What is the difference between loving yourself and being selfish? We are always being told how important it is to love ourselves but sometimes it is hard to know how, so we either try to fake it or mask our insecurity with ego, vanity, or selfishness. Narcissism is a twisted attempt at self-love that comes from a place of insecurity and self-hate. On the flipside, what is the difference between humility and self-deprecation? It is important to let your light shine, not to belittle your achievements, not to put yourself down. But it is also important not to show off. As the Zen saying goes, “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.” Hmm, confusing stuff. I think you can let your light shine without tooting your own horn. Being honest and grateful for the things you have accomplished is different than being proud or bragging. I feel like a lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon of “take care of yourself first” but they don’t know what that looks like so they act selfishly in some cases but then let people take advantage of them in others.
In February I chose a theme of love for my yoga classes with each week focusing on a different aspect. First loving yourself, then others, then god. And in talking and thinking about these topics I came to realize that they were all the same thing. Self is Other is God. God is in everyone so loving ourselves means loving god, and if god is in you too then I must love you as well. You can love and care for yourself and also for others. Sometimes serving others is the best way to nurture your own spirit. Being selfish is impossible when you truly love yourself, because, as Buddha said, “If you truly loved yourself, you could never hurt another.
Dr. Wayne Dyer says ego is “edging god out.” If we love our Self regardless of external factors then we are truly practicing self-love without ego. But if our love of self depends on how we look, what we do, who thinks what about us…then we are edging god out of the equation and depending on people’s opinions (including our own.) The goal of self-love is to be able to say, “I love myself, because I AM.” And in turn we can learn to love others regardless of their external factors. This doesn’t mean we don’t hold people accountable for their conscious choices or bad behavior, but we can still love them. Consider a situation from the point of view of a loving parent (as we are all children of god); the parent makes the best decision he/she can for the greater good of all his/her children. When confronting a situation, consider all the people affected by your decision, including yourself. Follow the advice of the Dalai Lama: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”