At the heart of the Jewish and Christian scriptures is the mandate to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (see Deuteronomy 6.5; Luke 10.27; and Romans 13.9 to start). And ultimately, I suspect that for most of us, we want to make a positive, loving impact on the lives of others.
But it’s impossible to love our neighbor effectively (or our family, or our colleagues, or a stranger, or even an enemy) if we bypass ourselves. If you’ve ever been on a commercial airline, you know that flight attendants tell you directly – secure your own oxygen mask first! If you fail to do that, you could lose consciousness before you’re able to help your neighbor.
And our culture sucks at helping us love ourselves – at least from a scriptural or mental health perspective. Loving yourself means knowing deep down in your bones that you are intrinsically valuable. Loving yourself means granting yourself dignity; not taking yourself for granted; forgiving, being merciful to, and learning to live at peace with yourself. Loving yourself is accepting yourself as good – just as you are – without any immediate need to change. Loving yourself means that you treat yourself with kindness; and that you’re always there for yourself when you need it. Loving yourself means taking care of yourself first – loving yourself first. Loving yourself first helps fill your heart up to full strength. Then out of a full heart, you can pour kindness and love and help into the lives of others.
If we’re honest, most of us don’t do this very well. We need help ourselves.
So here’s a challenge for you—for 30 consecutive days, do one thing a day to love yourself first.
It can be the same action for 30 days, or a different action every day. Record it by writing down. Tell someone else what you’re doing so that you have some motivation and accountability.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started (but feel free to let your imagination springboard from here): Sleep 8 eight hours a night. Wake up 30 minutes earlier than the day before. Do some intentional physical activity for 30 minutes a day. Go to yoga or tai chi. Meditate (practice mindfulness). Eat a healthy breakfast. Bring lunch to work. Take a walk around the office. Take the stairs. Take a nature walk. Say “no” to something you don’t want to do. Say “yes” to something you haven’t done before. Get a massage. Get a facial. Get a manicure and pedicure. Get a haircut. Clean your room. Organize a drawer. Donate extra clothes or extraneous belongings. Wash your sheets. Clean your refrigerator. Read 10 pages of a book. Study your hero. Go to the library. Go to a concert. Play a musical instrument. Dance to the radio. Sing to your favorite song. Call your mom. Call your dad. Call your siblings. Call your best friend. Put $20 in your savings account. Set a budget and stick to it. Journal. Send a thank you card to yourself. Cuddle with your cat. Walk your dog. Water your plants. Buy yourself flowers. Hug your neighbor. Paint. Smile. Laugh out loud. Take a deep breath.
Tell yourself, “I love you.”
On the 30th day, answer the following questions so that you can see the transitions you made by loving yourself first.
What changes did you notice in yourself? What lessons did you learn? Do you feel happier and more at ease in your own life? Celebrate your accomplishments!
One caveat – if you don’t find that you’re able to move toward loving yourself more, even one step at a time, you may be suffering from depression. Speak about that with your doctor as soon as possible (that’s another way to love yourself).
Love yourself; love your neighbor. It has to be done in that order. Don’t fight it. Put on your own oxygen mask first.