Selfishness VS Self-Love

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By Basia Alicia Powell

I believe that the most difficult type of love to experience is self-love. This is particularly true for women, as men have less problems mastering self-love. Lack of self-love among women is almost like a “generational curse”. Each generation of women saw the previous generation master the art of “self sacrifice”, putting their husbands, children and in some cases their parents before themselves. This is particularly true for women of color. We were taught that love is equivalent to “self-sacrifice”.

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I often cringed when I hear women say that their children are their lives. Don’t get me wrong, as I have children who I absolutely love and adore. However, they are not my life. They are mine on loan and one day, they too would grow up and go on to live their own lives. The issue is when our self love barrel is low, we generally have difficulties with dealing with the isolation that comes when our children grow up and begin living their own lives (as they should).

You Must Be Selfish

Say what? Are you consistently putting the needs of others above your own. This is the first and major sign of selflessness that is not good for us. That is not going to get you into heaven. Many people do this to avoid being labeled as “selfish”. Too many people are afraid of the label, so they walk around “people pleasing” at the expense of their mental and emotional health. If you are constantly engaging in self-less behavior, then you will never perfect the art of self-love. You cannot achieve real self-love without understanding when to be self-fish and when to say, “No” and “Stop”. 

In other words there can be no  self-love without some element of selfishness. Selfishness is not always a bad thing. If your selfishness involves causing physical harm to others or taking something that does not belong to you, from others, then of course that is a bad thing. However, if you have to be selfish to maintain your sanity and  engage in self-care, then that form of selfishness is indeed a good thing. This usually means that someone is taking something away from you that they are not entitled to, and it is causing you mental and emotional harm.

You Must Engage In Self-care

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Another requirement necessary to for us to achieve self-love is our ability to engage in self-care. If we truly love ourselves, we should want to take care of ourselves. Whenever you purchase a brand new car, you always ensure it is clean and looking brand new for as long as possible.The same should apply to you. If you love yourself, you should always want to see yourself looking  your best at all times. We must therefore prioritize our mental, physical, spiritual, emotional and financial health daily. It is never constant. We never arrive at a point in our lives where we do not have to work at these five areas. Unfortunately, if one category is in jeopardy , all other categories are at risk. Therefore self-love cannot truly be achieved. More importantly, to address our self-care requires some level of selfishness. Sometimes we may have to say “no” to some things and some people to address our urgent need for mental or emotional self- care. It has nothing to do with being mean or selfish.

Selfishness Vs Self-Love

The truth is loving others should not prevent you from loving yourself. Your spouse, children and love ones should not prevent you from loving yourself. I believe that we were all born to achieve our purpose and live our best lives. I always encourage the people I love to live their best lives. Many of us were trained to choose less than what we deserve. I disposed of that mindset several years ago. I deserve the best.

Many of us were taught most of our lives that we are worth “less than”. That is absolutely not ok! I know many people who are wired to take care of themselves last. They absolutely believe that it is normal to treat themselves badly. Well I am of the mindset that if there is only one apple remaining to eat and there are three of us; I am not going to sit there and watch you eat it. It will have to share into three equal parts. The idea is I am not going to eat it and leave you hungry. That is called selfishness. However, when I ensure I get my share of the apple, that is called self-love.

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As I sit in my office writing this article, I am also reflecting on all those years when I did not understand the difference between selflessness, selfishness, self-love anf self-care. I spent so many years neglecting my needs and on occasions it is still very easy for me to fall back into bad habits. However, I learnt the hard way. I remember several years ago during my first chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer, all I could think about is I did not take care of myself enough and this is my end result. I cannot tell you how many times I have reminded myself that if the aircraft is going down and the masks are deployed, I must put my mask own first before I attend to my children. That is exactly what self-love is about. If you do not address your own needs and engage in self-love, how can you truly love others?  Would you truly trust someone who does not love themselves to love you? Do not make that mistake.

Hurting People, hurt people.

We all owe it to ourselves to take care of ourselves and engage in self-care.It is particularly crucial during this pandemic. When we feel good about ourselves, it is easier for us to be good to others. Today, the world is a reflection of all the people who have neglected to take care of themselves. People usually respond to you in accordance with the source and levels of their pain. The greater the pain, the greater the damage inflicted by the pain. The worst kind of pain is the one we cannot see. I urge you all to take care of yourselves today and always before you attempt to take care of others.

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