Love yourself first

Love of self, or self-esteem, should be the most important focus in one’s life.

by Mark Mansfield — 

It seems that in February, love is on everybody’s lips. Valentine’s Day is the day for lovers, the day for showing your significant other that you appreciate him or her. That is all fine and good, but where is the holiday that honors love of self?

It seems that love (or at least lust) of another person is all around us. Media bombards us with romantic images. Magazine articles give us tips on how to be better lovers. Yet, when it comes to the most important love of all, self-love, the images and ideas that we are fed tell us we don’t measure up, in one way or another, to whom we should be.

Love of self, or self-esteem, should be the most important focus in one’s life. Without this, it is impossible to truly love another person or have a fulfilling life. Yet, messages from outside ourselves and, most insidiously, from within, tell us that we are not good enough, smart enough or attractive enough. But enough for what? Some artificial standard? Sadly, the answer is most often, enough for ourselves.

Regardless of where these standards of measurement originated, whether from family or the media, we are always our own worst critics. We hold ourselves to a higher standard than anyone else does and it’s easy to almost always fall short. It is only the person who truly loves her/himself that allows room for error and room for forgiveness.

It is great to have goals; that’s how we grow, but we can keep our eye on the prize even as it remains just beyond our grasp. Too often, when we do not achieve something we desire, we take it as proof of our own failure and lack, and go no further. Ironically, it is lack of self-love, not our perceived failings, that keeps us from accomplishing our goals.

Not living up to our own desired standards can be a big source of shame and guilt (and a huge drain on our self-esteem). In my work as a home organizer, a person’s shame over his or her surroundings is often the first thing I confront. Being embarrassed is nothing more than fearing that someone will judge you, despite the fact that you have already judged yourself and found yourself lacking.

So how do we love ourselves amidst our perceived lack? The first step is self-forgiveness for all the ways you fall short of who you want to be. The second, and most important, is for you to realize that you are perfect as you are. That doesn’t mean that you should give up your goals or efforts to better yourself. It simply means that who and where you are is the result of doing the best you can with what you have at any given moment.

You begin to love yourself the moment you stop measuring yourself against past failures or future goals and start to simply be present with yourself. Only then can you truly love another, making the best response when someone says, “I love you,” to say “I love me, too.”


Mark Mansfield has a master’s degree in counseling and is a certified Heart Awakener. As the owner of Clear Space, he helps people organize their environments and shift the underlying patterns to make deep and lasting changes in their homes and lives. or 480-241-8119.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number 1, Feb/Mar 2009.

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