12 February 2013

The Importance of Loving Others More Than Yourself

Last month I asked you to share your most important priorities in life and was inspired by Alison LoBasso's strive to learn to love others more than herself. Loving others as opposed to loving yourself in an age of encouraged egocentrism seems like a pure act of craziness.

The philosophy of self-love
Nowadays we are continuously taught to love ourselves and to put our needs and wishes above all else. "I" is king, and carries its crown with a mighty vigor. But the more we get focused into loving ourselves. the more we devoid ourselves of real love and start to feel miserable.

Then we pay to get lectured by the New Age gurus about the steps we should take to produce love for ourselves and becoming self-sufficient. But ask any senior person in an old people's home how self-sufficient they feel loving themselves when there is no one of their family around.

While preaching self-love has a positive financial impact on some, today I offer you a free exercise in thought shaping instead. Here is an old example they used to give us at primary school:
Look at the sun. It rises each day and shines above us, it gives us light, energy, it helps the plants grow and produce oxygen for us to breathe. It gives without getting anything back in return. And yet it never runs out of sunshine.
Talk about selflessness. 

Why is it so hard for us, the most intelligent of species to give without expecting anything in return? Why should we learn to do it?

Photo: Shutterstock

The way we feel about ourselves affects the way we treat others
I am not trying to underestimate the feeling of acceptance and love for  yourself. But that feeling should be more like an act of self-respect -- the only way to create love in our life and to share it with others.

The way we feel about ourselves affects the way we treat others. If we are happy and content with ourselves we naturally treat others well.

Egocentrism vs. love
The moment self-love becomes the center of your life will be your first step to the unsatisfied life of a person for whom the grass is always greener on the other side.

Egocentrics believe the world evolves around them and there is nothing more important than what they feel, think or like. But that is a stage in human evolution which we outlive in our early life. At age 7–12, children become less egocentric and are able to appreciate viewpoints other than their own. In a contunuously infantilized world it is no wonder that more and more adults get stuck developmentally at their pre-school years.

According to some schools of modern thought loving yourself is indeed the pinnacle of love but research led by Baron and Hanna (1990) tested the connection between egocentrism and depression in adults and found out that the participants with depression showed higher levels of egocentrism. Therefore, this would suggest that a mentally healthy individual evolves out of most of their egocentric habits.

Shift your thoughts
Now here is a little push to help you get out and start shining upon the world instead of grabbing greedily from its riches.

1. Treat others with respect (i.e. the way you want to be treated)
Making people around you happy will help you feel happy. The thankfulness in people will increase your self-esteem and what is more, those that you treat well will likely repay you with the same kindness.

2. Develop empathy
Imagine how other people and living beings feel, what affects them, what hurts them or what makes them happy. Learn to listen to your heart.

3. Put the needs of other people before your own
Pay attention to the people in your life to find out what their needs are. Anticipate their feelings. Catering to their needs will not make you less important or miserable. On the contrary it will fill you up with a sense of accomplishment and joy. It takes time to learn to be considerate and sensitive but once you start trying you will only get better.

4. Reciprocate kindness
Be sensitive to the kind treatment you receive by others and try to reciprocate it. If someone treats you bad, rise above the occasion and respond with love and positivity.

5. Do more for others, but still take care of yourself 
Acting in a selfless manner and being attentive to others should not stop you from caring for yourself. You are just as important as anyone else is.

6. Don't be judgmental
It is easy to judge other people but try to live their life and you will find yourself making even more mistakes than you think they made. Try to be understanding and forgiving, and learn from other people's mistakes instead of labeling and judging them.

7. Give 
Giving is a lot more difficult than taking, especially to ungrateful people. But giving should not be about gratefulness either. Sometimes, it is just about the feeling you get for yourself. Giving adds up to your self-worth even if nobody else new about it.

With these 7 steps I offer you to shift your thoughts from "What can I get?" to "What can I offer?" If your attention is off yourself and about giving, the whole world around you will respond by giving back to you. And you will receive the love you long for! And that is why I think that loving others more than you yourself is the only way you can feel continually loved.

Now tell me, how do you feel when you try to make other people loved?

This post is part of Listen to Your Heart month on Kanelstrand. Read the rest of the posts here and join in the discussions, we'd love to know what you think!