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Self-love may be considered a “soft topic” among leadership circles but it’s a topic foundational to leading a life that’s fulfilling and impactful.

If our highest call in life is to love and serve others in our relationships, business and community, we’d better take seriously the charge of loving ourselves. Why? The capacity of which we have to love others can only extend to the bounds of which we love ourselves.

The golden rule is: Do unto others how you would have them do unto you. This begs the question, how do you “do unto” yourself?

In our thought lives at least, most of us struggle in this arena. Most of us say things to ourselves we wouldn’t dare say to our coworkers, spouse, children, siblings or friends. We tolerate verbal abuse from ourselves that we would never tolerate from another person. Studies show that 90 percent of adults have a negative self-image. Our thoughts about ourselves fuel our feelings and our feelings fuel our actions. Our beliefs about ourselves become either our springboards into the successful life we’ve dreamed of or our prison bars in the holding cell of our comfort zones. This is why self-love is a crucial element in successful leadership. Self-love produces creativity and cultivates growth. A lack of self-love produces shame and inhibits growth.

When—at our depth—we don’t accept ourselves, we crave admiration from others. People-pleasing and chasing the approval of others has left many of us high and dry. Everyone in the world can approve of us, but if we don’t approve of ourselves, it will never be enough. We are built with an innate need for connection and belonging. If we don’t feel good about ourselves at our core, we sabotage connection with others. We hide our true selves behind our performance and we are trapped in an energy-sapping cycle of needing to perform well and be admired by others. All the while our deepest need for connection continues to go unmet.

In order to connect with others and offer our best selves to the world around us, we must feel we are worthy of connection. We must believe we have something of importance to offer the world around us. Shame says we aren’t worthy and worthiness is the baseline for wholehearted living. Self-love produces whole-hearted living.

Consider these four points about self-love and wholeheartedness.

  • When we are living wholeheartedly, we are free to fail. We don’t have the pressure to perform well because our self-worth doesn’t depend on it. This gives us the freedom to explore our own creativity. It gives us permission to connect with and validate others. When we are operating under shame, we aren’t able to celebrate others or cheer on their successes. Each success of another person becomes a threat to our own wellbeing.
  • Loving ourselves well gives us the baseline needed to love and respect others. We have an epidemic of disrespect running rampant in our country. The answer to this epidemic isn’t demanding respect from others. The answer is to respect ourselves first—this will influence others to respect themselves and others as well.
  • Self-love enables us to enforce boundaries in order to protect what’s important. Boundaries aren’t meant to keep people out; they’re meant to protect and uphold the value of what’s inside those boundaries. So often, we give so much of ourselves in order to gain approval from others. We work long hours, sacrifice our health and our mental wellbeing in attempt to gain outside approval. When we have healthy self-love, we know how to set necessary boundaries to protect our own wellbeing.
  • Self-love is magnetic. In a world where 90 percent of adults have a negative self-image, healthy self-love is rare. And when it’s expressed in an authentic, positive way, it’s a magnet to those who are hungry for the same. When you love yourself, you give permission for others to love themselves.

Love is a powerful force. When self-love is embraced, it’s a foundational piece to leading a fulfilled and impactful life. What are some ways you can cultivate self-love? If you would like to speak with a life and business coach about this topic, call HBK High Performance at 330-758-8613.

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