By: Jena Ann
I think self-love is an important topic that isn’t talked about enough. Whether dealing with a chronic illness, a mental health issue, or just dealing with the pressure of everyday living, self-love is super important! We talk about self-esteem a bit in society, but self-love is something much greater than self-esteem, and deserves to be given a spotlight of its own.
The Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Love
The dictionary defines self-esteem as confidence in one's own worth or abilities; self-respect. Self-love is defined as regard for one's own well-being and happiness (chiefly considered as a desirable rather than narcissistic characteristic). Dr. Andrea Brandt, a licensed therapist, says “Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others. Self-love means not settling for less than you deserve (Andrea Brandt).”
There is a LOT that can be said with regards to Self-Love.
I want to specifically focus on the concept of
Sacrificing Well-being and Happiness
Pressure from Society Causes Sacrifices of Self-Love
I think that a lot of the time, society is trying to teach us a lot about doing things for others, helping others, which is great. But, sometimes there is too much pressure from ourselves or others to be a good parent, the perfect friend, or the perfect significant other. And sometimes with all the pressure, it comes at a sacrifice of our own health and our own happiness in order to make others happy. Sacrificing your happiness for a specific situation or another person is not always a bad thing. Small sacrifices in losing a bit of sleep or some other health sacrifice, is not a bad thing either. But, making sacrifices all the time is an issue.
I am guilty of this myself.
I used to be a big push over, didn’t say “no” enough, was easily guilted into things I didn’t necessarily want to do, and didn’t prioritize my health and happiness over other things in my life. Once I started focusing on: who I was, my needs, what truly made me happy, what didn’t, and learned how other people’s wants shouldn’t continuously be prioritized above mine, I found more peace, health, and happiness. I also struggled with pressure from myself to fit into a culture and group of people that I never felt like I belonged to. It wasn’t until I stepped back and asked myself “why was it worth it to try so hard to fit in?” that I realized the answer wasn’t at all linked to an end goal of being happier. Fitting into this particular group of people wasn’t going to make me happy, no matter how much effort I made to fit in. You shouldn’t have to try so hard to fit in, especially if you were born to stand out! Surround yourself with a group of people that bring you joy, who complement your personality, respect you, and care about you. Because you deserve that, we all do.
Are Any Sacrifices to Your Health and Happiness Worth It?
You might sacrifice your health or your happiness in order to keep up with responsibilities, or to achieve some type of short or long term goal. Hopefully that end goal will lead to more happiness, otherwise it may not be worth the sacrifice. But, sacrificing your health on an ongoing basis is basically never worth it. Short term things that you do or don’t do to stay healthy, have an impact on your long-term health. You can’t go back in time and fix your health, and once it is broken it is incredibly hard, expensive, and time consuming to put the pieces back together. To work on improving your health and wellbeing, check out my blog: Obtaining Wellness: The Most Important Healthy Choices to Pay Attention To.
Challenges of Self Love with a Chronic Illness
I know first-hand how difficult self-love can be when you are dealing with a chronic illness. You might feel sometimes like you are broken and not deserving of happiness or good health, but you are just as worthy as anyone else. You can often feel like you are being too selfish putting your needs first, and there is a sense of guilt for most people that comes with being sick all the time. You may also have a lot of pressure to be a good parent, friend, daughter, or significant other, and so on…
However, you will not succeed at being a good anything, if you never take time to take care of yourself. No matter what you might have been told, or what level of guilt you might feel, even as a parent you should always make time for self-care, along with time for just you and your significant other (if you have one). Experts agree you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of someone else. If you have kids, they need to be around the “you” that is healthy and happy, more than the ongoing sad, overwhelmed, or frustrated version. Time alone is especially important for introverts. Plus, at some point it will help teach your child how to take time for their selves, and do things independently, as well.
Dealing with Your Guilt
Instead of worrying about being that friend (or family member, coworker, etc.) who cancels frequently, you should focus on the things you can do as a good friend. Be the person that is there for your friend when they desperately need someone to talk to, or just to listen. Be that friend who creates a fun playlist of songs, a fun recipe book, or something crafty for them when you can’t get out of bed. Be that friend who shows gratefulness for having them in your life, when others can sometimes take friendships for granted. Even if you can’t take on as many responsibilities in your household, you can always find other ways to show your commitment or friendship to the people around you. Find positive things to do in place of what you can’t do, that don’t require sacrificing your well-being or happiness. Don’t concern yourself with what you can’t do as a friend. Love yourself enough to recognize that the effort you are putting in is worth something. If they can’t see that, the relationship may not be worth it at all. You deserve a healthy and happy life, just as much as anyone else. No one is above you or below you in your worth as a human being. Remember that.
When People use Guilt Against You
There are many people out there who will use guilt in order to get their way, or get something they need or want out of a relationship. Always keep your eyes open to this, some people won’t accept “no” for an answer, and come up with all sorts of reasons why you need to be somewhere or do something. Sometimes their reasons may line up with your values, and sometimes they will be about their own selfish wants or desires. Either way, it is not fair for them to put you in that situation. Stick to your reasons for saying no, or find an alternative solution, if possible. But, always remember your happiness and well-being is just as important as theirs. Respect yourself, and only make sacrifices when the end result will succeed the sacrifice being made.
To read more about my thoughts on healthy relationships while dealing with a chronic illness check out my blog Maintaining Healthy Relationships While Chronically Sick.
So how do you know if you have a healthy degree of Self Love?
Here are some articles from psychology today to help:
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