Self Love Isn’t Selfish
Many of us grow up thinking we need to put others first at all times. To do otherwise is selfish. Even at the cost of our own sanity. While this might keep everyone else around us happy, there’s someone really important that we neglect in that process: ourselves.
We’re often rewarded for this kind of self-sacrifice. And that can make it hard to focus our attention on ourselves. Especially if it feels selfish.
I’ve learned though, that this can lead me away from my true path, and from my true self — away from authenticity. To me, authenticity is self-love, and it means showing up for yourself. And self-love isn’t selfish.
But what happens when I let someone else get in the way of that?
Sharing My Story
If you’ve read my book, you know that I spent some time in a marriage with a narcissist. Not just your run-of-the-mill, self-obsessed jerk, but an abusive, highly manipulative, covert narcissist. Being in that relationship was a journey for me, one that I didn’t even begin to understand at the time or know how to navigate.
My compass was a little broken, you might say. While I take full responsibility for my part in the relationship, I have come to realize that being with this person destroyed my self-confidence. Despite a successful career and good head on my shoulders, I can remember when things started to first feel “off” in the relationship with my abuser. It was very early on and he had already professed his undying love for me. We’d been seeing each other for about six weeks.
That’s when he asked someone out for a date. Right in front of me. We were out with friends and he asked a woman if she wanted to meet up.
When I politely brought it up later, he brushed off the situation like it didn’t happen (classic gaslighting). Stating that ‘I was too sensitive’ (classic projection).
And I believed him and doubted myself .
I believed him despite the tiny, nagging feeling that I was being betrayed in some way. I ignored it, because it was a small blip in the big scheme of things. Of course, the tiny issues grew into bigger issues, until they were huge, elephant-in-the-room issues.
I didn’t rock the boat, because the relationship quickly became about him feeling safe and comfortable. My needs, on the other hand, were deprioritized. We lived like that for over a decade.
How to Practice Self-Love
People-pleasing and sacrificing my own comfort for this other person took a toll on me over the years. I’m still healing, and I’m still doing the work.
There is no simple solution, but I know one thing: Healing takes a lot of self-love and compassion.
I’ve turned my self-love into a practice, and I’ve found that there are a few requirements for it to feel effective:
- I need to be mindful. Being compassionate with myself means that I take the time to really feel what’s going on in my body. Am I anxious? Am I thirsty? Am I restless? Slowing down for just a few minutes to sit and breathe can help with this.
- Stop judging yourself! I know this is easier said than done at times, especially since it’s so easy to compare our lives to others. Trust that you’re on the right path FOR YOU. Accept where you’re at now.
- Keep a journal nearby. Make notes about the things you’re proud of and that you’re grateful for. What talent or trait do you have that your loved ones admire most?
- Forgive yourself. Give yourself grace for the things you’ve done that you’re not proud of. Are you hanging on to hurt that you need to let go of? (You can try out my newest meditation: Loving Forgiveness)
- Be consistent! Show up for yourself on a regular basis. Be the loving, reliable partner that YOU need in your life. Go on solo dates and have dance parties to celebrate being human. And do it consistently.
How Self-Love Impacts The Rest of Our Lives
When we strive for more authenticity and love ourselves fully, this is not selfish.
Love is not just what we feel for others, but a practice that we can cultivate within ourselves. And when we know how to love ourselves fully, we can show others how to love — and that’s not selfish at all.
Inner Affirmations Journal Prompt
In what ways can I show myself the same love I extend to others?
*If you’ve experienced narcissistic abuse, you’re not alone and you don’t have to go it alone. On my resources page, I recommend a few tools and programs that I’ve used to support my own recovery.