The very first relationship you have is with yourself. It stems to reason that if you condemn yourself, hate certain parts of you, resent where you’re from and your station in life, what will stop you from looking down on others?
Furthermore, if you love yourself because of how you look or your social class or your abilities, that is not love. That is conceit. That is ego. That is validating yourself through comparison to others. (Indeed both situations I just mentioned are about comparison.)
To love is to accept without condition. So I don’t love you because of your bank acct or looks or even your personality. I love you because I decided to. I decided that whatever you are, I accept it. I may not agree with it or understand it, but I embrace who you are. I don’t shun any part of you.
Now, if you can embrace every part of you, including the things society says are unlovable, then you can more easily do this for others. As a matter of fact, you will be compelled to do so because love is contagious. You will be more mannerly, more patient, more considerate and compassionate. And it will be done automatically instead of by force or by trying to get approval from others.
I was in the camp of believing that you can love other people easier than loving yourself once. But here’s the thing. It’s easier to attempt to love others, but that doesn’t mean you actually love them. Yeah, you do all this nice stuff for people right? Great. Now what if they never say thank you or worse, what if they flat out ignore your kindness? What would you do then? You’d probably get upset and think that they should be grateful, right? But the thing is, love is unconditional acceptance. If you loved them, you would accept whatever they decide to do or be.
I’m not saying that you keep doing nice stuff for them. Ultimately that’s your decision. But there’s one thing I can guarantee. Some people will read that last paragraph and get upset and disagree vehemently because they think they are owed even an ounce of gratitude. And even an apology. But when you love yourself, you see all of your own shortcomings, and when you see others with their own problems, you empathize instead of criticize.
And that is the benefit of loving yourself.
Originally published on Quora