This question has been confusing for me for a long time, until I finally figured out the answer a few months ago. I felt a great relief and excitement to try out different ways to love myself and enjoy the benefits. My relationship with others has magically improved ever since. So, I’d like to share my findings with you and hopefully this may bring you some value.
The fundamental difference between these two is that being selfish is a result of lacking something internally and not being aware of that. It could be a lack of love, confidence, security or real happiness. People who are selfish have likely not yet accepted what they lack and instead of working on these areas, they unconsciously try to get other people to meet these needs for them. The intention is always on others. Whether it’s about what they can get from others, defending themselves from others or demanding things from others… Even though it may not be pleasant to come across such a situation, but knowing that these people are just trying to get their internal needs met, may provide us with more options to how better react to it.
Self-love happens when someone is AWARE about themselves and FULLY embracing themselves as the way they are. People who love themselves take responsibility and full ownership of their own needs and wants. They know that they are in charge of their needs and they are able to meet these needs by themselves. They set healthy personal boundaries and express what they want and need in a kind manner. The intention is not to “take” from others, but to respect and meet their own needs.
Knowing that, we always need to put on our own oxygen mask first, and then help others. Why is that? Imagine if you feel very tired and need to catch up with sleep, but you’ve made an appointment with your partner for dinner and a movie tonight. What would you do? If you proceed anyway without expressing your tired feeling and the need to sleep, you may not be able to be present during the dinner and movie. You may react emotionally to your partner because you unconsciously sacrificed yourself. Even if nothing goes wrong, would you really enjoy the whole experience? As a result, would you be happy? Would your partner be happy? Now, let’s go back to the oxygen mask question, the reason is when we have met our own needs, it allows us to better help others to meet their needs. Similarly, when we love ourselves, it allows us to better love people around us.
At this point, you may still not be 100% clear on the difference between “love yourself” and “being selfish”. It’s OK. We can try to go deeper and let’s take the last paragraph’s example. You may worry that expressing your feelings and needs may upset your partner, may cause an argument or being judged as selfish. I agree that there are different ways of communicating and with different people it works differently. But keep in mind expressing your feelings and needs doesn’t mean imposing your wants on your partner. It’s about expressing your true-self and seeking for understanding and mutual agreement. It’s important to allow your partner to choose what they want to do to best get their own needs met. In this case, they may choose to just have a simple dinner and postpone the movie. They may choose to let you rest and go to dinner and movie with someone else. They may also choose to postpone the whole plan. Being able to express yourself truly and respect your partner’s choice creates real intimacy for the relationship which can allow you both to better love each other in the future. This does not only apply to loving relationship, but to any kind of relationship. Can you notice how it’s different from being selfish? If your partner is not able to provide understanding and support your primary needs, allow yourself to be with a different partner. This is another topic which we can look into next time.
If you feel you struggle with loving yourself, you can actually find plenty of recourses on the internet, books, videos, podcasts, etc. In fact, self-love is the ultimate goal for all kind of self-development and spiritual works. It’s a well developed area. Here I would like to just introduce two little tips which have helped me in the past.
1, Write a list of things you are good at and things you really appreciate yourself for. It can be as small as “I cook yummy chicken soup.” Or “I draw well.” If you really struggle with this, you can ask your friends to help. Ask them to write down “What do you benefit from being friends with me?” Add the answer to your list. Every day, review the list when you wake up and before you sleep, allow yourself to feel the joy of reading it through.
2, Whenever you don’t know what to do or which decision to make, ask yourself “What would someone who loves themselves do?” accept the answer and act on it. When you ask yourself this question, your intuition will automatically give you the answer, it doesn’t matter how small the decision is. It could be “Should I have an apple or a banana?” Your intuition knows at that particular moment, an apple or a banana would be better for your body.
Suzy Wang is a coach and contributor for The Suited Monk community. Books are available for purchase on amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/jqh9s3n For more information, connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheSuitedMonk/
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