I was recently asked whether I *love* myself. I didn’t have an immediate answer. When I first began my personal growth journey that seemed an aspirational goal – certainly it sounds very good even now, doesn’t it? To LOVE yourself.
What I said in response to the question was, “I don’t know, but I am unfailingly LOYAL to myself.”
In the week since, I’ve been contemplating the difference in those two statements – I love myself vs. I am loyal to myself – and trying to figure out if said difference matters.
First, what does one mean by “love”? Is it a feeling state, or is it actions?
For me, love is both. It IS a feeling state. But I also find the feeling state cannot be divorced from the actions of the real world. I don’t care what I or anyone else feels if those feelings are accompanied by unloving actions and behaviors. The feeling state of love is not enough; to BE love, it must also be expressed in behaviors that are themselves acts of love.
I would define acting in a loving way to be treating someone with respect, consideration, and compassion.
And this is where the question gets complicated. I have a personal ethic to treat everyone with respect, consideration, and compassion, to the best of my ability, because I believe that is the right way to behave toward other sovereign beings. This is a principle of behavior that I choose to act out as an expression of my identity, as a way to make my actions congruent with my beliefs about what is right and who I want to be.
So, essentially, what I consider to be basic moral/ethical behaviors are indistinguishable from what I consider loving behaviors.
I have treated myself in the past in unloving ways. I have treated myself in the past in violation of my ethic to treat EVERYONE with respect, consideration, and compassion. I am part of everyone. If I do not treat myself in that way, then I am in violation of my own code of ethics. When I saw that, I immediately corrected my behavior to myself.
Was this correction an act of self-love? Or an act of self LOYALTY, to live and act according to my chosen code of ethical conduct?
Furthermore, does it MATTER if I choose to treat myself in these ethical=loving ways from loyalty to my own identity and moral code, or from love toward myself specifically out of all human beings? The actions would be the same. The part of me that receives the consideration, respect, and compassion from the part of me that chooses those actions cannot tell the difference. I am not another person external to myself with whom to exchange the energy of emotion, so I cannot receive the loving feeling from myself the way I could from another person, or the way another person could from me.
Literally the only part of me which MIGHT experience a difference is the part of me that chooses to act. But for me, acting ethically and on principle is MORE important to me than acting from an emotion or a feeling state – so even if I were acting from love, what would matter to me as the more important part is whether I was acting in accordance to my principles.
Perhaps this question is, for me, a distinction without a difference.
Perhaps it is a question that I could not answer from where I am right now. If I have never experienced true self-love, I would not actually know how it feels to act from it or receive from it; perhaps I am projecting incorrectly that it would not feel any differently.
Perhaps somewhere out there is a way of defining love, or self-love, specifically, which could help me identify whether I have or have not experienced it/acted from it or whether it is any different.
For me, for today, with the personality type preferences that I have and the experiences I have had up to this point in my life, it is an unanswerable question. And that is actually a satisfactory answer: it tells me I do not need to chase some idea of “self-love” which may not even, in the end, be different from my current state of being. Instead I can be content that my unwavering devotion to the ethical treatment of myself as a human being is indistinguishable from self-love unless and until I spontaneously discern a difference.