Do we love ourselves and how much?
PREREQUISITES FOR MATURE LOVE
To love ourselves means to have a good relationship with ourselves and that can include a highly constructive inner dialogue in which we support and cherish ourselves, but also have a realistic, critical (but not necessarily censorious) relationship. Our quality of life certainly offers an answer to this question as well. If there is satisfaction in one’s life, then it is safe to assume that self-love is present as well.
In which ways have our mother and father loved us?
The way that we were treated by our parents, the way that they had been treated by their parents and so on, are of great importance in terms of how we treat ourselves now… There is a whole transgenerational sequence of patterns that one generation passed onto another, just like Russian “babushka” dolls, where one doll comes out of another! We have molded and introjected those patterns, i.e. the ways in which our parents treated us. This has, over time, become the model based on we treat ourselves. What would it all have resulted in had those messages been toxic, destructive and depreciatory? At this point, as adults, we can stop for a moment and ask ourselves whether our self-image is defined solely by what we believed to be true when we were children or we can have a new and different opinion of ourselves.
Lack of self-esteem
A person’s relationship towards themselves is first built based on the input received from other people, as well as on molding our behavior to suit that input, and the option of seeing things from an adult (more realistic and different) perspective appears later. My clients who often come with a lack of self-esteem and point out that they accept themselves only partially, conditionally stating that they do not have enough proof for anything else… This causality is connected to the “if-then” logic, therefore only if you do and achieve a certain thing, then you are – worthy. This is narrow, demanding and sets requirements for particular values that a person does or does not possess.
As opposed to self-esteem, self-love treats a person as a whole. Therefore, in therapy terms, the person first regains self-esteem, or more precisely recalls the particular values that they possess, and only then becomes able to accept themselves as a being worthy of living.
How to coordinate our own and another’s wishes?
People, being the social beings that they are, live in environments that constantly set some conditions, codes of conduct, but other people, people that we build connections with, demand things which are contrary to our desires. At first glance, this may appear contrary to our self-love. However, we needn’t be afraid. Ecological partnerships do not go for the “either-or” option, quite the contrary, they follow the direction of dialogues and reaching a decision on whose wishes are going to be put first in the particular situation.
Therefore, they opt for reaching an agreement. And no matter what the decision might be, may it be fulfillment or non-fulfillment of one’s own wish, the latter is not a negation of self-love and vice-versa. Even Erich Fromm wrote about this, by talking about a type of dialectical tension when choosing between self-love and love towards others. He derived a conclusion that these two are not mutually exclusive. There lies the vary paradox – that love is not necessarily a romantic expectation and a constant demonstration of that sort, but a constant growth and change. Therefore, that type of mature love can only be practiced by those who know and love themselves. They are not afraid of taking a step out of themselves and into the common space referred to as WE.