Had a seemingly innocent question land in my inbox recently.

“What does it mean to love yourself? People are always saying it nowadays. Men have said it to me. But what does it even mean? How can you love yourself?”

I saw it, thought, yeah, I can answer that, I have used the phrase a time or two right here. Then realized that, no I actually couldn’t, not without a lot of reading and thought at least.

The assumption that we love ourselves is millenia deep, even getting a shout out or twelve in the Bible. “Love your neighbor as yourself” springs immediately to mind.

Does that mean you can be a complete jerk to everyone if you hate yourself? OK, that explains teenagers I guess.

What about if you merely like yourself slightly? Yeah, it holds up too – think of how most people who hate their working life act. Or those who still live in Detroit.

So loving yourself is fairly important in how you treat others, not just yourself. That is what makes it important.

How to go about it then?

After all, you ain’t very lovable, are you. You are the only person that knows every mean, nasty, spiteful, petty, illegal and worthless action and thought you have ever committed. Hard to love that messed up person, it is a useless, nay impossible exercise.

Gonna call that idea what it is – total BS unless you are currently reading this while looming over the still twitching body of your latest victim, blood pooling slowly around your feet. When you love someone else, you enjoy their virtues and forget, forgive, tolerate or train them out of their faults.

What is so hard about doing that to yourself too? Sit yerself down, look at your virtues as hard and unforgivingly as you look a your faults. The random acts of kindness, the things you are good at, your friends. They stack up rapidly, don’t they. Yet you accept them and rarely give them a passing thought. We are set up that way. We are our own worst judges, hence the minor pun in the title to this post.

If it makes it easier for you, change the word love to understand. Accept works too, but doesn’t leave much room for improvement, and there is always room for improvement.

You cannot love without empathy, you cannot feel empathy if you don’t understand others, and you cannot understand others unless you understand yourself.

Hoping to eventually get to the stage of mildly tolerating myself here. Someday.

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