“Now is a time for self love,” said the bead-wearing yogi instructor. “Prioritize yourself, love thyself.”

I was on a retreat trying to replenish my identity after separation and new single mamahood. “Take time for yourself.” “Do what YOU want” says, like, everyone. “This is YOUR time. Don’t worry about anyone else right now.”

Time?! I have a four year old, a team of 40 designers, 69 year old parents, and a local community. So….I struggle with that thinking. Honestly, I LIKE focusing on others. “Self Love” seems like an overused phrase and philosophy. Everyone says it, but no one can really articulate what it is without sounding like a selfish asshole. 

Self Love vs. Self Absorption

Should I just disregard responsibility, pour myself chardonnay, light a $60 candle while saying affirmations in the mirror?

I'm good enough

Al Franken from Saturday Night Live reciting self affirmations

The problem with the term “Self Love’ is that it’s adjacent to “Self Absorption.” Self help books tell us to radically prioritize ourselves, but they forget we live in a larger ecosystem.

What about the mom with four kids or the emergency room physician in an overcrowded hospital? What about the people that risked their lives to help the persecuted escape Nazi Germany? Or the young girls currently raising awareness for missing indigenous women? Are they practicing “Self Love” or “Community love”? They’re certainly making the world a better place.

Sometimes we are meant to serve others. Sometimes we don’t have an extra second to even think about ourselves, let alone “love” ourselves  And that can be beautiful. Not wrong.

If I think about what I really need-it isn’t necessarily to prioritize myself. It’s to understand myself. 

Self Love vs. Self Knowledge

“Self love” should be replaced by the term “Self knowledge,” With self knowledge comes boundaries. Boundaries are something I gave up in 2015 along with carbs. Time to get them both back.

In my quest to understand myself, I’m trying to figure out what I am okay with. Once I know that, it just comes down to saying “yes” or “no”. If helping others is something I want to do and fulfills me, then I should do it. But if I get that pit in my stomach that I’m being overextended or taken advantage of, then I can examine it and say “no”. Perhaps it’s more like “Self Respect.” After, of course I have mastered, “Self Knowledge”

If I think about what self love really means to me, (after the self understanding and respect bit) it’s something that comes in the quiet. The Friday nights after I put my daughter to bed and I’m alone with my books. Or the Sunday am hikes I do solo along Muir Beach. It’s the total okayness being just by myself  As myself, and also in awe of the greater world around me that I fit into. I have purpose. I am strong. I will not bend unless I choose to do so.

Self love. It doesn’t mean that everyone will treat you the way you deserve to be treated. It means that you won’t let them change the way you see yourself; nor will you stick around for them to destroy you. –Tony Gaskins Jr.


**This is the first in a four part October series on love. Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s post on romantic love. **

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