Here’s my big message today: You can only have happy relationships if you have happy self-love.
Nope, I’m not talking about narcissism–or extreme selfishness. Here’s why: I believe selfish people don’t really love themselves.
Let me tell you my story.
Two years ago, I attended my 25th Alumni Homecoming.
It was great catching up with old friends. We were all bigger, balder, and bumpier in various parts of our body.
But what gave the heebeejeevies was walking through my old school building. I was overwhelmed with a flood of not-so-happy memories. I realized how much I didn’t like school.
You see, I was a very insecure kid.
I was very shy. I was introverted. I had pimples. I was so thin, they called me tipaklong (grasshopper). For Filipinos, my nose was large, so they called it a grand piano hanging on my face.
And some classmates bullied me. They called me names. They pushed me around. They forced me to do errands. And they made me their lifetime supply of pad paper.
In youth lingo, I was a Loser with a capital L.
But I felt all my classmates were so confident, so large, so outgoing, and so happy. They loved school.
And so I asked myself this disturbing question: What is wrong with me? Hundreds of times a day, I would ask myself this question. And for years, this question was my constant refrain.
What Is Wrong With Me?
25 years later, I know God has healed me because I don’t ask that cynical question as often anymore.
I now love myself.
I’ve grown in confidence.
And I’ve become successful!
I have a wonderful family and fantastic friends.
I’ve written bestselling books.
And my pimples are gone.
I’ve grown to my ideal weight.
My face is larger, so my nose isn’t a grand piano anymore. (Now it looks more like a church organ.)
And thanks to my friend, co-preacher, and couturier, Adrian Panganiban, I dress well. Suits, ties, the works. He makes clothes for showbiz stars and has made it his personal mission to make me look guwapo. I think he has succeeded (Ahem).
But may I be honest with you?
At rare times, I still find myself asking that judgmental question: What is wrong with me?
It’s amazing how after 25 years, a tiny part of me is still that insecure schoolboy that wanted people to like me.
My problem through all those years?
I didn’t love myself.
For decades, my heart was empty of self-love.
But was my heart really empty?
Your Heart Filled With Either
Self-Love Or Neediness
Imagine your heart to be an empty bottle.
But it’s not really empty. It’s actually filled with air.
In the same way, when a human heart doesn’t have self-love, it isn’t empty. It’s filled with neediness.
The air in the bottle is a symbol of neediness.
But if you pour water in it, it pushes air out of the bottle. The more water it has, the less air it has.
That water is self-love.
I believe the only solution to neediness is self-love.
If you learn to love yourself, you’ll push out neediness from your heart. The more you love yourself, the less neediness you have. The less you love yourself, the more neediness you have.
Would you know neediness if you saw it?
Do You Have Neediness?
Neediness, or a lack of self-love, is expressed in so many ways. Here are a few of them…
· Some, like me, become people-pleasers. They’ll be kind, gentle, and smile at everybody so they’ll be liked. Because their substitute for self-love is to be liked.
· Some achieve a lot, get good grades, and do great things. Because their substitute for self-love is to be admired.
· Some rebel, get angry, disobey, and reject everyone. Because they’re substitute to be loved is to receive attention.
· Some become victims of abuse. (Read my example later.)
As I said, I expressed my neediness in the first way–by becoming a good guy. All these years, people thought I was such a loving person. (I fooled you, didn’t I?)
But in reality, I wasn’t giving love; I was buying love.
I wasn’t giving love; I was giving neediness. Because you can only give what is in your heart.
Boy, was I miserable!
Because I lacked self-love, it was impossible to have a healthy, happy, relationship with others.
Let me tell you an extreme example…
The Need To Be Needed
Angela is married to her college sweetheart Marty.
But Marty is an alcoholic.
A few times a month, he comes home very drunk and beats Angela. He gives her a black eye. Slaps on the face. Bruises on the arm.
When he wakes up, he doesn’t even remember what he did.
Marty kneels down before a battered Angela and asks for forgiveness. He’s totally repentant and sobs like a baby.
But one or two weeks after, he gets drunk again and beats her up again. This insanity has been going on for seven years.
Many friends have told Angela to leave Marty. And she has. But Marty would find her and beg her to return. And out of love, she would return home–only to be beaten again.
But is it really out of love?
No. It’s neediness.
Specifically, the need to be needed.
Like me, Angela’s heart is filled with neediness, begging for love. Because she can’t find love, she mistakes being needed as love. And she finds it in her sick husband.
Angela’s neediness attracted Marty’s neediness. Two needy people needing each other. It was the perfect recipe for an unhappy marriage. (I’ll talk more about this later.)
I talked to Angela.
I told her the harsh truth, “You don’t really love her husband.”
“How could you say that?” she said, “That’s why I’ve stuck with him…”
“If you really loved him, and not needed him, you would have run away from him a long time ago and never went near him until he stopped drinking for at least 6 to 12 months. He doesn’t need gentle love. He needs tough love. Are you willing to give that?”
She closed her eyes and wept.
The Problem Of The Needy Heart
I’m going to expose my age again.
Remember this song by Basil Valdez? “It’s your smile, your face, your lips that I miss; your sweet little eyes that stare at me and make me say, I’ll be with you through all the way, ‘Cause it’s you, Who fills the emptiness in me…”
Lovely song. But here’s what I learned about relationships: An empty heart can only give emptiness. And emptiness is another word for neediness.
Have you heard this song by Barry Manilow? “You know I can’t smile without you, I can’t smile without You, I can’t laugh and I can’t sing, I’m findin’ it hard to do anything…”
I’ll be scared if I have a friend who can’t smile without me.
I’ll be scared if I have kids who can’t smile without me.
I’ll be scared if I have a wife who can’t smile without me.
Or have you heard this one by Mariah Carrey? “I can’t live if living is without you, I can’t live, I can’t live anymore…”
Beautiful song. But if you’re looking for a spouse, I strongly urge you to look for someone who can actually live without you–but who will choose to live with you–not because he needs you, but because he loves you.
But this isn’t that easy. Again, I must warn you: Neediness attracts neediness. A needy heart is naturally attracted to another needy heart. The reason is obvious. If you can’t get love, might as well get its counterfeit: neediness.
That’s why some women are jerk magnets. They’re attracted to bad guys because they need to be needed.
The only solution? Replace neediness with self-love.
Because you can only have healthy relationships if you have healthy self-love.
Five Ways Of Filling Your Heart
Let me share with you the five powerful ways of how to fill your heart with self-love. I’ve tried them. They work marvellously.
Many relationships are suffering right now because of neediness. When you learn to love yourself, your relationships will be freed from neediness. And your relationships with become so much happier.
But I must warn you: Five is a big number. You won’t remember them all. What I want you to do is choose one thing that you believe God wants you to do today. Just one!
Here they are:
1. Believe in your own worthiness
2. Fulfil your dreams
3. Care for your needs
4. Relate with the right God
5. Relate with the right people
Believe In Your Worthiness
Do this for me.
Place your hands over your chest and say this out loud, “I’m a wonderful human being. I’m a beautiful person. I’m blessed. I’m equipped. I’m anointed. I’m talented. I’m loved. I’m prosperous. I’m generous. I’m wealthy in every way.”
Do you feel better?
Then say these statements twice a day, once in the morning and once before you sleep at night!
Personally, I had to change my constant question in my mind. Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with me?” I had to start asking, “What’s right about me?”
Get a piece of paper and answer that question. Write whatever comes to mind. The longer the list, the better!
Second, go to a loved one–and ask her, “What’s right about me? What’s great about me? What’s wonderful about me?”
Write down her answers.
And echo the Psalms when it says, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
When you appreciate your worth, it’ll be much easier to appreciate the worth of others. And you’ll find your relationships growing in love.
Fulfil Your Dreams
This actually saved me.
I wasn’t very good with Step 1, “Believe In Your Worthiness”.
But by God’s grace, I learned my mission early. I gave my first talk as a 13-year old boy and it changed my life. I suddenly knew my sacred mission.
I learned to dream about my ministry a long time ago.
But I had a hard time dreaming about my dreams–like what house I wanted to live in and how much money I wanted to earn or what car I wanted to drive. Because I felt this would be selfish. Shouldn’t my whole life be for God alone?
But years later, I learned that to honor those dreams in my heart was to honor God who gave me those dreams.
I began to love myself by working on fulfilling my dreams.
Do yourself a big favor. First, know your dreams. Second, go and reach for your dreams.
Why will this bless your relationships? Because once you honor your dreams, you’ll be able to honor the dreams of others too. You’ll encourage people in your life to grow.
Care For Your Needs
My wife calls me a low-maintenance husband.
I don’t need much to be happy.
A part of that is good. But a part of that comes from my past: For years, I felt guilty if I wanted something. Like it was a bad thing. I had to wrestle with that too.
Later on, I learned to be aware of my needs and meet them generously.
One of my strongest needs is to be quiet, to be alone, to read a book, to reflect. So I give that to myself as often as I can.
My other need is to exercise regularly.
And when I’m exhausted, I get a massage. My wife knows that if I want to feel loved, she’ll give me a foot massage. It beats a delicious casserole anytime.
And about money. There was a time when I didn’t like spending for myself, just for others. Again, I felt selfish if I did.
I could spend money as long as it’s for God or for others. But I’ve always had a hard time spending for my own needs.
Hey, perhaps this isn’t your problem. I know others who come from the opposite direction: All they do is spend for themselves and don’t give to God or others. Well, I believe God will pull you towards my direction. And we’ll meet somewhere in the middle!
But slowly, I’m learning. Last month, I bought a nice pair of headphones for myself. It was the noise-cancelling headphones, great when you want to sleep in airplanes. I still couldn’t buy the expensive brand that costs P5000. So I just bought the cheap brand worth P800. But still, I felt wonderful.
Being a simple person, I still have very few needs. But those needs, I try to honor whenever I can.
Go ahead. Write your own needs on a piece of paper. And see how you can honor them too.
Again, this simple act will bless your relationships because you can now serve people’s needs with a heart full of love, not neediness.
Relate To The Right Image of God
I’ve met people whose God is always angry and condemning. Then I’m sorry, prayer won’t help. Because you’re praying to the wrong god.
Fix your picture of God.
Read books on God’s Love. Talk to spiritual people who have the right image of God. Capture this vision.
And allow that God to love you.
Let Him whisper to your heart that you’re more wonderful than you can ever imagine.
This is one of the goals of the GodWhispersClub. If you’re not yet subscribed, log on at www.GodWhispersClub.com. You’ll get a GodWhispers Email twice a week. It’s free.
When you change your image of God, your relationships with others will change by leaps and bounds because you become like the God that you worship. If you worship a judgmental god, you’ll be judgmental too. But if you start worshipping a God of great compassion and love, you’ll (slowly) be like Him too.
Relate To The Right People
Remember: Needy people attract needy people.
So be careful with the people who enter into your life.
If you’re not careful, you may end up with an inappropriate number of what many authors call “Emotional Vampires”. These are people who suck out your love and joy. There are many kinds of Emotional Vampires: The Demanding. The arrogant and the self-righteous. The bitter. The unfaithful. The manipulative. Addicts. Parasites. Complainers. Critics.
Imagine your life as a three-seater couch.
Because you only have 24 hours a day, there’s a limit to the people who you can hang out with–in the same way that there are a limited number of people who can sit on that couch.
If the spaces are filled, they’re filled. Your life isn’t like Facebook where you can accommodate 5000 friends.
Here’s my point: If you’re always hanging out with Emotional Vampires who suck out your love, you won’t have time to hang out with great, nourishing, and inspiring people who can give you love.
Look. I’m not saying you should get rid of your toxic spouse or toxic mother. I’m not saying you don’t spend time with needy people. Love them! Remember that Jesus spent time with tax-collectors, prostitutes, and drunkards, reaching out to them in love. That was His main ministry. But He balanced this by spending time with his disciples and with His Father too.
So increase your time with people whose hearts aren’t filled with neediness but love. When you surround yourself with the right people, you fill your heart with love too. So look for mentors, teachers, and coaches who can bless you.
It could even be a virtual mentor.
For example, by reading my Soulfood Letter each week, you’re “spending time” with me. You’ve made me a virtual mentor. (I’m happy to be of service to you.)
Proverbs 13:20 says, Whoever walks with the wise will become wise; whoever walks with fools will suffer harm.
Choose One Assignment From God
Now that you’ve read all five actions, pick one.
Not two, or three, or four, or five.
Just one assignment from God for today.
1. Believe in your own worthiness
2. Fulfil your dreams
3. Care for your needs
4. Relate with the right God
5. Relate with the right people
But hey, whatever you chose is still pretty broad.
Write down what one specific action you can do today.
Love yourself, my friend.
May your dreams come true,
PS. Get Your Miracles at the KCon! Our biggest, grandest, most powerful event of the year, the Kerygma Conference 2009, will be on November 28-29. For the first time, it’ll be held simultaneously in Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City and in the Cebu International Convention Center–via “Live Feed”. It’ll be a miracle-filled affair you don’t want to miss. For Manila tickets, go to TicketNet at any SM branch or call (02) 7259999. For Cebu tickets, call (032) 4128142.