You have to love yourself before you can love someone else. You have probably heard this before. What does it mean though? From the time we are born, life is set up to make us compare ourselves with others. At school we have tests and an expectation to excel. Our parents and peers may judge us by the grades we achieve or how popular we are with classmates and teachers.
Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man. Aristotle
It is in these early days that our feeling of self worth is programmed. Self worth, self esteem, whatever you call it, it is really our sense of self.
To many people this equates to a self confidence that brings a certain bravado. Basically to me it means a belief in myself that I can do anything that I set my mind to. My parents were ahead of their time in many ways. Gender equality was just inbuilt in them and, as a result, me.
My Dad in particular thought I should have the same opportunities as my brother. When I got my first car I was regularly taking the wheels off to check on the brakes and taking out spark plugs to clean them. In truth this probably happened far more often than was probably needed.
When we reach adulthood there is still this temptation to compare ourselves with others. We look at our friends, neighbours and colleagues and compare cars, homes and salaries for example. the problem with this is that it can be a never ending game. This can lead to problems and dissatisfaction. When you achieve a goal, there will always be someone who seems to be even better off than you and the whole cycle of comparison and dissatisfaction begins again.
This attitude can be a real problem when it spills over into our personal lives and relationships. If you pick a partner based on what your friends will think of them or how they make you feel about yourself on a superficial level it will likely end in disaster.
The problems these days are even more likely to exist than when I was young; swipe left, swipe right, it seems we are encouraged to make instant judgements on people.
If you pick your partner based on how good they will look on your arm, what really does that say about you? If you link your feelings of self worth to another person what will happen if they change? Perhaps they don’t change, perhaps they never were the person you imagined them to be.
Linking our feelings of self worth to someone else is risky and can cloud our judgement of what is important. Some people after years of marriage can look at their partners and realise they have become lost in someone else’s dreams and goals. Conversely judgement can be clouded and people fail to realise how good their relationships are because they are chasing a dream that doesn’t really exist.
Some men in particular seem to need to know they are still attractive to younger women. Some will start affairs with younger women and then later realise they have thrown away a loving relationship that others can only dream of.
There is a saying, Marry in haste, repent at leisure. It is just as true to say Divorce in haste , repent from a worse position than you had previously, with finances ruined, contact with children jeopardised and a realisation that you threw away something special while chasing an imagined Utopia.
Relationships where both partners have a feeling of self worth enable the couple to grow and motivate each other without giving up their own sense of identity. This is doubly important when one person dies. If you have just existed as one part of a whole and lost your sense of identity the feelings of despair will be heightened.
Another event that can test our sense of self belief is losing our position in life. Losing a job and resultant loss of income can lead to a feeling of failure. It’s the case that the higher you climb, the farther you fall. If a millionaire loses everything and ends up broke, are they still the same person? Those who realise that the answer to this is yes, will stand far more chance of recovering and rebuilding their lives. Your circumstances may change but that doesn’t reflect who you truly are. Remember circumstances can change, or be changed.
The tide turns at low as well as at high.
Life is like a rollercoaster, it has ups and downs. If your self worth is linked to external results, achievements and what others think of you, then can you ever be really happy and content with life?
What really matters is knowing who you are despite any current difficulties. You are the same person, the person you choose to be.
- Spend some time in self reflection
- Set goals. What is important to you? Make a list of what you want to achieve.
- Reflect on what you have already achieved
- Don’t worry about being better than others, strive to be better than your previous self.
If life is tough at present, appreciate how well you are doing. You are weathering the storm and are not beaten. Believe in yourself, love yourself and your feelings of self worth will see you through whatever life throws at you.