20 January 2018 0 Comments

Which Comes First, Loving Yourself or Loving Others?

We have probably all heard the saying that you can’t love other people until you can love yourself. Contemplating in my twenties I thought—starkly—that I would therefore be unsuccessful in the endeavor of loving others, since I could not love myself. Yet I did love others.

As I explored, I observed that when I was not loving toward myself I was more reactive. I was then harder to be around, or placed uncomfortable demands on other people. I began to see how the ways I did not love myself created strain for others. I began to make it a point to care for myself to keep from being a pain in the butt. Maybe this was back-assward but it was useful at the time.

Lack of self love makes us harder to be around, whether our issues are those of commission—things that we do—or of omission.Things we do not do also express low self love. Perhaps we are not standing up AS ourselves.

Standing up FOR ourselves tends to be defensive. Standing up AS ourselves means letting the people who love us know what we need and what we want, so we can co-operate in harmony. When we don’t communicate who we are we make it harder to have a mutual flow of love.

Whether we’re doing something that makes relating harder, or NOT doing something and this makes things harder, loving ourselves makes it easier to be in relationship. People don’t have to guess.

Many imagine that saying what we want and need will make waves. In actual fact, if we do it from a loving spirit of cooperation, spelling out who we are and what we need makes everything easier and smoother, as long as we accept what others can and cannot provide. Trying to give to someone who makes us guess and doesn’t receive well is emotionally frustrating.

Almost forty years later, I’m contemplating again how loving oneself relates to loving others. At this point, loving others is a way of loving myself.

When I am unloving to other people, some kind of discomfort within me is driving my state, and I am not responding with the self love that lets me lean into and bring kindness into this discomfort. Then I externalize my state in my actions toward others. When I feel their uncomfortable response I don’t feel good, because I care how they feel. So when I am unloving to others it is unkind to me too. In this way—by realizing the unity between us—loving others can be a way of loving ourselves.

It’s not that one comes first, self love or love for others. There IS a relationship. Love grows in us by including. When we include ourselves with love we love others more. When we include others by being kind to ourselves in the way we relate, we increase the available love in the equation. This experience makes the concept of spiritual unity accessible.

Realizing unity is a gradual process, not just a transcendental and final end goal. Ultimately we realize that we all are parts of The Only Being in Unity. Whether focusing on self love or loving others is more useful depends on our personal process at the time. It’s important to allow direct experience to lead, so maxims we may encounter support exploration instead of limiting experience.

At this point in your life, do you learn more about love by focusing on self love or on loving others?

How does your desire to love others impact your feelings about yourself?

How does your current orientation toward self love impact your ability to love others? Does it limit or expand your ability?

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