This is a very slippery idea that’s easy to misinterpret through purely good intentions. In order to see the true nature of this idea we have to look at the nature of the “self”, and what we mean by “love”. While we tend to think these are objective and universal terms, they’re not, and chances are everyone has a different idea about what they mean. The self, like the mind and consciousness, is three-fold in nature. Each aspect of the self is a corresponding aspect to the mind and level of consciousness. Just as we have a higher mind, a lower mind, and a self-aware mind, and we have super-conscious, subconscious, and self-conscious, we have a higher-divine self, a lower self, and a middle self.
All three aspects exist in a unified state as our “individual self”, while some aspects are active and being fully expressed to create who and how we are, others remain latent in a purely potential and passive state. WE tend to operate for the most part out of one predominately, occasionally two, and hardly ever utilize and give prominence to our higher self, because it’s completely outside of the body and doesn’t get its identity (sense of self) from “being” a body. It’s completely objective and non-personal in nature. So for the most part, when we’re talking about the “self” we’re talking about the lower self as the body and personality, and occasionally we’re talking about the mind that’s in charge of the body and capable of directing it and taking care of it through willful decisions that it uses to discipline it. Like all things, there’s always a dichotomy playing out in the most fundamental sense, and through a misinterpretation of this idea, we can default into developing an attitude of selfishness that utilizes our lower nature as our body and emotions, giving them precedence over our mind, and allowing them to control our mind to fulfill its needs and desires.
To say that loving ourselves is taking good care of ourselves is true, yet we’d have to look at what that means? Indulging in “treating ourselves” to sugary snacks, food that lacks nutrition, things that are purely for emotional and physical gratification of some sort, giving into cravings, impulses, and seeking fulfillment to satisfy or comfort what’s purely of a material nature, all of which may not be good for us at all in the sense of producing good health, a clear mind, high energy, moral integrity, an optimistic outgoing attitude, and a body free of pollutants that result in disease. When taking this kind of an attitude, loving yourself can be detrimental and train yourself to a selfish “me” attitude of – I need, I want, I deserve, I’m going to give myself, I’m going to do only for myself – and so on, which cultivates selfishness in the most basic sense of the word. The lower self as the animal body does not make intelligent decisions (doesn’t employ logic or reasoning), but relies purely on emotional impulses and instincts and doesn’t consider the consequences of those actions. The lower self is more of what we could think of as a “child”.
When approaching self-love from the middle or human self, it can mean only doing what’s good for the body in terms of producing good health, setting healthy emotional boundaries, always acting in your own life with a sense intelligence and moral integrity, directing your own thoughts, self-reflecting to recognize your own tendencies, and working on yourself to heal them, developing impeccable moral values that you discipline yourself to live by, examining your own behaviors and correcting the ones that need correcting, and so on. This is more of a mother-child relationship between the mind and body, and employs unconditional love as the foundation of the relationship and always acts on yourself with understanding, complete acceptance, and loving guidance that’s strong and diligent, yet gentle and delivered with tenderness. This aspect of the self teaches and develops the lower self to be an instrument of the mind.
In terms of our higher self, once we have our lower nature under control, and our body-personality is truly our neutral vehicle for expression of our mind, where we’re no longer tempted to default and prone to corruption, and we exist in good health, physically, emotionally, and mentally, and we can direct our full attention to serving others. To being of service to humanity as a whole. In this aspect we move away from ourselves as a “bodily identification”, and we feel no need to control others or situations, maintain no desires we seek to fulfill at the expense of others, and we become self-contained as a neutral force in the world. In this aspect of ourselves, we ask to be led into situations where we can be of service to others and demonstrate leadership in helping them. We commit to being an instrument for divine energy to act in the world. Intimately we say to ourselves, to God, “Let your Will be done through me”. Use me. I’m yours. You are my motivation, my desire, and my love. And life takes on a whole new meaning. Our purpose expands significantly, devotion to a higher cause swells inside of us, and we become overwhelmed with a sense of love, beauty, and wonder. We step fully into our divine nature, and take on an identity that’s not connected to or dependent on this world, but to a higher one, and through a lack of personal investment, we become a force for good. This is expressed in the saying of “being in this world but not of it”. This aspect can be thought of as the Father.
So in order to actually love another, we have to first come to terms with what it means to love ourselves as our divine, higher self that automatically looks on others with compassion, seeking only to understand, comfort, and assist. We recognize and respect people’s karma, we no longer project onto them and instead allow them to be exactly as they are without a need to change or somehow correct them to be like us, and without needing anything from them for our own well-being. We come into all relationships and situations with no need to control or manipulate others to our own means, because we exist and function from a state of contentment where we draw all our power from within. So we’re not looking for power without. We don’t come into situations looking to get, but rather to give. We give without need or expectation of return. We forfeit all opinions, beliefs, and criteria for judging, and we simply become present with things as they are. We interact with them wherever they’re at in life, serving only as a mirror to allow them to begin recognizing themselves through us while holding a safe space for them to come into themselves without guilt, shame, or fear of retribution.
If you pay attention and learn to examine the character behind ideas, you’ll realize that what we call the “7 Cardinal Sins”, are all about selfishness and self-indulgence. Likewise, the “7 Divine Virtues”, are the qualities that can be employed in their place to transform them, and move you out of your lower nature and into your true, universal, godly nature. The most basic form of healing and growth doesn’t come by “working through your issues”, but by consciously developing your character and what qualities you express and therefore cultivate, which automatically change the dynamics playing out, resolving your issues because you no longer act to create them. It’s only by changing our inward perceptions, attitudes and behaviors that we heal and transform our lives through a higher form of self-expression. We never change anything by working with the outer effects, but rather by changing the inner cause. All spiritual growth is an inside process that serves to change the outer expression. We don’t resist evil out of a fear of consequences, but rather by cultivating a love for good.
Dr, Linda Gadbois