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Unselfish Self-Love

Synopsis: Three contrarian questions lead off our mini-love-lesson; which then goes to eye-opening answers to those questions; some knowledge about the benefits of unselfish self love; more.

Three Contrarian Questions

Who do you think does more good in the world, the highly self caring or those who are frequently self-sacrificing?

Who do you think are more giving and helpful to others, those who are highly self-critical or those who like and love themselves a lot?  Who do you think attends more to the less able and less fortunate, those who are low or those who are high in active self-love?

Eye-Opening Answers

The research data shows, contrary to what many have been taught to think, the healthfully self loving are more effective and more frequently active in doing kind and compassionate love behaviors and working for the benefit of others than those in various other comparison groups.  It appears the self-sacrificing are not viewed as very good at self care.  Therefore, they are thought to grow depleted and less able to help others over time.

The self-critical often are seen to be too busy giving themselves negative attention to do all that much for others and are considered to have a lack of sufficient self-confidence which slows them down.  The emotionally needy and low in self-love put much more of their energy into confused attempts to get their own needs met, so they too often do not have much to give others.  The timid and guilty fear to act because they might do something wrong and they also are believed to back away from criticism, resistance and disagreements that arise in trying to benefit others.

Those who are healthfully self loving turn out to be the more unselfish, compassionate to others as well as to themselves.  They also are more likely to act altruistically, charitably and champion humanitarian causes, plus be more steadfast in encountering resistance and they are far less likely to surrender to criticism or opposition.  At least that is what a growing body of research points to.

There are other groups that are largely unselfish but it seems that without sufficient, healthy self-love and the self-care and self compassion healthy self-love brings them, for various reasons, don’t do as well.  There are those who think they have never done enough but the self-negativity that brings can be de-energizing and counterproductive.  There are those who have been taught that all pride is a sin, feeling good about yourself is egotistical and blinding to one’s own flaws, and all types of self-love lead to being self-centered, self-indulgent, self-seeking, smug, complacent to the detriment and expense of others.

So far at least, research does not support the contention that people who believe this way are better at being beneficial to others than are those who have strong, healthy self-love. Quite the contrary in fact.  There is evidence that points to the self compassionate and self caring being the most compassionate and caring to and for others.  Thus, they more than others, actually best fulfill the ancient admonition “Love others as you love yourself”.

Are the Selfish the Least Self Loving?

It can be argued that the highly selfish, egocentric, braggadocios, egomaniacal, etc. are just misguided and mistaken, and are attempting to make up for their own considerable lack of real and healthy self-love.  In essence the selfish are seen as trying hard to be self loving but they are trying in the wrong ways.  From this point of view they are doomed to real, self love failure.  Their’s, in fact, is seen as fake self-love.

The healthfully self loving are thought to more likely have a large sense of mysterious awe concerning their own nature, a great sense of gratitude for all that contributed to their own, unique selfhood, plus a tendency toward humorously accepting their own flaws and fumbles.  These are not characteristics thought to be easily found in the strongly selfish.  It is the unkind, uncharitable, unforgiving, un-thoughtful and insensitive to others who are deficient in self-love.

Those who are healthfully self loving are more likely to have what can be called ‘a full cup’ and, therefore, have a lot more they can give to others than those who are desperately trying to fill their very empty and leaking cup, so to speak.  The healthfully self-loving do not need to be egotistical because their cup not only ‘runneth over’ but does not leak.

Narcissism Versus Healthy Self-Love

Narcissism often is defined with the term self-love.  In light of a growing body of evidence concerning healthy, real love, it would seem appropriate to re-think narcissism.  Narcissism is understood to be a condition which blocks or at least lessens love for others.  More and more available evidence shows healthy self-love to enable and promote the love of others.  In fact, narcissism most accurately may be seen as a form of false self-love.  Perhaps it was not self-love that Narcissus experienced when he saw his image in the pool of water and fell in love with himself, but rather just a romantic infatuation, crush, or some other form of false love like love/lust confusion (see the entry) or even a case of time-limited limerence (see the entry).

One of the characteristics of the healthfully self loving is self compassion, well mixed with empathetic compassion for others in suffering and misfortune.  Narcissism is understood as making people so enamored of themselves that they do not notice or care about the suffering and misfortune of others.  Clearly healthy self-love and narcissism appear to be two very different things.

The Benefits of Unselfish Self-Love

It is very self-serving to be unselfish.  A bunch of surprising research results, show that when you act from altruism for the benefit of others you get all sorts of health benefits like improved immunity mechanism functioning, lowered bad cholesterol, better blood pressure and a number of other very, healthy things.  When you show compassion for the suffering of others, but also when you show compassion for yourself at the same time, or soon after, the likelihood of feeling depleted from giving to and caring for others is much less.  Likewise, if you show empathetic responses tor others, they are much more likely to show the same back toward you.

So, if you want to be good to yourself be good to others.  Once again, the amazing wisdom hidden in the simple words “Love others AS you love yourself” is being shown to have biological validity.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question Have you ever decided to make yourself feel good by going to do some kind of good for another?  If not, how about starting now?

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