I want to tell you all about an experience I had when I was a kid. I was about 11, almost 12 years old, and I was in a store with my mom and my younger brother, watching my mom shop for clothing for us. Now, I was pretty pathetic when I was 11; I was about 30 pounds overweight with poor self esteem and my mom had tried to work to reverse some of the self-hate I was continually perpetuating. We were in the store when I heard a song come in over the intercom. The lyrics went something like:
I believe the children are our future,
Teach them well and let them lead the way…
The singer was Whitney Houston, the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston and then an up-and-coming chanteuse. At that time, I thought, sure, the children are our future. Most children, not me. I used to think “I hate that song!” The lyrics really got to me… “show them all the beauty they possess inside”? Easy for her to say! She had a fabulous career as a singer and wasn’t stuck in fifth grade hell. Who was she to tell me that I possessed beauty inside? At that time, I didn’t recognize my own self-worth.
I think we all know what happened to Whitney Houston. Nearly twenty years after she married and subsequently divorced Bobby Brown, she was found unconscious in a bathtub in her Beverly Hills hotel room and paramedics couldn’t revive her. The beautiful heart that once asked “How Will I Know?” and crooned “I Will Always Love You” had stopped forever. Whitney Houston was her own victim, having succumbed to years of drug and alcohol abuse.
My theory? Whitney Houston never found The Greatest Love of All. Instead, like so many people in this world, she let others define her worth. This is a mistake, as we’ve been told over and over again. Whitney sang about finding your self-love, your power, but she didn’t live it.
What exactly is this greatest love of all that Whitney Houston sang about? In the 1950s, a psychologist, Erich Fromm, theorized that self-love is the act of caring about oneself, taking responsibility for oneself, respecting oneself, and knowing oneself (e.g. being realistic and honest about one’s strengths and weaknesses).
Why is this important? Two reasons:
1. How many of you have heard of the Law of Attraction? Quite simply, this law states a primary principal known in physics: like attracts like. That is to say, if you project love, you receive love in return. If you project something other than love, you receive that instead.
2. What is the opposite of love? Fear! The opposite of love is fear.
Now, given the law of attraction (like attracts like), would you rather attract fear… or love?
Holding yourself in high esteem doesn’t just benefit you. If that were the case, it wouldn’t be important. Loving yourself is the greatest love of all because it allows you to freely and completely love others. To put it another way, by respeciting yourself, you get out of your own way, and open yourself to the potential of all of life’s riches.
As for me, self-love has been something I’ve struggled with for decades now, and I will probably struggle with it for the rest of my natural life. Is having a healthy self-image easy? No. But it is so worth it.
By working to learn to be my own best friend, and by then projecting that esteem into the world, I’ve been able to do things such as influence my friends to join Toastmasters, perform random acts of kindness in the community, and raise a son who I hope will grow into a great man.
And that truly is the greatest love of all.