Ohh this is a passionate subject for me!
I have experienced so much misunderstanding and well.... fear surrounding the subject of Self-love, especially as it pertains to the idea that self-love is selfish. (NO IT'S NOT!!! More on this later.)
Having grown up with a lot of "Churchy-ness" around me, I absorbed the idea that one should put others before themselves... even better? Put yourself last. I (not surprisingly) interpreted this to mean that all of my personal desires, feelings, dreams, opinions were secondary-- even selfish. This belief is in direct opposition to loving ones-self.
Ironically, the popular Bible verse "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31,) doesn't even make sense without the implicit idea that you in fact... love yourself. In other words, you cannot love your neighbor as yourself... if you don't already love yourself. Am I right?
This was a radical idea for me in the beginning. Love myself first? But isn't that selfish? Conceited? Arrogant? Narcissistic? Egotistical? Stuck-up? (P.S. These are all words listed as synonyms of Self-Love in the Thesaurus. No wonder I was confused.)
Well... if Self-Love isn't selfish... than...what is it? What does it mean?
Self-love, as I have come to define it, is simply gracious self-acceptance expressed with acts of compassion, gentleness, gratitude and celebration.
Self-love is putting yourself FIRST.
For some of us, this is a hard pill to swallow. We don't trust that we won't become hoarding, self-obsessed trolls under a bridge if we embrace such an idea.
The opposite is true. You see, Self-love is humbling. It requires us to embrace all of ourselves-- flaws and all. To look at our mistakes and blunders -- to take responsibility for them, and to forgive ourselves. Self-love is admitting our truth. What do I really want/feel? What do I really need to say in this situation? What boundaries do I need to set for myself with others? What is the most loving choice for me here? Self-love is patience with ourselves and our learning curve. Self-love requires sticking it out, even when the rest of the world abandons us and we wanna give up. Self-love is listening to that little voice that says "keep going." Self-love is HUGE and teaches us to overcome that which is small within us. Self-love is the fuel we create ourselves that gives us the love we overflow to others.
There is no loving them without loving you first. There are only shallow gestures painted in the colors of love...that look and smell like love... but are actually chains that bind us to future resentment and obligation.
If you want to know what is selfish, it is this: to deny yourself your own love -- approval, forgiveness, patience, compassion, gratitude, celebration, joy, fun, beauty-- and then to masquerade as someone who is whole. To pretend to be someone who can fall in love, give to others, commit to anything, pursue a dream, follow-through, trust another, be honest, forgive.... when you cannot possibly know how, since you have never done it for yourself.
To deny the world the wonders and joy and light of the truly loved you -- why, that is pure selfishness.