I used to always think the statement, “You must love yourself first” was so cliché. But, I have come to realize there is truth in it. The only problem with the statement is the word “first”.
You must love God first! But you without a doubt must come next.
For a long time I couldn’t see it though. I even remember writing a little note to myself kind of explaining my confusion. I was filling out a worksheet that asked, “How are you feeling today?” It asked me to list my positive emotions and my negative emotions at that very moment. My negative list was much longer than my positive list. In fact there was only one thing on my positive list, “somewhat hopeful”.
My negative list had plenty of emotions though, sadness, worry, loneliness, anxiety, fear, and frustration, just to name a few.
The worksheet continued by asking me what my emotional needs were for today. Again, I started my list, need to be touched, need to be loved, need to be comforted, need to be encouraged, need to be reassured, need to be loved. Yes I listed love twice. That’s just how unloved I felt at that moment.
Then the worksheet asked a question I found very difficult. “How can you meet these needs in a responsible Christian way?”
I was stumped. I had no clue. In fact, that was my answer on the worksheet. “I have NO idea.” I didn’t know how to provide these things for myself. How do you comfort yourself? How do you reassure yourself? How do you encourage yourself? How do you love yourself?
Well, I learned the answer. But, I will first say it all depends on who, and how you are.
So I’m sitting here, on my lunch break at work. My first day of work at a new job mind you. And a couple of tears started to run down my face. Why? Because I came to this realization of what my emotional needs were, and then the sudden realization that there was nobody there to provide them for me. So if I really wanted what I needed, I would have to either do it for myself, or just stay broken.
I continued to write, “I don’t know how to provide any of these needs for myself. When I attempt to, it feels fake. Almost as if it doesn’t count or doesn’t matter if it’s coming from me.” That statement was my breakthrough. I instantly heard the Holy Spirit ask me, “Why doesn’t it count coming from you?” I had no answer.
Why didn’t it count coming from me? I was a pretty cool guy. Most people liked me. I felt like it counted greatly when I would provide these needs for others, so why not me? Anytime I would try to provide love, encouragement, reassurance, comfort, or understanding to others, I really felt like I was doing something. As if my small efforts to love them made a difference. So why couldn’t they make the same difference for me?
So I said to myself, “Stefan, I want you to know that I love you.” My eyes became a waterfall. “Stefan, I want you to know that it’s going to be alright.” The tears continued to rush down my face. “Stefan, I’m here to tell you that you can do it and you can make it.” Now I was straight sobbing in my car.
“Stefan, you are enough!”
That was the final dagger into my heart. I sobbed and sobbed and wailed and cried uncontrollably for the next 10 minutes. But in the midst of the tears, I continued to say these things to myself in my mind.
Now if you remember I said the answer depends on who you are and how you are. I say this because one thing I’ve learned about myself is my “love languages”. If you haven’t read the book The 5 love Languages, I’m sure you’ve heard of it.
This book says that every person has a distinct way they communicate love (giving and receiving). I personally think most people have two. In the book the author list what he believes to be the five categories of love communication styles. They are, quality time, gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation, and physical touch.
I bring this up because in order to truly love yourself in a way that you can receive, you must know your method of love communication. When I first started learning about loving myself, I would read articles and blogs, commentaries and essays on how to do it. But none of them connected with me.
These articles and such would say things like, take yourself to a movie. Okay, I’d take myself to a movie and when the movie was over, I didn’t feel loved. I saw a cool movie and it was a nice distraction from the overwhelming pain I was feeling, but it lasted only as long as the movie and I truly felt no better.
They would say, buy something nice for yourself, or take yourself out to eat, or do the thing you love to do and enjoy it alone. I would try and try and try, but none of these methods helped me. It was only later that I realized that it was because they weren’t my love languages. Taking myself to a movie (acts of service) buying myself some clothes (gifts), and taking myself out to dinner (quality time) never resonated with me.
Why? Because my love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch. Think about my list of emotional needs, “need to be touched, comforted, reassured, understood, encouraged.” These are all things that are usually done through physical or verbal measures. So for me, I needed to tell myself, “Stefan, I love you.”
But that’s what worked for me. You might need some quality time with yourself, or you might need to give yourself and gift, or you might need to do something for yourself, an act of service, in order to love yourself. But whatever your language is, utilize it to love yourself.
Start small and then begin to reinforce your love for yourself. Sow the seed of love into your life. Do this on a regular basis, allow it to grow to a daily basis, and even multiple times a day. But, find your language and communicate love to yourself.
Galatians 6:7 – Do not be deceived; God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap.
It is a foundational truth of scripture that a man reaps what he sows. We have the opportunity not only to sow into others, but to sow into ourselves. As a child those around me had sowed anger, discord, inferiority, and degradation into my life. As a result I began to sow these same characteristics into my own life. I was a result of the learned behavior that said I was unloved, disliked, worthless, pathetic, and a failure. And because I sowed these things into myself, these are the things that came out of me. Not necessarily to others, but back to me. It became was a vicious circle. I would sow hate into myself and receive hate from myself. I would sow worthlessness into myself and receive worthlessness from myself. I would sow failure into myself and receive failure from myself.
But when I came to this realization and began to sow love into myself, I began to receive love from myself. When I would sow appreciation into my own life, I would receive appreciation from the person inside of me, to me. When I would sow self-respect into my inner man, I would receive self-respect from the outer man.
I began to catch myself randomly telling myself, “I’m proud of you Stefan.” I would find a failure in my life and immediately say, “I forgive you Stefan, I still love you!” When fear would creep up, I would tell myself, “I believe in you Stefan.” These things worked miraculously in my life. Not instantly, but miraculously. The more I did it, the more I reaped from the harvest of love that I had planted on the inside of me.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t need a booster from friends and family at times. But overall, I was more satisfied with who I was and appreciative of the man God made me.
You my friends can do this to. Let me be the first to tell you…
“I believe in you!”
“I love you!”
“You are worth the effort!”
The fact that you made the decision to take the time to read this long, long post in order to help yourself, means you are not a failure but a success.
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