The Bible enjoins us to love our neighbor as ourselves. In other words, love of the other is built upon a foundation of love of self. The Buddha said that when we realize how important it is to love ourselves, we stop making others unhappy. Why is it then, that we have so much trouble putting this into practice?
Perhaps one reason is that we confuse self-love with selfishness. From the time we begin to understand language, if not before, our parents teach us not to be selfish. We are taught to share our food and our toys, to wait our turn, to consider others’ feelings. This is a necessary teaching, but in our culture at times it goes too far, and attacks the heart of our natural feeling of love for ourselves.
Self-love and selfishness are not at all the same. Selfishness dictates. It wants to keep the whole pie for oneself. Self-love teaches us that it is better to take a small piece, or even none at all, because this is healthier and therefore kinder. Selfishness wants to take and take and take. Self-love wants to take but also understands that giving is good, and not only for the recipient but also for the giver. Self love isn’t about getting more than others, but that the magic lies in the word enough. Self love teaches us to befriend ourselves, to encourage ourselves, to appreciate what is good about ourselves.
Try this: Pause and breathe in and out. Let a feeling infinite kindness and compassion for yourself flood your body and mind, suffusing every cell with a sense of well-being and heartfulness. Bathe in these pleasant, warm, radiant feelings. If thoughts arise about some way in which you should be different from the way you are, simply let them pass on through. Honor the good you have done and the good you intend. Smile at any mistakes you feel you have made, acknowledging your humanness. Have compassion for yourself for the ways you have suffered in life. Let this feeling expand from you until it encompasses all those you love and even those you don’t yet love. Take this feeling into the world with you and renew it frequently. You happiness will expand tremendously.