Dear Dr. Jory,
I was at a party last night and somebody said she was raising her kids to love themselves. A slightly drunk woman I don’t know jumped in and argued that teaching your kids to love themselves will turn them into selfish narcissists. Ouch. Awkward to say the least, but it made me question what “love yourself” really means. I don’t have kids yet, so I’m really asking for myself: Am I a bad person if I love myself?
Signed, Unselfish, I Hope
Poor self-esteem triggers all the negatives that steal the happiness out of our lives : self-doubt, self-judgment, self-defeating behavior, and self-loathing in general. I’ve counseled people who question whether they have a right to breathe the air.
Everybody has to fight to be free, so here are three essentials for loving yourself. These aren’t mere suggestions: they’re absolutely necessary if you want to give yourself a meaningful, fulfilling life.
- Be compassionate with yourself. Let go of your mistakes. Accept your flaws and failures. Understand what happened, learn your lessons and move on. Make every day a new beginning. And keep in mind that you weren’t born to be perfect; you were born to be a complicated, flawed-but-trying human being—like everyone around you.
- Live your life; not someone else’s. Hang on to who you are. Create dreams and know where you’re headed even if you don’t know how you’re going to get there. Hold your breath when toxic fumes of negativity and criticism blow your way. Hold your head high, especially when the enemy has you surrounded on all sides.
- Show up for your life. Claim it. Own it. Adore it. Protect it. Be grateful for every day you have. Care for yourself so you can care about others. Say thank you to those who make your life better. Pat yourself on the back, and remember that the difference between a good day and a bad day might be as simple as a smile and a hug.
Practicing these three essentials is not selfishness or narcissism—it’s good mental health. And oddly, those who love themselves are best equipped to love those around them.
— Dr. Jory
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About Brian Jory, Ph.D.
Brian Jory is the Director of the Family Studies Program at Berry College, near Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and has dedicated his career to counseling couples, teaching about intimacy, researching relationships.
He is the author of “Cupid on Trial – What We Learn About Love When Loving Gets Tough,” and has been featured on numerous television shows, blogs, and podcasts including Bustle, Romper, Elite Daily, NBC, PBS, and Good Sex, Bad Sex.