Written by Allison Bratsch, LPC, ACS
I believe that the PRIMARY component that leads to a happy and healthy life is the ability to love oneself and to show compassion for oneself. Why is this the most important? Because when we are truly loving ourselves, we make choices that are good for us – that help us and better our lives and relationships.
Now, you might be wondering… well, if I love myself completely and make choices in my life based on what is best for me, isn’t that selfish? If I love myself, doesn’t that make me a narcissist?
The answer, my friend, is NO.
What most people do not realize about narcissism is that the behavioral characteristics of a narcissist actually stem from a LACK of self-love, or in more Freudian terms – a wounded EGO. If you don’t believe me or agree with me on this, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll explain further.
As far as the idea of loving oneself and choosing one’s happiness first being selfish… Are you not a nicer person when you are feeling good about yourself and your life? Do you not have more to offer the people around you when you are at peace with yourself? Consider one of my favorite analogies I have used with many adults, especially parents that I have worked with over the last decade in the mental health field: You’re on an airplane waiting for the plane to take off and the flight attendants are going through their standard safety protocols. What do they say when they are demonstrating the use of the oxygen mask? Secure your own mask before assisting another passenger with his/her mask. Why? How can we effectively help another if we can’t even breathe? Think of it this way: there’s this wonderful idea developed by Abraham Maslow, a well-known 20th-century American psychologist, called the “Hierarchy of Needs.” What Mr. Maslow basically says is that in order to get to a place of self-fulfillment, peak experience, personal growth and reaching our highest levels of potential and functioning, we must first meet our “lower-level,” or more “basic,” needs. You know what they are: Food & Water, Shelter, & Safety… He says that we can’t truly be effective or productive in other areas of our lives, nor can we even engage meaningfully in relationships if our basic needs have not been met.
Here’s an example: have you ever been Hangry? You know, you’re so hungry that you’re actually feeling angry, and then you act like a jerk? Well, when our body doesn’t have fuel, our brains don’t really work quite right. I’m not a brain surgeon, but I do know that when I haven’t eaten in several hours, WATCH OUT. Let’s just say I am not at my best.
SO, yes, I have gotten off on a bit of tangent here, but the message I am trying to send is that you MUST LOVE YOURSELF enough to take care of yourself on a basic level. And if you take care of yourself on a basic level, you allow yourself the opportunity to connect with others and feel good about yourself, which ultimately, hopefully, allows you the opportunity to feel HAPPY and WELL. Stop making excuses and just do it – love yourself and take care of yourself – you deserve it.