I’m sure the purest form of love is that between a parent and their child, for it tends to be unconditional. Generally a parent loves their child no matter what they do, and from time to time I’m sure you’ve come across stories of parents who’ve continued to stand by a son or daughter after they’ve committed some dreadful crime.
Fortunately most parents don’t have to face dilemmas like this, and we tend to accept that the bond between a mother or father and their son or daughter really is unconditional.
Now you may or may not be a parent, but I wonder if you extend this principle to loving yourself?
Perhaps not. Do you love yourself on a good day, but exhibit substantially lower levels of self-compassion when you’re going through a rough patch? You know, you wouldn’t be the first if you did. When I feel reasonably happy I tend to feel OK about myself. But ask me to make a similar judgement when my mood has dipped, and the answer would be quite different. I’m not proud to admit I’ve gone through periods of substantial self-loathing. Ouch.
I truly hope you’ve not been unfortunate enough to share the experience, but you have my profound sympathies if you have. Ouch.
The highly-respected psychologist Albert Ellis described two outlooks when it comes to self regard.
The first is conditional, when we accept ourselves only when things go well. The second is unconditional, when our self-acceptance occurs no matter what happens.
Not one to beat around the bush, so seriously did Albert Ellis view the damaging effects of conditional self-love that he called them ‘deadly’.
A big part of self-compassion is learning to be comfortable with yourself. A parent doesn’t tell their child that they’ll only love them if they change, but isn’t this just what you and I say to ourselves at times?
Building levels of self-esteem, compassion and acceptance can be a big challenge, involving months or even years of therapy for some people. But maybe we can take a more immediate, less ambitious ‘nudge’ approach today?
And this, quite simply, is to be as kind with yourself as you would be with others, no matter what you might think you have or haven’t done.
You are who you are, and very little can change this. Please be nice to yourself today.