Working Out a Way to Love Yourself

(Grace’s Note: This post deals with topics that some of you may find stressful, such as dieting, exercising and weight loss. If these are difficult things for you to read about, you may want to skip over this one.)

My daily workout routine seems like nothing special, but it is very special to me. It’s taken a while to get there. You see, I always associated working out with losing weight or dieting, so for years I was hot and cold. I would often start new diets and begin new workout routines. I must have done this cycle for 20 years.

It took me so long to figure out that I had a hard time truly loving others because I didn’t know how to love myself. Not being able to love myself partially explains why I was always yo-yo dieting and seeking the latest workout fad. But those diets and workouts also hid a very real fear. I was afraid to love myself, and that fear held back my potential.

So after years of starving myself on diets, I gave in. I decided to love myself for who I was. I decided to cancel all of my gym memberships except for one. I decided to treat my body with the love I would expect from someone else. I drank root beer when I wanted it. Sometimes I ate a burger for lunch instead of a salad. I began working out just to have fun and to relieve stress. And you know what? I lost weight. I enjoyed working out. I fell in love with my closest friends and family. I became a new person capable of loving without fear.

Almost every worldview has a variation of the Golden Rule. The Mahabharata, a Hindu text, says it like this: “This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.” In the Sunnah, one of the sacred books of Islam, the prophet Muhammad says, “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” And in the Christian Bible, Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” I think we often overlook the last part.

If we are instructed to love others as we love ourselves, doesn’t that mean we have to know how to love ourselves first? For many people, the thought of loving yourself seems like vanity or selfishness. So if we don’t love ourselves, can we love others properly either? As we dive into knowing ourselves and being able to love ourselves, we will learn how to better love others.

If you find yourself caught in the same trap I was in, there is hope. Our society calls doing things for yourself selfish and negative. Resist that false idea. Believe that you can enjoy things in your life without feeling guilty. Trust that loving without fear is possible. If you do this, you will be able to love others more because you’ve shown yourself love first.