Healthy Egoism or Loving Oneself

I came across a the poem today called “As I Began to Love Myself”, which includes the following stanza:

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for
my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew
me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude
a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

I just turned forty-years-old, and when I came across this poem earlier today, these words resonated with me. During the past year and a half, I’ve felt selfish several times. I delicately and politely ended an unhealthy friendship a year ago, but it’s still awkward when I see my former friend in public, and I kept wondering if I did the right thing. I’ve also become more assertive, saying no to requests when I would normally say yes. Of course, I’ve inevitably felt guilty, struggling with my decision and tempted to tell the person I’ve changed my mind and will fulfill his or her request.

However, this summer, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on my life and on the simpler times I enjoyed when I was young. I’ve also been eating healthier, walking my dogs almost everyday, and often riding my bike, resulting in a loss of eight pounds. I feel REALLY good. I’m over the leg cramps I was getting last month, and I have more energy. I’ve also spent a lot of time in the covered swing in my back yard, where time seems to move more slowly. In fact, as I’m sitting in that swing right now, enjoying cloudy skies and cooler temperatures, a gentle breeze is blowing through the leaves above, and doves are cooing nearby.

I’ve worked so hard to be the best at everything…the best daughter, the best wife, the best friend, the best school librarian, the best housekeeper, but I can only do so much, and in trying to be “the best” _______ (fill in the blank) all the time, I put my my own needs and desires on the back burner and caused myself a lot of anxiety in the process. I also let others take advantage of me.

When my elderly mother was living with me, I read in a caregiving article that you can’t care for someone else if you’re not caring for yourself. I’ve realized this summer that it really isn’t selfish to take time for yourself and distance yourself from uncaring people, unpleasant situations, and other things that bring you down. As a Christian, of course it’s important to love others and to help the less fortunate, but I don’t think God wants us to allow others to take advantage of us or mistreat us. Surely, a father wouldn’t want that for his child. So, I’m choosing today to love myself and enjoy life. I hope, dear reader, that you will do the same.

Me, enjoying life, at iFly Dallas

*Although the poem “As I Began to Love Myself” is often attributed to a seventy-year-old Charlie Chan, Wikiquote states that it “is a re-translation (from Portuguese-BR) of a text from the book When I Loved Myself Enough by Kim and Alison McMillen (2001).”

You can find the complete text of the poem at https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/809976-as-i-began-to-love-myself-i-found-that-anguish

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