“I practice smiling to myself. I do this to be kind to myself, to take good care of myself, to love myself. I know that if I cannot take care of myself, I cannot take care of anyone else.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
“You take good care of yourself. If you do, all will be beneficiaries.” – Dr. Haleakala Hew Len
If you haven’t read it already I recommend you read my post Take Care of Yourself, First. Clearly I have more to say as an advocate of moms practicing extreme self-care and here’s why: Cheryl Richardson in her book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care, says “when we care for ourselves deeply and deliberately, we naturally begin to care for others – our families, our friends, and the world – in a healthier and more effective way.”
I’m sure many of us aren’t doing this enough and it is affecting both our well-being and how we care for others in obvious and not so obvious ways. My work here is to speak to mothers who are struggling to balance it all and are looking for permission to nurture themselves and put their needs first for a change.
When you are well and whole you can give to others from a place of wholeness and then all benefit.
I personally have noticed that when I’m loving and taking great care of myself I’m more present and capable of taking care of others which confirms for me that self-love really does benefit everyone.
Apparently I’m not the only one who believes this to be true.
In another book, Screamfree Parenting, Hal Edward Runkel tells us very clearly that self-love is essentially the basis of effective parenting. Runkel writes about “The Four Degrees of Love” which was a work written by Bernard of Clairvaux, a French monk who lived over nine centuries ago and who wrestled with how to balance a love for self with a love for God. Runkel summarizes Bernard’s theory based on love in relationships in modern times. What’s interesting is that the fourth and highest level of love states that “I love me for your benefit.”
According to Runkel, “a person operating at this level says: ‘I love me, work on me, and build myself up so that I can come to you from a position of wholeness, a position of fullness. I take care of me so that you don’t have to. From fullness I can then empty myself, my gifts, my love, my actions, for your ultimate benefit. I am the only one in charge of me, and I am the one ultimately responsible for me and my well-being. Therefore, as a steward of my greatest gift, my life, I need to take steps to ensure my health, my calmness of mind, my sanity, and my own validation as a person in the world. Thus, I can free you from having to provide those things for me. Thus, I can truly serve you without needing you to serve me.’”
Take that in and really get that the ultimate level of love is the act of loving yourself for the benefit of others. Putting your well-being first is not selfish at all as many people seem to think. It is just the opposite.
I must say that the wisdom of Runkel’s message deeply resonates with me and I hope it resonates with you too. And if it doesn’t I encourage you to reflect on it until it does because we all deserve the benefit of your self-love especially those in your care. This I know for sure.
I also know that self-love is demonstrated through acts of self-care by doing what you need to do for yourself when you need to do it. Of course how many of us actually practice this with any consistency if much at all? Well it’s time to start. NOW!
You may find the uncompromising practice of self-love through self-care a bit challenging at first but you can cultivate a more loving and caring relationship with yourself over time with small acts and exclamations of self-love. Start by telling yourself “I love you!” repeatedly until it penetrates your core. Give yourself flowers. Rest when your body is screaming for a nap. Learn to say “NO” when it’s in your best interest to do so. Take shit off your plate that doesn’t allow you to support your best self.
Whether you say “I love you” to yourself or “No” to others the most important thing to remember is that standing up for yourself and genuinely loving yourself will benefit all concerned no matter what.
You are responsible for your inner peace and well-being, which determines your outer experience with others and if you want that experience to be one of mutual benefit, then you must first care for and nurture yourself extremely well. Start today, with a simple pledge to love yourself and to take care of your needs first and foremost.
So how can you love yourself more? What do you need to do more or less of? What do you need to say NO to? I challenge you to do three things this week that demonstrate just how much you love yourself. Please report back how this makes you feel and what you’re getting out of all this new found self-love as well as how is it benefiting others.