Woman photographing herself in a mirror
Have you tried to love yourself? What has been your experience?
I am into love now like never before in my life. I neither love myself nor try to love myself. I have heard some people say that they love themselves, and more who express frustration about trying to love themselves. Here’s a reflection that finds meaning in what the first group says and has a proposal for both groups.
Today’s society needs a fresh realization of another truth: in its fullness, love is interpersonal and mutual. To love and be loved is so deeply satisfying because loving that we give comes from the very core of our being and the love that we receive touches the very core of our being. In this full sense, love is not something we can give ourselves. We can open ourselves to receive the embrace of the God whose “I love you,” is spoken from within. If we can be fully and adequately loved only by someone else, we cannot be fulfilled alone. But those who know the love of God have a foundation for self-esteem beyond human opinion.
Today we commonly hear the advice to love ourselves. Indeed, that idea does have meaning: we can respect ourselves profoundly, accept the facts of our present condition, harmonize the different parts of ourselves, be responsible in caring for ourselves, and enjoy our personal uniqueness.
Nevertheless, the attempt to love oneself can be frustrating. When we look in the mirror, it is common to see pluses and minuses in one’s body. When we introspect and observe our minds, it is common to see both pluses and minuses in our mind. No one is totally wonderful, and it is natural to want to conceal what is unbeautiful from others. The image seen in the mirror and derived from the contents of one’s mind shows nothing that could justify unlimited love. If we think of ourselves simply in terms of mind and body, we are philosophically vulnerable to low self-esteem. If we treat the truth of ourselves as something to conceal, we resist opening ourselves to divine love.
Those who genuinely love us are not responding mainly to our mind and body pluses. What primarily makes us loveable does not show up in the mirror or register in the mind’s field of objects for introspection. It takes another person to perceive what primarily makes us lovable: the wonderful personality—unique, mysterious, constant through change, and indwelt by the spirit of God.
Love embraces the whole person. True love does not gaze only on the best and most beautiful; love does not pretend that the other person is perfect. Only because it combines realism with its idealism can this mutual relationship be love. Love gets real when the other’s imperfections interfere with our own contentment. If we mercifully interpret what we understand of those imperfections, we can do what is appropriate to support the other’s growth.