Put Yourself First (And Success Will Follow)

Many people teach the concept of self-love. In fact, the entire genre of self-help is built upon the importance of really learning to love yourself.

Our society consumes self-help advice, in various forms (books, online, in audio format) in record numbers. That makes sense: deep down we all want the same thing — to be feel happy, cared for and loved.

Most of us probably "get" that these feelings ought to come from within first. But with all the stresses of work, relationships and other areas of our lives, we nevertheless can find ourselves thinking and saying things like, "Yeah, I get it. I need to care for myself. But I'm busy now," or "I'll work on self-love right after I drop the kids at school, finish my work, make dinner and pay the bills."

Right? Unfortunately, we may find ourselves not thinking about self-love again until the next book, seminar, or edition of Super Soul Sunday. In the meantime we go about our lives trying to be successful, believing each installment of success will lead us closer to happiness.

But self-love and success aren't two concepts at all ...

As children, we learned what it took to get concrete expressions of love — praise, extra affection and so on. In many cases that meant doing something "good." We crawled and got attention, we smiled and got a kiss, we walked and talked and won the spelling bee and the love came pouring. Subconsciously, we learned that love came from doing and that's why we are so darn good at doing things.

The entire time we're doing all the things that comprise "real life," we're seeking to be loved on some level. With the innocence of the little child that lives in us all, we ask again and again through our actions, "Now do I deserve love?" "Am I worthy?" Only we often can't hear it because we're so busy doing the next "great thing" and calling it self-improvement.

When we ask ourselves to make a bold step in life, what we're really saying to the child inside is, "Trust me …" But without building a strong foundation of self-love first, we have no solid trust to make the changes it takes to grow into who we want to be tomorrow. Self-love is the tool that allows the vulnerable child within in us all to trust ourselves enough to begin the process of reprogramming the rules we were taught as children.

Unless we can accept that we are worthy of self-love, unconditionally, starting right now, we will not have strong enough trust to take personal risks that will allow us to do what we really want to achieve. We may think we are marching toward "success," but sometimes what we might understand as success (a high-powered, high-paying job, say) isn't what is best for our development. We may not be helping ourselves grow into who we hope to be tomorrow.

This is a really hard step. For some of us it might be easier to jump out the back of an airplane. Self-love is incredibly difficult to practice. And that's OK to admit. The very practice of self-love is about acceptance. It's about understanding that the first step to growth is grabbing hold of our current condition by the cheeks (the way our annoying aunts used to do to us as kids) and saying, "I love you."

Self-love doesn't have to be a dramatic overnight shift. Like all journeys, it begins by making small steps in the direction you want to go. A quiet walk in the park when you are stressed. A moment of meditation or even just taking a few, deliberate breaths to begin the day. Some gentle yoga after a long day at work. A peaceful nap on a Sunday afternoon as you prepare for the week ahead.

This isn't about being who the experts say you should be; it's about being who you really are. Take the child inside of you by the hand today, and thank yourself for getting you to the place you are now. Then you'll already be on your way toward greater self-love.

Oh, and the next time the child in you asks, "Now do I deserve love?" you can answer, "Yes," as you take yourself by the hand, and walk in whatever direction you need to or want to. That will really look — and feel — like success.

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