Do you love yourself?
You can answer that question by answering another:
Who do you take the best care of?
For most parents, the answer is immediate: their children.
I understand that; I am a parent. Yet the idea of self-love – as important as people are realizing it to be – often comes up against that wall of parenting. Most of us were raised (or learned by example – good or bad) to adhere to the theory that “the children come first.” At the risk of poking the hornets’ nest, I will even go so far as to say that parents with the least self-love or the most fear of delving into the subject hide behind the ‘responsibility to’ their children.
Contrary to traditional and oft-repeated belief, self-love is not SELFISH as in “Icomefirstforgeteverythingelse.” Self-love is the best gift you can give your children, because it is self-love that begets the self-respect that motivates them, that spurs them on to new and fantastic things, and prevents them from making bad decisions and/or doing things to hurt themselves. Self-love also makes them empathetic and compassionate towards others. Self-love provides a child with inner strength.
Our ultimate goal in raising our children is to give them the means to know, learn and experience success and happiness; self-love is at the root of those traits. Since children learn first by what they see, by our example, if we are showing them that we have no self-love, it won’t matter what we tell them. We will be raising people who will need outside validation of some kind. Think about it, what will they do when we are gone? Don’t we want them to learn to rely on themselves? How is that possible without self-love?
And, again, there is another side to that coin (isn’t there always?). The sacrifice we are making for our children shows them to sacrifice themselves for things. Do we want them spending their lives looking around for (or creating) something to sacrifice themselves for? For someone? Where is the fulfillment there?
Think about this: our parents sacrificed themselves for us, their parents sacrificed themselves for them, and their parents sacrificed themselves… you get the picture. How long has that been going on? To what end?
Loving yourself is not selfish. Loving yourself is the most selfless of traits you can show your children, because by loving yourself you are showing them how to love themselves. That is the one aspect that will be the basis for everything they feel, think, and do.
The bottom line is if you don’t take care of – love – yourself, you have less and less to give to your children. How many times have you “put on a face” for your children? Why should you have to? Do you really believe that they won’t learn the difference between your genuine and plastered expressions? Children are sponges. They will soak all of it in. All of it. Don’t believe me? Take a look back into your own childhood. Even if your parents fooled you once or twice, you still ended up seeing the truth.
The only way to teach your children to be happy is to be happy yourself – that starts with self-love.
I still fight this battle in many ways. The first steps we parents take to do something for ourselves are often riddled with guilt of some kind; we feel as if we are taking something away from our kids, like time or money, or that we’re not allowed to have any fun that they can’t be included in.
We need to get out of the thinking that says showing love for ourselves is selfish.
Keep in mind, too, that once you’ve raised your children and they’ve moved out, you will be left with yourself.
Here’s a thought:
Those of you with more than one child have come up against discussions about whether or not you love one child more than the other (if you haven’t yet, you now have something to look forward to). It’s not easy to explain that you can love them equally. I’ve found the best way for me to explain it is to say basically that the more people you have in your life to love, the more your heart grows. Adding another person (or child) doesn’t mean you are making room out of a crowded space to accommodate them; that would mean taking away from someone else, wouldn’t it? Love is limitless. It expands. The heart expands as you add more to love to it. The love you have for your first child remains intact and whole, and you have room for loving another child alongside of it – in the same amount.
(Hey, it may not be an exact explanation, but it goes far enough to help!)
Anyhow, if you find that explanation plausible enough, why not try adding a room in your heart for yourself? There’s plenty of room!
Your kids deserve it.
So do you.