Living and growing up in a close-knit community in Lebanon, I grew up seeing my mom selflessly caring, sacrificing and compromising her needs to the benefit of everyone else in our family. Being the only daughter in the house, and having my mom as my role model, I always felt that “that was the norm”. I needed to give my time, love and efforts to everyone around, made sure everyone was happy and satisfied, and if I still had the energy to have any needs at that time, I would attend to these at last. It was as if I was waiting for a validation from others that I am good enough, and I am there to support you so you can love me.
The snowball grew even bigger when I got two gorgeous healthy kids of my own, and the urge to give even more kept on expanding without my permission. I remember one day, I had one of those quick tests on Facebook to understand more about myself, and to my utmost happiness, I got the result of a “SELFLESSLY CARING” individual. I felt pride fill up my heart as if I was just awarded that medal of honor of being selfless. “Yippee, I am selfless, I am not selfish!”
When I started feeling drained and energy tank depleted, I wasn’t kind to myself. On the contrary, I started beating myself up and questioning my strength over and over again. A question that I kept on asking myself, was something like, “How was my mom able – and is still able – to sustain that sacrificing culturewhile I am half her age and drained already?”
Thankfully, this didn’t continue much longer, and the answer came to me as soon as I started my life coaching journey. The thought-provoking process of coaching allowed me to stop and reflect on what was behind that energy depletion.
Being a responsible mom, I realized through coaching that I cannot give from an empty cup. If I want to love my kids and give them all the love they need to grow and thrive, I need to fill my cup first and become a priority in my life.
How pathetic is that? For thirty plus years, I wasn’t giving myself permission to be a priority in MY LIFE!
Does that resonate with you?
If the answer is a YES, I need to assure you, you are not alone!
I see that with my coaching clients who come to my office drained and have had enough of giving support to everyone else around them, whether in a personal or professional setting, and not taking care of themselves first. They believe, if otherwise, they would come across as selfish too.
Let us first agree that, SELF-LOVE IS NOT SELFISH! And I will tell you why.
- How can we expect to provide love to others, when our account is empty?
Imagine some friend asks you to lend them some money, and you have a bank account of zero dollars. You have two options: either to apologize kindly and inform your dear friend that you have nothing in your bank account at the moment (I cannot give what I don’t have! Isn’t it?), OR, you can go and borrow some money from other people to make sure that your friend is satisfied (I want you to pause now for few seconds, and just imagine the “aftermath” of that!).
With the first option, I acknowledge my clients when they realize that they are running on an empty balance. Self-awareness is key. And, ONLYwhen they are ready to see its cost on the long run, and put in the effort to set new boundaries, will things will start to change.
On the other hand, and in my opinion, when we insist on helping our friend even when we cannot help ourselves is the strongest act of violence against oneself. The resulting discomfort will be compensated in the unhealthiest ways possible.
This, in real life, means that we can devour into unhealthy habits when we insist on giving from an empty cup, such as over-eating, smoking, consuming alcohol, drugs, working long hours, etc. These might give us quick fixes on the short run (borrowing money from a friend), but on the long run, can have very bad implications. Hence, the eating disorders, feeling of low self-confidence, feeling of being taken for granted at home/work, anxiety, fatigue, anger and frustration, feeling of being not good enough, etc.
- How can we expect others to respect us and our boundaries if we don’t respect ourselves and our boundaries?
Choosing ourselves, even if it means upsetting others in the process and not being popular anymore is essential. What is it you need to start saying “NO” to, when you are still saying yes? Why saying “NO” is so hard? Why can’t we realize that we too have a life and we need to take care of it? Why do we find excuses for others, and not find excuses to ourselves? What would happen if you left work undone for the second day, simply because we feel tired, overwhelmed, or just don’t feel like doing it?
In a nutshell, if we are not respecting ourselves, do you think someone will respect us?
So, what is self-love?
Self-love is not simply a state of feeling good. It is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth.
How to practice self-love?
Forgiving oneself and setting boundaries are – in my opinion – the two most important criteria in the self-love concept, and all others will fall into place.
I believe going to the gym, eating healthily, booking that massage session you kept on postponing, or booking yourself that ticket to Italy with your family or friend(s), or some bubble baths are all important, however, this is self-care and not self-love. This is a necessity, and not a luxury! You owe your body this care!
Self-love is not selfish because it is shifting our mindset from “I am not good enough” to “I am enough”. Where is the selfishness in here?
What is so selfish about setting boundaries?
What is so selfish about saying no to the things that you really want to say not to?
What is so selfish about being a priority in your own life?
What is so selfish about respecting yourself to respect others more?
What is so selfish about loving yourself and filling your cup to give others?
What is so selfish about having positive thoughts about life so you can transfer that positivity to your workplace or home?
Now, seriously, are you still reluctant to love yourself?
If yes, let’s talk 😊
By, Faten El Ayache, Life Coach
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