Next time someone harasses you or makes unreasonable demands on your time, tell them to “go love yourself!”.

The importance of self-love came up when we were baptising our youngest. The priest turned to us, the parents, and told us that the epidemic of our times is people not loving themselves. So many people come to confess their sins and he’s saddened by how much guilt and self-hatred people hold onto which turns their lives into hell on earth.

Self-love is something we are born with, just look at any baby and you’ll see pure joy and love in their eyes. As we grow up, we are taught “right from wrong” and along with this shamed for not doing what our parents demand. We are labeled bad if we’re not doing our chores, not thinking a certain way, in short, not obeying blindly to people deemed more mature and respectable than ourselves.

But who determines right from wrong?

The earliest distinction between right and wrong comes from our parents. Children are totally dependent on their parents for their survival so out of fear they start to obey even when forced to go against their nature.

“You must finish what’s on your plate” we order them as parents not wanting the food to go to waste. Do we consider that perhaps our child isn’t hungry? We force feed them and condition them to always finish what’s on a plate even when their body is telling them they’re full.

As parents do we always know what’s best for our children?

We must do guess-work to satisfy their needs when they’re too young to communicate verbally but do we have the right to ignore them when they are able to vocalise? Would we force on them what we want if we knew that this might lead to a break-down in our relationship with them?

After all, no adult enjoys being told what to do (perhaps except those in military service, but again it was a choice they made to serve), so why should children be told? Parents and children can talk over things, identify a few choices, come to an agreement and act in accordance with their mutual agreement. This is the way to teach children how to act like mature adults. This is the way to preserve their self-love.

The Language of Respectful Parenting

A few months ago, one of my cousins (thank you Asli) shared a list of expressions and phrases we should use with our children to nourish our relationship with them in our family WhatsApp group.

Those phrases are:

  • I’m grateful that you’re here with me
  • Let’s play
  • I trust you
  • Win or fail, you’re worthy
  • How do you think we can solve this problem?
  • Let’s spend some time together
  • Can you tell me what’s upset you?
  • If you don’t want to eat now, you can eat when you’re hungry
  • We can solve problems by talking through them
  • Did I understand you correctly?
  • It’s very good that you helped your friend
  • I’d like to understand what you’re feeling
  • You can decide for yourself
  • If you want it, you can do it
  • We’re a family, we support each other
  • What makes you think that way?
  • It’s important that you finish your duties
  • I love you just as you are
  • Would you like to tell me all about it?
  • You can do it!
  • I’m here if you need help
  • Your smile is the best gift I can receive
  • It’s good that you’re eager to learn
  • I’m listening to you
  • You can say “no”
  • We can find a way together
  • Try again if you fail
  • Don’t worry if you make a mistake, that’s how we learn
  • Tell me if I’m making a mistake
  • You have a say in everything in our family
  • What you’re telling me is interesting and I am learning from you
  • I like hugging you
  • We had a difference of opinion
  • What would be your choice?
  • Would you like to be alone?
  • Thank you for sharing

and most importantly – I LOVE YOU.

Practicing Self-Love

We must realise that through raising our children, we are also overcoming our own insecurities and maturing into better people. Parenting is a challenging practice that requires presence. You can’t offer love to someone, not even your own child, if you aren’t feeling love for yourself in your own heart.

My self-love practice is writing. Through writing this blog weekly I resolve conflict within myself, discover better ways of living to derive more joy out of life and document my findings so that I can revisit my thoughts when I need to. I also meditate at least once a week and offer myself loving kindness before undertaking any task that may challenge me. Sitting in my balcony with coffee or tea is also very calming.

Self-love isn’t just for parents either. As human beings, we are all influencing each other all the time. I find that the only time I’m short of love and patience with the people around me, be they my own children or adults acting like children, is when I haven’t had time to fill my own cup with love. If I take the proper time for myself then my patience goes a long way and nurtures those around me.

To restore self-love, my cousin Nergiz enjoys alone time in her sublime balcony in Istanbul and my friend Menek takes sailing lessons, which I imagine to be a meditative activity, harmonising with the sea currents, navigating the winds and sharpening the senses for co-existence with nature.

Far from selfish or narcissistic, self-love is what every responsible person must practice if we are to live in a kinder, gentler world where we’re more attuned to our nature and Mother Nature.

Over to you…

How has getting to know yourself, spending time checking in with yourself and following your bliss guided you in times of difficulty?

How were you able to keep calm and collected in the face of challenging situations and people (including toddlers!) only because you’d taken the time to take care of you?

I’d love to hear from you, e-mail me