to action. It’s not like the way to learn to love yourself is by ignoring other people. In fact, I think it’s the exact opposite: the way to learning to love yourself, is by loving other people. Because only if there’s love, there’s something worth loving: even in yourself.

Then again, for many of us women, we can easily go overboard in giving. I forget the details, but there’s some speculation in feminist science of religion circles that for men humbleness is what needs to be learned. For women it’s standing up for themselves. [The reason one ended up in most religious texts while the other was only discovered by psychologists in the last century should be obvious: men have always been the ones writing religious texts.]

Does that make any sense? Certainly sounds paradoxical, doesn’t it?

Personally I think I’ve had to learn both humbleness AND standing up for myself, however paradoxical that may sound. It’s like: I could stop shouting for attention when I was confident of being heard anyhow. And no, that’s not merely a reference to my audience here 🙂 though it helps.

Either extreme is too much. Too much giving and you end up burnt out. Too much stress on ‘me, me’ and you end up… I guess dry, afraid, empty…

And the fundamental thing is: until you feel it in your bones that only loving yourself makes it possible to love other people, you won’t know it. And this piece won’t make sense, nor help any.

3 thoughts on “Selfish, unselfish, ‘love yourself’, love your neighbour”

  1. Hi Katinka! I’m glad I found your site. Great post! As Whitney Houston puts it in a song “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all”. How true. For you can only reap love if you sow love. Unselfishly, of course – the unconditional kind of love. The kind that nurtures the value of self-worth. A love molded with respect.

    I guess like you, I have learned both humility and standing up for myself. Way to go modern, independent women!

  2. I’ve often come across that statement in my lifetime, and to be honest, I never really understood its meaning. What is love? How do we define it? For me, I’ve always used the definition from the bible, although I’m not a religious person. If I use the bible’s definition of love then I don’t believe we can obtain true perfect love but only strive for it. All we can do is attempt to “love” others and ourselves. Therefore, we may experience times in our lives where our energy of loving is more intense outwardly or inwardly. I think the key is to have those in balance.

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