It struck me when I reflected on the divine rule that is recorded in the Christian and many other spiritual traditions: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. The people I care for, the people who mean the world to me: I will only be able to love them to the extent to which I love myself. The maximum love I can give to another person is the love that I have for myself. I cannot give more love than I have for me. If I grow in a spiritually healthy love for myself, then I will also grow in love for the people I care for. Self-love is not selfish, but allows me to immerse myself in the stream of love that will touch the lives of everyone around me.
How do I love myself? For me, it often starts with a simple realization. There are more than seven billion people alive in this world today. If you add up the number of people who have lived in this world, the result is a number that is so huge, I cannot even imagine it. Even though the Creator gave life to so many people, he has never and will never create anyone like me. Of all these people, no one has ever looked like me. No one has ever smiled like me. No one has ever had my personality. No one has ever thought like me. I matter so much to the Creator that he did not just have a production line where he would make millions of one kind, and then millions of another kind and so on. I am deeply honored and moved by realizing how much though there went into making me, and only me. I can embrace my own uniqueness.
This leads me to a second point about how I love myself: Confidence. Because I am one-of-a-kind, no one has the right to treat me in abusive or disrespectful ways. This starts with me: If I make choices that disrespect who I am, I am destroying something that cannot be replaced. If I allow other people to do so, they deny the fact of how much thought the Creator invested in making me. I am not better than the person next to me. I am not worse than the person next to me. But I am unique: No one can take my place in this universe. This realization translates into a genuine spiritual confidence.