I mentioned something in this week’s podcast in a rather off-handed way that I want to take a little deeper.
Respect for oneself is the ultimate form of self-love. Once we respect ourselves, we will start making decisions that are good for us.“Lily Fields, Philosopher Princess
Remember what we have been saying since-well–forever? Since I got started on my rampage about self-love? That the “Golden Rule,” that “love your neighbor as yourself” thing literally makes no sense at all when you live in a place of self-loathing.
It’s almost as if those of us who suffer from debilitating self-loathing are being given a free pass to be jerks, according to the logic of the Golden Rule.
Since the Philosopher Princess who dwells inside of me, who often has very wise things to say, seems to disagree with the above sentence, there must be something else that we need to learn from the Golden Rule that does not find us being rude, impatient perfectionists.
No: What this means is that some of us need remedial lessons in loving ourselves before we can even begin to understand how to love others.
You see, there is the love that we think we should have for others, when we are dwelling in a pit of self-loathing: self-effacing, always giving, giving, giving, sacrificing for the good of those we love…
“Wait a second, Lily” (that’s you…) “Isn’t all that true? Isn’t that the heart of love? Giving of ourselves?”
Oh, yes. It is. But you see, when we hate ourselves, we are giving for the wrong reasons. We are giving because we want to get love in return. When our tanks are empty, and we are giving anyway, we are doing it in the vague hopes that someone on the outside will notice and will help fill our tanks.
Giving of ourselves from an empty tank is destructive to us.
Let’s take an example so this is more clear. The scenario is this: A dear friend and her husband and two children are quarantined at home because they have all four tested positive.
Situation A: The Self-Loather
You are exhausted. You are running on fumes. Anything you do right now, you are doing it from a place of guilt.
Because you think that in order to be a “good person” you need to offer help to people who are in need…in this case, the friend whose family is stuck at home with COVID.
To your chagrin, she takes you up on the offer. Immediately, you take her grocery list, you pack up your own children who are out of school due to COVID class closures, too, and who are playing Legos, peacefully for once,
Never does it cross your mind that you could do this at a more convenient time. Never do you consider that your friend isn’t expecting you to immediately spring into action.
So you go. You do what needs to get done. You are grumbling at your children to not touch everything at the pharmacy. They get it that you are doing something you don’t really want to be doing, and they just add their two cents to the misery. They were happy at home, anyway. They were playing LEGOs!!
Finally, you get in the car and, growling at the children to be quiet, you drive to your friend’s house, pretend to smile and then drop off the items.
The children are fighting in the car when you get back. You shout at them because you can’t stand the noise. Everyone is on edge because mama is on edge.
You get home and wish you had never checked your text messages because you are even more tired, more angry and more hating yourself than ever.
Situation B: A person who loves herself
It stinks that the boys are out of school, but you have learned how to say, “This is a good moment” at times like this very moment, 8:43 AM, when the two of them are actually getting along and playing LEGOs side by side quietly.
Because this is a moment of relative calm, you make yourself a cup of coffee and settle on the couch for a moment with a book, because, “In my Ideal Life I read for pleasure.” It doesn’t last, because your phone buzzes.
Your dear friend has COVID. You consider this. You had COVID at the turn of the year, and you really wished that someone would have offered to help out your husband who had to deal 24/7 with the double hurricanes while you were quarantined in your bedroom.
You take a deep breath, look over at the boys, and whisper again, “This is a good moment.”
“Do you guys need anything? I can run to the store for you if you need.” You type back. She responds with a few things that she needs.
“Okay. How soon do you need this?” You ask, instead of immediately jumping to your feet.
“Whenever…” she responds. “It’s not that urgent.”
So instead of upending the LEGO play, you finish your coffee. You keep reading. When you arrive at the end of the chapter, you say,
“Boys, in a little bit we’re going to run to the store. My friend is sick and needs our help.”
They hear, “someone needs our help,” and their ears perk up. You see, they are superheroes-in-training. Anything they can do to help someone is very, very exciting practice for their future.
You get your shoes on. They may not do it quickly, but they do, too. You think through the different places you’ll need to stop, and if you need anything there, too.
One of your boys actually wears his superhero costume on your adventure, a funny little reminder that helping people, when it is in our power to do so, is a superpower in and of itself.
Yeah, it takes some time. Yeah, they are touching things they shouldn’t in the pharmacy, but you keep perspective. You manage to laugh when they find superhero toothbrushes that they think they need, and even can joke about it.
Everybody gets in the car. You turn on music, because music is a balm that connects the three of you together. It’s Queen, Another One Bites the Dust, their current favorite song. Even, as you are driving, glancing in the rearview mirror at your superhero, you manage to say, “This is a good moment.”
You drop off the items at your friend’s house. She thanks you kindly. You tell her, “It was our pleasure. The boys were eager to be superheroes today.”
Why self-respect makes a difference
Helping others and honoring ourselves do not have to stand in conflict. But it has to happen in the right order. As Dottie Delphinium said in Episode 6 of the podcast, “We have to put our own oxygen mask on first.”
The joy and life that can spring from doing things in the right order is a virtuous cycle.
Respect for ourselves puts everything else into perspective for the person who tends to give from an empty tank: by filling our own tanks through acts of service to ourselves, through clinging to the things that truly matter at the very most profound part of our souls, we then can love others then, as we love ourselves.
Try this. Try this. Try this.
Know what you love, what you like, what you want for your life. Pursue it. Love yourself. Put your oxygen mask first.
Then, and only then, can you love your neighbor as yourself.