Feel Happier By Cylon George Author: Cylon “Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” ~ Parker Palmer You’re torn. You’ve heard all the good advice out there about how important self-love is. You’re constantly being told that you have to exercise, eat right, meditate, pursue your interests, get adequate sleep and spend time with yourself. You resonate with the message and you’ve even started implementing some of these practices with success. But you just can’t shake the nagging fear that you’ll be seen as a narcissist for intentionally making time for yourself. It’s true, there are some who preach about self-love as if the only person you need to love is yourself. You’re right to be skeptical of such advice. It feeds into our narcissistic like culture potently symbolized by our “i” devices and our collective inability to stop staring at them. But at the heart of true self-love, is our yearning for loving human connection. Narcissists use others to satisfy themselves. However, the purpose of healthy self-love is ultimately transcendent – we love ourselves in order to love others as well. If you consistently allow the needs of others to subjugate your own, your love will turn to bitterness and resentment. You’ll eventually burn out and you’ll become incapable of connecting emotionally with others. So how are you to manage this real and ongoing tension? Here are a few ideas on how to practice your self-love without the specter of narcissism: 1. Understand that others loved you first Narcissistic self-love begins and ends with the narcissist. True self-love begins with the reality that you were first loved. Large and small acts of kindness from family, friends, mentors and even strangers helped you become the person you are today. Your experience of being loved allowed you the freedom to love yourself. When you choose to practice self-love, remember that this desire flows from a love that transcends you. This will dampen any tendency to focus exclusively on yourself. 2. Share selectively One trademark characteristic of a narcissist is that they talk about themselves endlessly. They’ll share their grandiose plans to anyone, regardless of whether or not they’re interested. If you’re constantly talking about your latest self-improvement hack, you may be dangerously close to being viewed as a narcissist. Instead, be very selective with whom you share your plans, goals, and dreams. Only share your self-love practice with those who are on a similar path. And even then, you should share your story in order to edify and encourage them. 3. Examine your motivations A classic narcissist is a person who tries to appear better off than others in order to cope with his or her own low self-esteem. They’re often desperate to demonstrate to others that they have it all together, even if this is far from true. When you practice self-love, are you primarily concerned about appearing better than others or are you motivated by a transcendent why? For instance, if your fitness program is all about you, then you’ll likely be preoccupied with displaying your fit body. Conversely, if you want to be fit so you can have more energy for your kids, you’ll be less concerned about your appearance because your motivation is bigger than you. 4. Set healthy boundaries Some people mistake good boundary setting for narcissism. But, in fact, narcissists have very poor boundaries. Why? Because for the narcissist, there is no distinction between the self and the external world. They view others as extensions of themselves for the purposes of serving their own needs. Setting boundaries may feel selfish at first but good boundary setting is not primarily about self. It is about preserving yourself so that you can do what matters. In other words, you say “no” so that you can say “yes.” When you say no kindly, most people may be upset at first but they’ll eventually understand. Ironically, it’s the narcissists who will give you the hardest time. 5. Think win-win People who abhor any talk of self-love have more in common with the narcissist than it may appear on first glance. Both engage in all-or-nothing thinking. Both think that someone must lose in order for another to win. You do not need to choose between loving yourself or loving others. You can do both simultaneously and they will mutually reinforce each other. Because in the end, love is not finite. You do not need to withhold it from yourself in order to give it to others. And you are just as worthy of that love as any other person. The Ultimate Test – Self-love Or Narcissism? Are you a narcissist for practicing self-love? The fact that you’re self-aware enough to even ask the question suggests not. Still looking for an ultimate test? Is your self-love practice enhancing your relationships? Have you increased your capacity for gratitude and empathy? Are people inexplicably drawn to you? If yes, then you’re on the right track. And you’ll win the hearts of those who mistake you for a narcissist. Because in the end, your self-love is ultimately a gift to the world. About the Author Cylon is a spiritual chaplain, musician, devoted husband, and busy dad of six. He blogs about practical spiritual tips for living well at Spiritual Living For Busy People – sign up and get his free guide 20 Little Tricks To Instantly Improve Your Mood Even If You Feel Like Punching Something (or Someone).