The One Word Inspiration series is a guest post series on Clear the Way which asks different visiting bloggers to share whatever they are inspired to share when they hear only one word. The word changes each month and today Andrea Marlene from bumblebird is here to share her inspiration from the word self-love.
I think that for most people, “self-love” refers to the time they spend on self-focused activities, anything that allows rest and relaxation. But when I hear the word “self-love,” I think of the complex relationships that exist between self and others. Because if loving myself is my sole priority then it can lead to selfishness, which ultimately doesn’t help me or anyone else. At the other extreme, if we love others to the complete neglect of our own selves, then what we have to offer is so diminished that it can’t really be described as love at all.
Love for others and love for self can, therefore, be seen as a two-sided coin. Neither one can exist without the other.
You’ve most likely been to a wedding where the biblical definition of love was read: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). What stands out to me most in these verses is the fact that all of the words used to define love are actions. Love isn’t described as a feeling but a list of things people who love each other should do.
But how, then, can we practice self-love? Most women I know are overworked, overtired, overstressed, and overburdened. We don’t have time for self-loving actions. We have a list of priorities and assessing what we need is often not one of them. So how can we build self-love into these super busy lives of ours?
I once heard a wheelchair bound woman describe her joy over sewing clothes for kids in third world countries. When she had first heard about the opportunity she thought, “Now that I can do!” She’d been feeling helpless for so long that the ability to do something for someone in need, to show compassion to those less fortunate through her own skills, brought her such pleasure that it became an act of both love toward others and herself. I’ve also seen adults with mental challenges take great joy in doing work for other people. The sense of purpose it gives them is incomparable to any other activity. And I’ve seen young children beam with pride at being selected “special helper” in their classrooms, even if their responsibilities are mainly pushing in chairs.
Loving others is an extraordinary act of self-love.
The things we choose to do for others in our everyday lives can become the very things we need most for ourselves. Every act of kindness done for someone else, no matter how small, can ultimately be an act of self-love.
There is a definite need for balance in this. If I give of myself too much, I can end up exhausted and frustrated. The time I do spend on myself, quietly relaxing with a book and a coffee, then becomes a self-directed kindness so that I am better equipped to perform kindnesses for others.
When we help others to carry their burdens, our own become lighter. And that, to me, is truly what self-love is all about.
Andrea Marlene is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Southern Ontario, Canada with her husband and three kids. She blogs about finding meaning in the mundane aspects of life at bumblebirdblog.com and her writing has also recently appeared on the Huffington Post. You can join her on Facebook where her goal is to establish a Community of Kindness within social media.