Self love is something we all understand in our bones, yet few grasp consciously. We gravitate to people who love themselves because we want to learn to love ourselves too; they regard themselves with love and we want to learn to regard ourselves with love. Yet for many of us, myself included, that self love has been elusive; somewhere in childhood I got the notion that I did not deserve to be loved for who I am; love was conditional and I had to earn it.
A lot of us are still trying to earn it, looking for approval in the things we do and the things we are. We think if someone else loves us enough, then we can turn things around and start to live fulfilled lives. The lack of such a person in my life only seemed to reinforce the notion that I didn’t deserve fulfillment. Oh I had relationships, but their presence in my life did not heal the wound; I was still seeking an approval that never quite satisfied.
The desire to feel loved is such a strong emotion that we will seek to fulfill that desire first, before other needs. It feels desperate and it is, so many of us try to hide it like I did. While we are busy hiding our desire for approval, those with genuine self love are actively seeking the fulfillment of their desires; they seem to be unabashed in asking: “What’s in this for me?” They ask that because they know in their bones that they deserve fulfillment; they see life as an adventure and want to make the most of it. If you love yourself, you will seek fulfillment, if you don’t love yourself, you will seek approval . We sense this so easily in others, yet find it so hard to address in ourselves. We are all hyperaware of this dynamic in others and sense intuitively the level of self love in another person. Can you sense this in other people even when they try to hide it? Of course you can! Everyone can, but we are generally too polite to say anything. The act of trying to hide it is not only ineffective, it keeps us stuck in the pattern.
It’s cliché because it’s true: you can’t completely love another until you first love yourself. The love that’s shared between two people when neither has self love is all mixed up with insecurity and the need for approval. It’s not that fulfilling, even if it does feel better than being alone. To be fulfilling, love needs to come from someone who already loves themselves. If you don’t love yourself, then you don’t embrace your own fulfillment, so how could you fully support your partner seeking fulfillment? Seeking approval for helping someone does not feel quite the same; more burden than treasure.
Guess what? We all deserve fulfillment! The only difference is that people with self love have decided that they deserve fulfillment and seeks it without reservation. They believe they deserve as much fulfillment as they can create for themselves. They deserve fulfillment, and even if they don’t get what they want in some situation they love themselves enough to try again. People without self love see the failure to find fulfillment as confirmation that they don’t deserve fulfillment it and maybe should not even be seeking it.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: We don’t actually need anyone’s approval in order to seek fulfillment our lives. In order to change from being a person who lacks self love into a person who embodies self love, you just have to decide you deserve fulfillment, then act like it by seeking to fill yourself up with all the wonderful things that life has to offer. That doesn’t mean you no longer enjoy having the approval of others, but you don’t need it and you don’t bend yourself out of shape in order to get it; you deserve fulfillment whether you have the approval of others or not. Bending yourself out of shape is not very fulfilling. It’s not even possible to always get the approval of others, so let that go.
Asking “What’s in this for me?” can seem like a selfish question. I believe that this is because we are taught not to be selfish as children. But as adults our happiness is also reflected in the happiness of others around us. Would you rather be around happy fulfilled people who love themselves? Or stressed out people needing approval? Sometimes you may ask the question “What’s in this for me?”, and the answer will be: ” I get to support someone I care about as they pursue their happiness”. Helping other people find fulfillment is one of the most fulfilling things we can do. Fulfilled people want to be around other fulfilled people, and will help create that whenever they can. Selfish self absorbed people are never fulfilled; that’s just not how the human heart works.
The most important test you will ever take has only one question: Do you love yourself enough to think you deserve a fulfilled life? Yes? No? Unsure? The fortunate few say yes easily. The most unfortunate among us say no, and many of us are unsure. It’s the unsure ones who are constantly seeking approval. They want to live a fulfilled life, but they just need some confirmation; they want someone to love them enough that they can start loving themselves. Whatever your answer to the above question, only you can answer it; only your answer counts. It’s what YOU think that matters, not what anyone else thinks. The answer to this question will have a profound effect on you life, so you better get it right. If you habitually get this wrong, as I did, it’s not a problem, your can retake the test as many times as you like.
Loving yourself is not about meeting some external standard of beauty, intelligence, accomplishment, or any other criteria. I’ve seen plenty of beautiful, intelligent and accomplished people that still need the approval of others. If you love yourself then you believe you deserve fulfillment, without reservations. If you don’t love yourself then you may be waiting for someone to love you enough first. YOU ARE THE PERSON YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR! YOU ARE THE ONE WHO NEEDS TO LOVE YOU ENOUGH FIRST! You are the only one who can decide that you deserve fulfillment in your life. It will NEVER come from the outside because that’s not how it works. It never worked that way and it never will; not for you; not for anyone. Quit waiting for it and decide right now to have the most fulfilled life you can possibly muster; only you can make that decision.
It doesn’t have to be marching bands and standing ovations. Seek the experiences that fulfill you. What fills you up? What gives you joy? What makes your heart sing? If it’s curling up in front of a fire and reading a book then do that. If it’s performing in front of an audience, then do that. If it’s helping others live fulfilled lives then do that. Only you know what fills you up, and only you can make the decision to that you deserve it. This is not a limited time offer, but act now anyway! You deserve it!