Love of Self

There is a split in Western culture that says, to love oneself is paramount (otherwise we cannot love others), but to love oneself too much, selfish.  The dreaded label of Narcissism.  But what hope have we if we do not Love ourselves?  If we cannot bear to look within?

In the myth of Narcissus, a beautiful hunter falls in love with his own reflection (in one version, having been misled to a pool by Nemesis out of revenge for him rejecting his suitors). Not realizing it was himself in the water, he died unable to kiss the reflection or know and receive love.  In his place, a Narcissus flower grew by the river.

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But what is the deeper story?

In Ovid’s version, a beautiful nymph Echo approached Narcissus while he was resting after a long hunt.  She did not appear to him at first, but hid in the forest and followed him relentlessly, obsessed by his beauty.  In fear of being hunted, he called out, “Whose there?”, to which she responded with his self-same words (or echo), “Whose there?” over and over again until it exasperated him. When she finally appeared to him and attempted to kiss him, he shunned her and told her to leave him alone.  She wandered the forest for the rest of her days pining for him and he died alone.

 

Is this Self-Love or Self-Loathing?

But what is the longing and rejection of Narcissus? Was it really self-love that killed Narcissus, or a misunderstanding of what love is (knowing oneself and other are the same)? Echo’s obsession and Narcissus’ rejection ultimately became the same dance of duality, both seeking love elsewhere and suffering from lack of self-awareness and true companionship. For Narcissus, to know oneself was a danger; to love another, even stranger.  Like looking into a deep well, the longing for self and love were both unmet.  For Echo, wandering and searching for love, while never finding it, not recognizing it in herself, left her a wanderer forever, both parties empty of the promise of what love can do and become.

Will not the mirror we look in, whether it be ourselves or another, only prove our point (we are not worthy) until we ultimately reject ourselves and the other? And if we reject ourselves first with self-sacrifice, obsessing about another, will we not have ourselves to blame?

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I have always disliked the haunting story of Narcissus because it shames one for liking oneself too much (presumably), and I have been a bit vain in my time, being an actress and all!  But if I were telling the truth, was it really love that had me looking to outward appearance and accomplishment, trying to get others to like me, or get attention?

Self-loathing and emptiness cannot be filled by the well of others, nor in the reflection in the water of our own perceptions. If we truly loved, we would not seek to possess or reject ourselves or others at all.

The Hope of True Self-Love and Love as Correction

Perhaps to love oneself and to love another is the self-same promise – for one cannot be without the other.  Perhaps if Narcissus had closed his eyes he would have found the voice within that would finally answer him.  Perhaps if he had opened his heart to Echo and forgave her, he would have found congenial love with another.

What I am getting at is a deeper love or longing that has nothing to do with outward appearances or selfishness. Something that makes us happy to be in our own company, and in the company of others.  For me, journalling, meditation, being with friends and family, yoga, and respect for my dreams as separate from a sense of self-worth. (In other words, I can have it all if it is genuine :). 

roniNurture yourself: in your own blossoming, another stands to blossom. 

In your own rejection, another is rejected. 

Embrace the challenge of love.

Accept the transformation. 

Stand to look at the qualities you don’t like in yourself and another. 

Befriend the Self inside that waits. 

Forgive what lays waste.

Bear to watch and witness what love can do…

The Hope of what Still Awaits.

 

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 Thank you, Love, for your sacred surprises & redemption

 Some interesting quotes on Self-love:

“Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.”  (Shakespeare, Henry V, 2.4:73, 74)

“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. (Carl Gustav Jung)

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”
- (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“Only those who give over all desire to reject can know that their own rejection is impossible.” (A Course in Miracles, p. 43)
What do you think?  How do you nurture Self and Love another? Can you do both? Share your stories with me.  Write in the comments below! 🙂

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