Why Loving Yourself Is as Important as Loving Others

o be effective in your kindness, must you always put others' needs and feelings in front of your own? As parents and/or siblings and/or carers, we may often and should often do that. Yet isn't it important to take a more balanced approach?

Kindness and altruism are focused on the welfare of others; in wanting to make the world a better place by helping those in need.

Kindness involves:

  • Being kind to and looking after others. But what about being kind to and looking after ourselves?
  • Praising, encouraging, rewarding others; demonstrating your pride in them. But what about praising, encouraging, rewarding ourselves? Being proud of who we are and less afraid to blow our own trumpets to celebrate our achievements?
  • Devoting time to connecting with and listening to others. But what about devoting time to connecting with and listening to ourselves (me-time to reflect, relax, reward and rejuvenate).
  • Serving others by delivering what they need. But what about serving ourselves? Not in a mean and selfish way, but by delivering what we need in order to flourish, thrive and make the most of our one and only precious life (and thus be better equipped to enable others to do so).

To be effective in your kindness, must you always put others' needs and feelings in front of your own? As parents and/or siblings and/or carers, we may often and should often do that. Yet isn't it important to take a more balanced approach? Being kind is proven to be one of the best ways to boost our own well-being (the very act of kindness is beneficial to our own happiness levels) Yet, while being kind to others is worthy and something we should all do, it should not be so selfless that our own life, feelings and needs are entirely sacrificed. That kind of selflessness, while admirable, can create its own problems. If you stop caring about yourself, your health and energy levels can deteriorate. A lack of focus on your own needs can lead to deep-rooted feelings of resentment (a la the regretful George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life). The very word 'selflessness' conjures up notions of a lack of self. While it is entirely acceptable to lack selfishness and self-importance, deemed to be mean attributes, a complete lack of self is not something to aspire to. Because you/we are important, whether or not to ourselves, but certainly to others. As such we owe it to ourselves to care about ourselves; to strike the right balance between altruism and self-care.

Furthermore, in showing ourselves a healthy and balanced level of self-love (and self-respect) we honour our selves; we grow as people and are thus better able to serve others. The more energy, passion, positivity and purpose we have, the more empowered we are to make the changes we wish to see in the world, to drive forward to fulfil our own dreams and to help others to do the same; to make a difference and impact the world positively. A veritable win-win.

Living a good life; a flourishing life; it's all about balance. That is, balance between work and life, dreams and action, self-love and selflessness.

And, with Valentines Day upon us once again, surely we should turn the love towards our selves rather than merely lining the pockets of the card, toy and jewellery companies. As well as celebrating our love for others, let's celebrate our love for ourselves.

The Putting Ourselves Down Brigade

Now, if that very statement makes you cringe, it's not surprising. Human beings (especially us Brits) are quite averse to loving ourselves. We are the put-ourselves-down brigade. We constantly compare ourselves to others and err on the side of putting ourselves down rather than patting ourselves on the back.

Yet people who put themselves down set limitations on their own capabilities and often end up living a self-fulfilling prophecy. They think they aren't good enough and don't deserve good stuff, and so that's what they attract; a lack of good stuff and a perpetual dissatisfaction with their level of ability and with who they are.

Those people, rather than feeling inspired by other peoples' achievements, feel comparatively bad, even if it is their friends or loved ones who are doing well. "It makes me feel like my life is ordinary, compared to the extraordinary achievements of my friend, which makes me feel bad. I think, I can't compete with that," one friend once told me.

Of course, we all do it to some degree. Most people put themselves down from time to time. Even positive people with high confidence levels and good self-esteem who like who they are and are proud of their achievements wobble from time to time and feel inadequate or suffer from 'imposter syndrome.' I know I have.

Yet, due to our conditioning of 'nobody likes a show off' (a very British trait) blowing our own trumpet publically is often frowned upon and makes us feel weird to do so.

And yet, this lack of self-esteem can be damaging. It can lead people to tolerate abusive situations, fall short of potential, be constantly critical of ourselves and others and lead to depression.

I am not suggesting we all say 'forget everyone else, it's all about me' and walk around with a sense of arrogant entitlement where we refuse to learn from failures and become narcissistic. Nope. Merely respect and like who you are and, if you don't like who you are, take steps to make changes in your life so that you do.

If you've ever read any article about boosting your child's self-esteem or confidence it'd include tips such as 'never compare your child to others', 'show them love, encouragement and praise'. Surely you should do the same for yourself?

It's a humongous topic which encompasses perfectionist expectations and standards, fear of failure, social conditioning and self-esteem. But, essentially, showing yourself some love doesn't have to be difficult.

Self-love, self-respect, self-compassion means accepting mistakes and learning from them, accepting (and respecting) yourself for who you are (warts and all) and being kind to yourself. It's about setting goals and enjoying the journey instead of critically judging yourself if you fall short en route.

You don't need to think the sun shines out of your bottom to love-yourself. It's about having a well-balanced level of self-esteem and giving yourself some time, care and thought.

So this Valentines Day and beyond .. show YOU some love. You and all those you'll help and be kind to in the future deserve it.

5 Ways To Show Yourself Some Love

  1. Treat yourself to regular spa days on your own to benefit from proper me-time. With various deal sites offering a plethora of pamper packages for minimal money, these have become more affordable and do-able.
  2. Go on regular empowering and uplifting gratitude walks - connect with nature while counting your blessings.
  3. List your achievements (#achievementwall) and reward yourself when you achieve specific goals you've set yourself. Remember the 10 year old you? That's still you. Show yourself some encouragement, praise and reward.
  4. Drink green juice a few times per week (kale, lime, kiwi fruit, apple, celery, spinach and a dash of honey) Scrummier than it looks.
  5. Learn how to truly flourish. Taking the 7 steps to flourishing helps us to live our best lives and enable others to do the same.

Share your #loveselfie with Amanda De Cadenet and The Conversation TV team as part of their campaign to encourage and share self-love practices during February 2014.

To take part in The 7-Step Flourish Challenge and grab your free 10 Ways To Flourishing Checklist click here.