Loving Myself Has Been My Greatest Challenge
I’ve always been a very empathetic and compassionate person. As one who deeply feels what others are experiencing, it makes it almost impossible to not be commiserate. In many situations, that charity has extended to a fault, as there’s a fine line between assisting others and enabling them. There’s also a fine line between assisting others and doing so to my own detriment. It’s taken years to learn and set those boundaries, and even so, loving others has rarely been a difficult factor for me. It has been in learning to extend unconditional love and compassion to myself, that I’ve experienced the greatest challenges.
Depriving Myself To Ease The Struggles Of Others
It’s interesting, the lengths I am willing to go in order to assist others. I’m often prepared to deprive myself, if it means easing the struggles of another. Yet, often the very thing I am inclined to do to help someone else, I would rarely, if ever, consider doing for myself. Why is that?
We Are Our Own Worst Enemy
It’s often said we are our own worst enemies, and the judgment we wage upon ourselves far outweighs any standard we would consider holding another to. Throughout the ages, the wise ones have spoken time and again, that we cannot truly love others until we first learn to love ourselves. How can that possibly be, when my heart has ached to love, comfort, and serve others, yet until recently, I had always been devastatingly deficient in compassion towards myself?
Identifying And Moving Beyond That Which Is Holding Us Back
It has taken a significant amount of introspection to answer this question, and in all honesty, I wasn’t thrilled with the outcome and what it had to say directly about me. Yet, it’s more important that vulnerability exposes a common thread among many of us, that we might identify and move beyond that which is holding us back.
The True Motives Behind My Behavior
Helping and serving others is something I have always engaged in and have been passionate about. Some of that has been rightly driven by my empathy and compassion towards others. Yet, some has been motivated by the feelings about myself that were generated when I helped others. In the midst of some of my darkest times, when my self-esteem was low, my worth was questionable, and my purpose was lacking to say the least, assisting others helped me to ground, feel better about myself, and made me feel more accepted by others. Feeling good about myself is great, yet when it becomes a driving force in my behavior, it’s questionable at best. Recognizing this, I’m learning to spend a good bit of time looking at the true motives behind my behavior. I’ve started asking myself each time I’m afforded an opportunity to help, am I doing this selflessly because it’s the right thing to do, or because I need or want to feel better about myself?
Seeking Approval And Acceptance From Other Sources
Why is this so important? When I don’t truly and unconditionally love myself fully, I then begin seeking approval and acceptance from other sources to fill in those gaps. The problem here is that no matter how much love and approval I receive from others, it is never enough to compensate for the lacking love I have for myself. It is only in doing the deep, internal soul work necessary to develop an unconditional love and acceptance of myself, that I become whole and I’m no longer driven by any external need for worth or approval. If I find myself continually engaging in behaviors to assist others, yet can’t honestly say that the deep, accepting, unconditional love for myself is alive and active, then I have some internal questioning that needs to transpire.
Valuing Others Far Above Myself
Another matter that began blatantly staring me in the face, was a strong history of valuing others far above myself. When I find myself gladly and without hesitation doing things for other people that I would never do on my own behalf, it’s a dead giveaway, and poor self-esteem and worth are typically at the source.
Feeding The Need To Feel Good About Myself
There’s a false narrative that’s quite prevalent these days that goes something like this…
“By making great or even painful personal sacrifice for the benefit of another, I’m proving my worthiness and the good state of my heart.” Sadly, any time I find myself proving something through my behavior, whether to myself or others, those motives are usually anything but selfless. The martyr complex feeds that need to feel good about myself at my own expense, yet that good feeling is far too short-lived, as it’s coming from external stimuli. True satisfaction, contentment, and lasting joy is something that can only be achieved from within.
Honestly Questioning Why I Do What I Do
At the end of the day, I really have to start honestly questioning why I do what I do. Am I feeling the need to do more because I have an underlying sense of guilt, shaming me for not doing as much as I ought? Am I making sacrifices to accommodate for something quietly running under the radar that I would like to silence? Am I serving others because it simply makes me feel better about myself and the state of my heart? Or, am I truly offering my assistance to make a positive difference in the lives of others who are less fortunate? Can I honestly say I unconditionally love and have compassion for myself, just as those I find myself serving? Am I daily valuing myself as much as I value others, or I do place their value and significance above my own?
Genuine Love And Compassion Begins With Ourselves
I would venture to say that most of us have a great deal of work to do in the department of self-love and compassion. I know I still do. Perhaps we need to step outside ourselves and look in from the outside, asking what we might do in the same situations, if we were dealing with someone else. It may be only then that we truly consider the degree of love and compassion needed for ourselves, when we look with the eyes of an outsider. What we will find without question is as our love and compassion for ourselves grows, so will our genuine love and compassion for others, with little, if any, overriding and self-serving need. Genuine love and compassion begins with ourselves, and then overflows to others. We cannot pour out to fill other vessels until our pitcher has itself been filled. My challenge for each of us today is to gift ourselves with the love and compassion we would be willing to offer another. In doing so, our ability to impact the lives of others will increase exponentially.
Love & Light,
Laura Lum Corby
Also published on Medium.