Loving Oneself Is the Beginning of All Love

Loving Oneself

Loving oneself properly is the beginning of all genuine love. This may seem a trite thing to say. But it’s both a profound and powerful truth.

As I’ve written about recently, love is not a sentiment. Rather, it’s a behavior. Some believe it’s a behavior we’re commanded to exhibit at all times. But just what this behavior is exactly, and what it demands of us eludes many. That’s partly because aspects of culture prompt many to gravitate toward things that seem like love but aren’t. But it’s also because the essentials of good character – once more widely understood and valued – are so lacking in many. Ultimately, understanding what love genuinely is, and harboring the willingness to show it, even when difficult, is what sound character is all about. (See: Chapter 10, Essentials for the Journey.)

While loving oneself is the all-important first step toward mature character, knowing how to do it is definitely a learning process. And it’s a particularly difficult process in an age of such widespread and deeply-entrenched narcissism. (See also: An Entitlement Culture Fosters Narcissism.) Self-admiration is not self-love. Nor is self-esteem, although a well-balanced opinion of one’s worth is essential for loving properly.

For the evolved character, love simply cannot be egoic. Accordingly, loving oneself properly is not about self-centeredness or pure self-interest. A genuine lover is mindful of a “bigger picture.” It’s about human welfare, beginning with one’s own.

Common Traps and Misconceptions

There are many misconceptions about love. And some of these can be catastrophic when it comes to our overall welfare. Cultural norms have a lot to do with how we commonly misperceive love. And in an age of unprecedented entitlement and indulgence, it’s not unusual for some to equate indulgence itself with love. Some misguided folks regard catering to the whims of their children or their lovers a sure sign of love. Others equate indulging their own whims with  self-love. But many times, doing the truly loving thing means solidly enforcing a “no,” whether it be with oneself or another.

In our times, learning to love is more challenging than ever because so many folks haven’t been taught what real love is by example. This is truly tragic. In medicine, surgeons are trained to “see one, do one, teach one,” when it comes to specific procedures. There’s powerful learning in attentive witness, practice, and mindful passing on of acquired skill. But if you’ve never actually witnessed real love in action, it’s almost impossible to know how to display it yourself or inspire it in others.

In the coming weeks, I’ll have much more to say about this topic. I also discuss the topic on the latest editon of Character Matters.

3 thoughts on “Loving Oneself Is the Beginning of All Love

  1. This article gets right to the point. When one does not have self love, relationships will be difficult. Looking back at marriage, I went in with self love, but then through years of raising children and working and being in an unhealthy marriage, I lost the love for myself and was just struggling to hold the family together and manage day to day. One does not lose self love in a day, it happens over a course of time, bit by bit till one day there are loose boundaries. I can see now why my life was a struggle at times, trying to manage and not having enough help in day to day raising a family.
    Looking back at the last BF who supposedly “loved” me, he did not love me. I had something he wanted. He needed me and wanted to possess me. And at the beginning I mistakenly thought I loved him. How stupid of me. I did not even know him fully yet. I was excited, having fun.
    I look at how my X treats my daughter, and it isn’t love. He shows love to our grandson, but not the daughter. He manipulates her, and she knows it, and tolerates him, because she needs him and says she loves him.
    So, if we have self-love, maybe we won’t make such mistakes in developing relationships?

    1. I question whether your X actually loves his grandson. I had a similar experience in where my X favored our daughter but didn’t accept our son – even telling people that he wasn’t his. But I question whether they are even capable of loving anyone. He tried to train our daughter to be like him so I think he saw a reflection of himself in her. At least to me, their kind of love is not what I would consider to be love. Love is being able to have the other persons best interest at heart. Although my daughter has the narc traits-nothing as bad as her Dad, but she seems to love her children. But then again, she is not as extreme of a narc as her Dad was.
      Hard to say what goes on in a persons head but their actions speak for themselves.

      1. kat,
        I look at his actions, and when he withheld him from me that was to grandson’s detriment, to an extreme. So yeah, that’s not love. He was harming him. I can see the sarcastic traits being picked up, which I hate to see. Not seen it much, but I’ve seen it.
        These CD people are like toxic waste. They spread their crap on everyone around them.

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