If You Don’t Love Yourself, You Don’t Know Yourself

· August 7, 2016

Self-esteem is a trendy word that some people think will magically help them understand other people’s behavior, as though all problems could be explained by a lack of self-esteem. The epidemic we face can be summarized by saying that it takes effort to love yourself. Maybe there’s a clear reason for this: if you don’t love yourself, it’s because you don’t know yourself.

The issue lies with the inner voice that comments on all of our actions, thoughts, and feelings. The voice that judges us, approves of us, or disapproves of us. Sometimes we forget that we were the ones who created this inner voice, and for that reason, we can guide it and redirect it when it’s no longer constructive.

“Everything you need might not be in front of you or around you, but it’s certainly within you.”

-Sri Chinmoy-

We learn to see ourselves through the eyes of others. So if our parents see us as incompetent, we’ll easily internalize this judgment. If our teachers think that almost everybody is more intelligent than we are, that will become a part of our inner dialogue. And so on and so forth.

The problem is that we forget that the people who have had, and will keep having, opinions about us, aren’t correct. What they express about us probably has a lot more to do with themselves than with us. We all see the world through own particular lenses, and everybody thinks that what they saw is what actually happened.

person in a bottle

If you don’t love yourself, acknowledge it

A lack of self-love is expressed in more ways than feelings of worthlessness or incompetence. It’s often thought that people with brash, forceful personalities have a really high self-esteem. But in general, that’s not in fact the case.

The absence of self-esteem also manifests itself as a fear of taking risksYou want to keep yourself within the limits of what you know, because you privately think that you won’t be able to keep up with the demands of something new. This fear extends to your words and your thoughts. You don’t feel capable of expressing what’s really inside because you’re afraid of how other people will react. And at the same time, your inner voice dismisses you. “You’re being stupid,” you tell yourself. And you stay quiet.

When you don’t love yourself, you might express it in various ways. For example, you might act subservient around figures of authority or in situations where you want to gain recognition. You care a lot about what the boss, teacher, or expert will think or say.

So you try to adjust what you say and do accordingly, to please that person or group of people. Sometimes you desperately need others to recognize you, so you spread propaganda about yourself, always as a way to get something from others.

woman with branch in her hair

You can only love what you know

It’s an obvious question, but not everybody asks themselves “do I really know myself?” Knowing yourself involves more than just knowing that you love green and hate apples. Or that you want to get divorced and you love soccer. It goes much deeper than tastes and preferences.

Of course, it’s important to know what you like to eat, how you like to dress, what you like to do with your friends, etc. That’s where it all starts. This might seem like an exaggeration, but there are truly many people who don’t even know what they really like. They follow certain diets without even thinking about or understanding why. And same with they way they dress, the means of transport they use, and tons of other daily decisions.

woman doubled over

However, more than just learning to recognize what you like and don’t like, you should investigate more deeply into your perception of yourself. How do you feel about your own body and why? How do you take care of your body? Do you think about the way you relate to others? Do you know how you would react to different situations and why?

You might end up discovering a truth that you’ve been ignoring: you judge yourself through the eyes of others and not based on reasonable parameters. Other people’s views are present in that inner voice that constantly makes you think negatively about yourself.

Which is better, a chicken or a duck?

A duck will say ducks. A chicken will say chickens. That’s the point. The duck should learn to be a duck and make the most of their condition. And the chicken should do the same. And both should ignore the fox’s opinion, because he sees them as nothing more than food.

The Reasons Why I Love Myself