Sunday, February 16, 2014

On Love

Today I heard someone say something about love that made me think twice.  She said, "In order to love other people, you have to love yourself first."  Although she was talking about brotherly love, I'd be willing to bet she thinks this way about romantic love, too.

I don't know what scientific research says about self-love, but I know this:  My initial reaction to her statement was, "Wait -- is that true?"  I mulled over it for a while, and the conclusion I've come to is that it is not true.*  If anything, the statement should be reversed:  "In order to love yourself, you have to love other people first."

Let me explain.

When I was younger, I was extremely insecure—as I'm sure a lot of people are when they're in their pre-teen and teen years.  I think my insecurities lasted far longer than they should have, though.  It wasn't until after college that I realized how critical I was of myself and others.  So I tried to change by looking for the talents and beauty in other people.  I made a goal to genuinely compliment people often.**  I was always looking for the thing I loved best about someone, and I made it a point to tell them about it, even though it felt unnatural at first.  After a while, complimenting people wasn't awkward at all, and I began to see how truly amazing people are.  I began to feel more love for all the people around me.  After a while, I liked myself a lot more.

Does my story present a case of cause-and-effect?  Perhaps not.  But I bet there's a research topic in there somewhere.  I'd bet that the more you love others, the more you love yourself.  The more you recognize the lovable qualities in the people around you, the more you recognize the lovable qualities that make up who you are.

*Perhaps she and many people use "self-love" and "self-esteem" interchangeably.  A healthy dose of self-esteem is good, and yet . . . I'm still dubious of the self-esteem movement as well.  American teenagers, for example, have more than enough of it.  (See Self-Esteem and How to Improve It.)
**Get better at giving compliments; read this: If You Can't Think of Anything to Say, Give Compliments!

This just in: I'm not the only one who has doubts about the "self-love comes first" deal. Here are some others who think along the same lines. (I just did a cursory Google search . . . Not having access to a research university library is really killing me right now.)

Thing I'm thankful for: Google Hangout


Blogger cardlady said...

Nice post! You are so smart! And kind and beautiful.
You is kind, you is beautiful and you is important!

1:37 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

Haha! Good one, mom! Thanks! :)

1:45 AM  
Blogger stephydear said...

You always have such good perspective on things. Thanks for sharing this. I definitely agree that we learn to love the best when we focus that energy toward others. It kind of ends up reflecting back on us I think.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Agreed! That saying has never sat well with me... :)

3:59 PM  
Blogger Petey Aldous said...

I think that loving others helps us to love ourselves. And I think that loving ourselves (in a healthy way) helps us to love others.

It seems from this that we're all stuck because we can't do one without the other. This isn't the case; they're two different ways of learning love.

In some sense, loving people is seeing them through God's eyes. In other words, loving is seeing clearly. In that light, it makes sense that learning to love others and learning to love ourselves are mutually supportive acts; really, they're different manifestations of the same act.

5:29 PM  
Blogger Amy Stone said...

I don't always get around to reading blog posts as often as I'd like. Your blog never disappoints.
You're the best, thoughtful blogger on my list.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Amy! Thanks!

1:46 AM  

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