Some people might cringe just at the sight of my title: Love yourself first? Before you love your children? Well, to be honest, if I had read this a decade ago, I would have reacted the same way.
You cannot pour from an empty cup
A common belief among many people – especially women, who are kind of hard-wired for this type of behavior – is that parents need to take care of their children first. It seems to make sense when you first think about it, but that’s only because we usually have been brought up with this belief. However, if you take a closer look at it, and maybe after years of parenting running on empty, you begin to understand that you cannot give what you don’t have. The truth is that we need to be loved just as much as our children – and only then will we be able to give our family genuine love.
What is self-love?
Self-love relies on self-acceptance which refers to the ability to embrace all facets of ourselves. In other words: to love ourselves unconditionally. On the one hand, this implies that we make the conscious choice to love ourselves as we are today with all our strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, it means that this love isn’t tied to any conditions and therefore everlasting (e.g., we will still love ourselves after failure).
“If you have the ability to love, love yourself first.” Charles Bukowski
Why you should love and accept yourself
It will allow you to re-connect to your true self and be authentic
We are usually afraid to show our true selves because we think we might be rejected or judged if people discover our weaknesses. In reality, authentic people, who fully love and accept themselves, are much more prone to be accepted by others. The way you treat yourself is mirrored in how other people treat you.
You will stop sabotaging yourself
Self-criticism and lack of confidence, which usually accompany us before we make the conscious choice to accept ourselves as we are, often prevent us from achieving our goals. Loving and accepting yourself is the decision to stop fighting with yourself. Even though it’s tough to get completely rid of your inner critic, unconditional self-love will make it lose its power over you.
It will be easier for you to accept your children (and other people) as they are
The ability to love yourself and stop judgmental thinking will also change the way you interact with other people. Most importantly, you will understand that you shouldn’t and can’t change other people. As parents, we can easily cross the thin line between guiding our children and controlling them. On our own journey of self-acceptance, we will learn to accept them as they are even though their personality differs from what we expect or want.
You are role-modeling self-acceptance to your children
By showing your kids the importance of accepting oneself, you are teaching them the most essential life skills. Understanding that you love yourself and themselves with all their strengths and imperfections will help them develop a secure sense of self-identity and a more positive image of themselves. Also, modeling acceptance will encourage your child to accept not only themselves but also others.
You will feel free and relieved as you will not be waiting for something to happen to love yourself
As emphasized previously, accepting yourself means loving yourself unconditionally. It’s such a relief to know that you will always love yourself despite what happens in your life and to save yourself the ups and downs of conditional acceptance.
You will be relieved of the burden of wanting to fit in
We often hold ourselves back because we are afraid of what other people might think of us. Not seldom do we wear masks or act in a certain way depending on the group or context we are in. Obviously, there’s no harm in adapting our behavior to a situation; the problem is when we deny ourselves and try to be someone else to avoid being judged or rejected. Deciding to love yourself no matter what makes it easier to deal with rejection or judgment. You will care less about other people’s opinions and won’t need their approval to feel good about yourself.
You build the foundation of your self-development
Another important aspect is that even if we decide to accept ourselves as we are today, it doesn’t mean that we are not seeking self-growth. Much to the contrary, the act of unconditional self-love is the first step toward self-development. It will allow you to get to know yourself, discovering your hidden talents as well as the areas where you would like to make changes.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Aristotle
Despite the widespread misconception that being a parent should be enough to fulfill us, we need to realize that it’s counterproductive to lose ourselves in parenting neglecting our own needs and desires. Actually, taking the conscious decision of loving yourself unconditionally is the best you can do for yourself and your family.
And remember that loving yourself also means being kind to yourself. Give yourself the time to learn self-love and remember that it’s not only a conscious decision but also an ongoing practice.
Feel free to drop me a line to share how you practice self-love and what impact it has on your life as a parent.