Some people think loving yourself is easy.
It’s not. The reason why some people think it’s easy is because they confuse “selfishness” with “self-love”.
The Difference Between Selfishness And Self-Love
“Selfishness” and “Self-Love” look alike but they’re very different from each other. I compare them to the nuclear bomb and the nuclear plant. The nuclear bomb kills thousands but the nuclear plant helps thousands. (Researchers say that modern nuclear plants are very safe–even from earthquakes and tsunamis. The Fukushima nuclear plant was 40 years old.)
The difference is simple. “Selfishness” is meeting your own needs and your own needs only. “Self-love” is meeting your needs so that you can meet the needs of others even more.
Within you is a Love Tank. And your Love Tank has a faucet. The only way for love to flow out of that faucet is if your Love Tank is full. If you don’t receive love, you won’t be able to give love. You can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t love anyone if you don’t love yourself. You can’t even love God if you don’t love yourself.
Even Jesus honored his needs. The Bible says that when crowds of people came to him for healing, he honored his need to be alone. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:15—16)
I know people who don’t even know their needs anymore. They are so overwhelmed by the needs of other people, they don’t have time to listen to their own needs.
Early on, they were brainwashed that their needs weren’t important. Correction: They were brainwashed that THEY were not important.
People with Toxic Shame feel they don’t deserve to meet their needs, whatever needs they have.
But Jesus shows us the way…
The Bible Says So
Jesus commanded, Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
And Paul said, Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4) He assumes that you should look after your needs.
When you ride a plane, the stewardess says, “If you have a child with you, put your oxygen mask on first before assisting and putting the oxygen mask on your child.” This is an important lesson. If you can’t breathe, how can you help your child?
Today, I’d like to talk about healthy self-love.
How? By honoring your needs.
Honor Your Needs
Love yourself by honoring your needs.
You don’t hear this preached in Church often. Because we were taught that it is holy to neglect our needs–and prioritize the needs of others. Where does this neglect of self come from?
Let me review where this Toxic Shame comes from…
Source 1: Absentee Parenting
When our parents don’t spend time with us, we get the clear message that we’re not very important. And if we’re not important, our needs aren’t important too.
Major culprit? Absentee parenting. Because of workaholic parents, or non-involved parents, or narcissistic parents. These kids will grow up not valuing themselves. Desperate for love, they’ll seek this love from peers, from drugs, from achievements…
It also comes from how we relate with our emotions…
Source 2: Mismanaged Emotions
I see this scene often: When a child is running and stumbles–and cries with real tears because she got hurt (Note: Not just a tantrum), some misguided adults would tell her, “Stop crying! Don’t be a cry-baby! Stop! RIGHT NOW!” They force the child to stop feeling.
The unspoken message is, “Your emotions aren’t important. Shelve it. Discard it. Bury it.” The deeper message was, “Your needs are not important. Because YOU are not important. YOU have no value.”
If you repeat this 20,000 times to a child, this self-murdering message becomes part of their psyche.
Add to that a distorted religiosity that taught you to hate yourself… and you get a deadly bomb of Toxic Shame.
Source 3: Distorted Religion
When I was 13, I was a fan of St. Francis of Assisi. Like Francis, I wanted to live a life of poverty.
So I stopped wearing nice clothes. I wore the crummiest attire I could find. Old sandals. Old jogging pants. And old shirts with holes–the more, the better. I never put on deodorant because I considered it vanity. (Wherever I went, people said I had the odor of sanctity. But one day, my girlfriend told me, “The Bible says you should use deodorant.” I was shocked. I asked, “Where?” She said, “In the 10 commandments, it says, ‘Thou shall not kill…’ Because your toxic fumes are murdering me.”)
Looking back now, I realized that I neglected my appearance partly because I hated myself. I didn’t like myself. I had the “I Hate Myself” spirituality.
This spirituality is more common than you think. Some religious people think it’s the secret to sainthood. They think that God is very pleased if you hate yourself.
But as the years went by, I noticed I was burning out–like a burning matchstick.
I’ve noticed the same thing among many religious workers.
I’ve met religious people, from nuns to priests to laypeople, who suffer from burnout and depression because they repress their emotions. They see their feelings as enemies instead as friends. And they see all their desires as evil.
In fact, I notice that a lot of people neglect these five needs…
Five Needs That We Usually Neglect
We neglect many of our needs, but there are the five of the most common ones…
1. You Need Rest
Love yourself. Get some rest.
Tiredness is an epidemic. Many people are Chronically Tired. And we know why. This epidemic is caused by one virus: The virus of Prolonged Stress.
You know when you’re chronically tired?
Here’s a sure and obvious sign that you’ve got this disease: If you wake up in the morning already tired.
That means your sleep didn’t refresh you. That means there’s something wrong–you’re not addressing your need to rest.
Here’s my recommendation: Take mini-vacations.
Take mini-vacations within the day. It may just be ten minutes. It may just be thirty minutes. But take it.
Sit down, put your hands around a cup of hot herbal tea, inhale the aroma, breathe in peace, joy, love, hope, strength, and exhale all your frustration, stress, worry, fear, anxiety… In your mini-vacation of ten minutes, thirty minutes, one hour, pray, converse with God, meditate, think, plan, write your journal, talk to a confidant about why you do what you do.
Because I work on Sundays, I take a few hours each Monday morning to be alone. To relax. To read. To reflect. To relate. After that, I’m ready to serve another week with joy in my heart.
Take mini-vacations during the week, the month, and the year. You need rest. It’s one of the most neglected needs.
2. You Need Dreams
Love yourself. Keep dreaming.
Dreams are your fuel.
In one Catholic Conference, I gave a talk entitled, How To Make Your Dreams Come True. It was very well received. People came up to me and said, “Bo, I’m so excited. I’m going to dream again!”
But the next speaker was a priest. And he attacked my message. He said, “We have no business pursuing our dreams! That is selfishness. We should be only concerned about doing God’s will.”
I call this over-spiritualizing. If the priest allowed me to ask a question, I’d ask, “But Father, how will I know God’s Will for my life? Yes, God’s Will is found in the Bible and our Doctrines, but I also believe that God’s Will is found in my deepest desires. He planted dreams in my soul. I need to listen to the dreams that burn in my heart. Through the scalpel of prayer and discernment, I peel away my shallow desires, until I touch base with my deepest desires. And there, I will find the will of God.”
Friend, God created you as a Dreamer. You need to allow yourself to dream. Your dream could be very big or very small. It doesn’t matter. But you need to keep on dreaming, or you start dying.
My dream is big. I want to build 1000 Feasts all around the globe, with each Feast becoming a gushing spring of God’s Love to the world. (Note: That’s how we call our weekly prayer gatherings all over the world.)
If you notice, my dream won’t be fulfilled for a very long time. It will take ten or twenty years, maybe more. But that’s okay. I’m enjoying every step of the way.
Some dreams are small in size but big in value. I was talking to an 81 year old man. With a twinkle in his eye, he said, “Brother Bo, please pray that God will give a longer life. Because I want to see my granddaughter in America.” He pulled out his wallet and showed me a lovely photo of a 5-year old girl with dimples on her smile. He said, “I’m not in very good health, but everyday, I try to walk. Everyday, I eat well. So that I can see my little granddaughter before I die.”
What are your dreams? Identify them. Write them down. Pray for them. Announce them to the world. And make your dreams wake you up everyday.
3. You Need To Be You
Love yourself. Be you.
You need to be yourself. You need to be faithful to how God made you.
If you fit yourself into a cookie cutter, it will hurt–because parts of you will have to be cut away. In the same way, when you try to fit into the expectations of others, it will be painful.
The easiest way to live is to live authentically.
Be Faithful To Your Passion
Be faithful to your gifts.
If you can speak, then speak to inspire the world.
If you can build bridges, then build bridges that will last a hundred years so that your great grand kids can stand on that bridge and say out loud, “The father of the father of my father built this bridge.”
If you can dance, then dance like your feet are on fire and the ground beneath your feet shake to the beat of your dance.
If you can paint, then paint paintings that become mirrors so people can see themselves and windows so people can see the colors of the universe.
If you can repair cars, then repair cars so babies are safe and kids can go to school and parents can work.
If you can design clothes, then design clothes that will make mothers with cellulite on their legs and stretch marks on their bellies feel like a pretty princess again.
If you can make money, then make so much money, everyone around you gets rich.
If you can write songs, then “write the songs that make the whole world sing, I write the songs of love and special things, I write the songs that make the young girl cry, I write the songs, I write the songs.”
Be Faithful To Your Personality
Are you more talkative than the average person? If you are, don’t pretend to be quiet. God made you talkative for a purpose. If you’re talkative, then talk until everyone is sitting at your feet learning from your stories.
Are you quieter than the average person? Don’t pretend to be more talkative. Speak, but don’t use your words. Use your eyes, smile, your hands, your touch, your arms, your presence, to tell them know how special they are.
Do you laugh easily? Then laugh. Don’t try to be prim and proper. Don’t hide your laughter. Laugh hard, laugh long, and laugh deep. Whenever I speak on stage, I love it when someone in the audience laughs really loud. Because it gives permission for everyone else to laugh loud. And I love that because a happy person learns 1000 times more than a sad person.
So don’t hold back your laughter. Laugh so that the sick child will find hope. Laugh so that the frustrated friend so burdened with work will find strength. Laugh so that the mother trying to make both ends meet can make it for another day. Laugh so that this weary world will laugh with you.
Do you cry easily? Do you cry at a drop of a hat? Do you cry when it rains and do you cry when it shines? Do you cry when the flower blooms and do you cry when the flower dies? Don’t be ashamed to cry. Cry with a friend who gets dumped by a jerk. Cry with an officemate who gets scolded by a boss. Cry with the father whose dream of going abroad was denied. Cry with the little child who feels left out. Cry so that grieving people around the world will never feel alone.
Weirdness Can Make You Wealthy
Be faithful to your weirdness. Your craziness. Your idiosyncrasies. Your peculiarities. Your quirks. Your birthmarks. They have a place in God’s scheme of things.
Be forewarned: Some people will hate your weirdness. Don’t mind them. Because some people will adore your weirdness! Your weirdness will gather a community of raving fans who think you’re the coolest thing next to peanut butter ice cream.
Some of the wealthiest businesses in the world–Apple, Amazon, eBay, Google, Starbucks–are not commodities. They’re unusual, unique, skewed, one-of-a-kind, strange… In other words, weird.
And speaking of wealthy…
4. You Need Money
Love yourself. Earn money.
I’ve met religious people who believe that to save for their future was selfishness. It’s a double whammy: That means they were selfish and materialistic at the same time.
But you need money. Everyone needs money. The nuns who run orphanages need money. The priest who rides his motorcycle to celebrate Mass in faraway barrios needs money. The boyfriend buying a rose to ask forgiveness from his girlfriend needs money. The grandmother in her rocking chair wondering how she could buy her medicine needs money.
Don’t earn money for today only. (Look around you. You’re no longer living in the desert, Moses is no longer with you, and you’re not eating manna for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.) Earn money for today and tomorrow and the day after.
Don’t earn money for yourself only. That’s selfishness. Earn money for yourself and the orphan that needs you and the maid that helps you and waiter that serves you and the barber that styles you and the church that blesses you. So earn as much money as you can.
And finally, your most important need…
5. You Need Love
Love yourself. Invest in relationships.
This is your greatest need.
My recommendation? Invest in your relationships TODAY and you’ll have big gains TOMORROW.
Invest in your spouse. Invest in your children. Invest in your siblings. Invest in your friends. Invest in your parents.
What will you invest? Your time. Your care. Your service. Your patience. Your forgiveness. Believe me, the returns are out of this world. (This is literal. I’m talking about Heaven.)
My friend Adrian Panganiban showed me a letter from a Mom and Dad, and it touched me very much.
I quote it here because I want to stress the point that at the end of your life, you’ll need love more than anything in this world.
Here’s the letter…
Please Bear With Me
As I get older, please be patient with me.
When I drop things or make a mess of my food, I hope you don’t shout at me or scold me. Please bear with me.
When my eyesight dims and I stumble along my way, or when my hearing gets really bad and I can’t hear what you say, please bear with me.
When these embarrassing and difficult times come, if you could just hold my hand and tell me that you understand… I’m sorry child, I’m getting older. Please bear with me.
When my feet get crooked and my knees get weaker, when I fumble in my steps and I walk slower, I hope you remember the time when I taught you how to walk. Please bear with me.
When I keep repeating my stories to you, sometimes 4 or 5 times a day, just smile and pretend I said it the first time. Because to my failing memory, it’s really the first time I’m saying it to you. Just remember how you repeated yourself as a child. Remember how many times you asked, “Are we there yet?” every time we took a trip. Or how many times you asked, “Mommy, can you buy me this toy?” whenever we were in a toystore? Please bear with me.
When I don’t smell so nice, when I smell like an old person, please be patient with me. When you smell something not too good from me, I hope you remember that when you were small, you used to sweat and smell too. But I loved it because it was part of your growing up. Well, my smells are part of my growing old. Please bear with me.
When I get cranky or get sensitive, or when I get sentimental and moody, or when I get pushy and demanding, all these are all part of getting old. You’ll understand when you get older. Please bear with me.
When you have time, I hope you visit me. Talk with me for a few minutes. I’m always all by myself and have no one to talk to. I know you’re busy with work but your work will always be with you, even after I’m gone. I won’t be here forever. Please bear with me.
Even if you’re not interested in my stories, please pretend you are. Do u remember when I used to listen to your stories about your toys, your imaginary friends, and the cartoons you watched? Those things weren’t very interesting to me, but because they were important to you, they were important to me too. I ask you to please bear with me.
When the time comes when I get sick and bedridden, I hope you visit me. I’m sorry if I accidentally wet the bed or make a mess. I hope you stay with me during the last few moments of my life. I’m not going to last much longer anyway. Please bear with me.
I pray for you everyday. When I finally meet God, I will continue to mention your name to Him.
I love you.
We love you.
Please bear with me.
Mom and Dad
So I repeat: Invest in your relationships.
My fondest wish for you?
May you grow old with the people you love.
Honor your needs.
May your dreams come true,
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