A lover asked his beloved,
Do you love yourself more than you love me?
Beloved replied, I have died to myself and I live for you.
I’ve disappeared from myself and my attributes,
I am present only for you.
I’ve forgotten all my learnings,
but from knowing you I’ve become a scholar.
I’ve lost all my strength, but from your power I am able.
I love myself…I love you.
I love you…I love myself.
“A Gift of Love” by Deepak Chopra
So often have I heard from marriage counseling and couples counseling experts, as well as couples themselves – “To love someone else, you have to love yourself first,” and the question on my mind always was – “WHY?” Why is it thatI need to love myself in order to be able to love someone else, and what does loving yourself mean? How do I know whether I do or do not love myself? I mean, if I am certain that I do – this is great! I am ready for love, baby! But what if I find myself falling short of total love for myself? What’s then? Can this insufficiency be remediated or am I forever doomed to a loveless existence? “Forever” is an awfully long time…This was a bit of a concern for me. As a psychologist and a psychotherapist I am supposed to have all the answers, don’t I… I was determined to reach an understanding not only for myself, but also for my couples counseling clients in Beverly Hills and Valencia. We all deserved to know!
You have probably noticed by now that all my articles have one core focus: couples, love, intimacy, relationships, marriage, and sex. These are the core issues we tend to address in couples counseling and marriage counseling. These are not just my favorite things to write about. These are the things I dedicated most of my life studying, experiencing, and understanding. Some find their passion in cars, bungee jumping, shoes, traveling, sports, and food. My passion is the passion itself. The emotional intensity of an intimate connection with a beloved human being is beyond anything else I have ever experienced.
I was super-motivated to get to the bottom of the issue: Why is loving myself is so important for me to be able to create a loving relationships and genuinely love another. I am sharing my insights accumulated from personal experience, from many marriage counseling and couples counseling sessions, and from all the written material my unconscious mind digested in my lifetime. My hope is to show you a shortcut on your path toward the happy relationships you want. Thanks to the wonders of blogging now you do not have to live in Beverly Hills or Valencia for me to share my insights with you. If love is what you seek, follow me in the labyrinth of self-discovery and love shall be your prize.
First, I had to get clarity regarding the meaning of “self-love.” If I like my eyes, does it mean I love myself? If I don’t like my singing voice (and trust me when I say you would not like it either) does it mean I do not love myself? Does an objective judgment of my shortcomings mean lack of self-love? I know for a fact that I cannot sing, I am a rather average driver, my memory for faces is not so good (which for psychologist and a psychotherapist can be a problem and it got me into all kind of awkward situations on numerous occasions), my athletic abilities fall far behind those of some of my buddies, my math skills are only a bit above average, etc. Does knowing these things mean I do not appreciate who I am? No – it does not. Loving who I AM is different from loving what I HAVE or DO.
Having the body that you want and enjoying it is different from loving who you are. Let’s say you have a beautiful body, everyone can see how attractive you are, and you get plenty of attention from people due to the simple fact that you are hot. Great! Maintaining good shape and healthy, attractive body is something we can choose to do. It is something you DO and HAVE, not who you ARE. If, for any number of reasons, you temporarily gain a few pounds and find yourself to be out of shape, it does not necessarily change who you are. It is likely to change your perception of your body, but not of who you are.
So your body is not who you ARE. What about your personality and behavior? Let’s say you walk on the street and notice someone donate $100 to charity. You might think this person is good-hearted and very generous individual. Than you come to know that this person is a very wealthy drug dealer and is making on average $10,000 a day. This information is likely to change your idea of who this person is – a dangerous mobster, who is probably responsible for many crimes in the area. Your attention shifts and you notice two tidily dressed and well-behaved girls standing next to this individual – undeniable resemblance makes it obvious these are his or her daughters. The girls are laughing and enjoying the company of their parent. You also become previewed to the fact that this person spends a significant amount of time and money helping his or her elderly parents, paying for their health expenses, house maintenance, food, and vacations, to make sure they enjoy their old age.
We are so very tempted to make a swift judgment regarding this person and his/her personality based on one of the behaviors described above, however, different behaviors lead us to different, and at times opposite conclusions. So is this person good or bad, immoral and callous or loving and caring? There is one key principles of NLP (neurolinguistic programming) that I share with my marriage counseling clients and would like to share with you as well: We are not our behavior. Does not matter whether you are in Beverly Hills, Valencia, London, or Hong Kong, your behavior is not who you are, because you are more than your behavior. If yesterday I was asked to donate and refused, but today I was asked to donate and I did, it does not mean that yesterday I was stingy, and today I became generous, does it? The behavior itself could have nothing to do at all with my personality or who I am. So my behavior is not who I am and I am not my behavior.
What about our personality? Is our personality who we are? Our culture and language tends to equate the two. For example we say I AM intelligent, funny, outgoing, stubborn, etc, clearly describing personality traits as who we ARE. However, the only way to infer about one’s personality is by the behaviors we produce, choices we make, and things we express. Some psychologists and psychotherapists would probably agree that we ARE our personality. Here I would like to propose that we posses a much deeper aspect of ourselves that goes beyond our personality and our behavior – an aspect of us that is permanent and is not subject to change. Since both our behavior and our personality are subject to change, these are unlikely to be our core-self. So what is?
This is the place where we step onto the fringe of my area of expertise as a psychologist and a psychotherapist. This is the arena of Spirituality and I intend to leave you to do the soul searching on your own. Whatever is the answer you come up with, and whatever you find to be the core of your being, you are right. To offer you a possible direction, I can point out to the common core essence shared by all humans, such as freedom of choice, free will, creativity, interconnectedness (the deep feeling of being a part of something bigger), etc. These elements are not subject to change and seem to be part of a deeper core nature of our being, aka – who we ARE.
Connection with and appreciation of that deeper and bigger part of you is, in my humble opinion, the true definition of self-appreciation and self-love. Appreciating and loving ourselves is appreciating and loving the core of our being, the essence of us, whatever we feel and think it to be. Becoming aware of this deeper part of us and maintaining this awareness throughout our daily lives is a huge step toward a wonderful relationships with ourselves and with that special someone. My own affirmation that reminds me of that connection sounds something along the lines of: “I am always grounded in self-love, self-appreciation, and self-respect.” You can think of other ways to remind yourself of your true self and maintain your connection with the bigger part of you. I promise to write more about developing and strengthening this connection, as well as self-love and self-appreciation in one of my next articles. And now, let’s talk specifics – Why is it important to love yourself in order to be able to love someone else? Continue to Part II.