Yesterday, during my morning meditation practice, I set an intention to love myself. I’ve written before about what it means to love yourself, but essentially it means to show up for yourself and serve your own needs.
Self-love is hard for a lot of us, even me. We associate serving our own needs with selfishness, which we’ve been told is bad. And sure, if you only ever think about your own needs and never consider the needs of others, it’s problematic. But that’s more than mere selfishness, that’s called narcissism.
What I’m talking about here is a healthy and even necessary dose of selfishness. A self(ish)ness, not a self(full)ness, that prevents you from becoming self(less) – from losing yourself.
Let me repeat that again, in a different way: Blossoming into your best, truest self is not about being full of yourself; it’s about being aware of yourself.
It’s true. If you do not show up for yourself and serve your own needs from time to time, you will lose your sense of self. You will lose the ability to even determine what your own needs are. Your inner voice – your inner wisdom – will start to sound like a foreign language to you, if you don’t pay attention to it.
When I woke up yesterday, I was tired – which I first assumed was just normal morning tiredness. I assumed, like any other morning, I could snap myself out of it with coffee, breakfast and movement. But as the hours passed, I couldn’t shake the fatigue.
I’m not sure if it was all of the rain we were getting in California or maybe a general lack of sleep from my battle with occasional insomnia. All I knew was I was unusually tired and I needed rest.
Now, if you would’ve asked me a few years ago what I needed, I would have told you “a bold shot of espresso.” And that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with espresso. If you know me, you know I love my coffee! But espresso was not what I really needed.
I used to think I needed more caffeine when I was tired because I was not as in tune with my real needs back then. And I certainly thought, when I did occasionally discern my real needs, it would’ve been selfish to meet them.
Today, though, I’m a much healthier person. I make the choice as often as possible to slow down, listen to the tiny whisper within and act on it. So I asked myself yesterday, “What do I need today?” And the answer was simple: I needed sleep.
But would you like to know what my initial gut feeling was when I laid down for a nap around 1:00 PM?
Yes, I am human. When I am faced with meeting my own needs, especially if that means putting off responsibilities or putting aside the needs of others, I feel guilty. But what I’ve learned by regularly practicing self-love is guilt won’t hurt me nearly as much as neglecting my own needs will.
We all have needs, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, and these needs are crucial to our survival. It’s not wrong to have needs, which means it’s not wrong to meet them. In fact, it would be wrong to not meet our own needs. It’s self-destructive. It’s self-harming.
If you feel guilty for meeting your own needs, it’s probably because you’ve prioritized your wants over your needs. The crux, however, is that our wants can only be met by first meeting our needs.
You may want to be successful, but you’ll probably crash and burn if you neglect eating lunch. You may want to be productive, but you’ll find yourself dragging through the day if you neglect to get eight hours of sleep. You may want a healthy relationship with your significant other, but you’ll find yourself coming up short if you neglect your relationship with yourself.
Our wants are generally a symptom of what we need. Wanting a new pair of shoes is a symptom of the need for status. Wanting to eat a cookie is a symptom of the need for nourishment or comfort.
The want is not the need itself. The need is always deeper. This is why it’s so important to ask yourself every day, “What do I need today?” And if you’re not sure, maybe start with your wants and work from there to drill down to what it is you really need.
If you want a new job, for example, perhaps your inner wisdom is trying to tell you you need a challenge or security or recognition – all good, important things.
So, my encouragement for you today is to ask yourself what you need and then try to actually meet that need. See how it feels to love yourself at the deepest level. Resist the urge to lean into any guilt or feelings of unworthiness. You are enough. Your needs are valid. You are worth showing up for today and every day.
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