There has been a lot of talk about unconditional love over the years. It usually refers, as I recall, to parent-child relationships. I feel its rightful place, which affects all your relationships, is having unconditional self-love.
Particular milestones or accomplishments should not be a prerequisite for self-love. There is an underlining message that often comes from our parents, society, and advertising that we must first obtain certain things before we can truly be loved by others and our self. This is not so. Self-love is a birthright. Even so, our egos often get in the way.
We place conditions on our self-love. These conditions might be gaining popularity at school, getting a college degree, having a romantic partner, achieving a certain job title, or attaining a particular social status. On the other hand, it may be material attainments like having expensive clothes, an exotic car, or a huge house.
No college degree, suffix after your name (e.g. MD, JD, DDS, Ph.D.), job title, clothing, jewelry, car, house, boat, or airplane will magically grant you self-love. It may give you a giant ego mixed with a flood of self-centeredness, however. If you have strong self-love, you would not be contaminated like this if you gained all of these things.
A person without any of the things mentioned above can have a very healthy self-love. It does not require good deeds or impressive accomplishments. Self-love is an entitlement that is recognized, cultivated, strengthened, and protected by you!
I got the concept of self-love completely mixed up, turned around, and polluted during my tenure as a corporate soldier. Here’s my story.
Just before I entered the corporate world my life was pretty messed up. I had partied for months after graduating from college. This led to me being unemployed, broke, and nearly homeless. During this period, my girlfriend dumped me (for a corporate executive much older than her) and I was facing eviction from my tiny, dingy apartment if I did not come up with the rent by the time it was due.
It was one of the lowest points of my life. Somehow, I found the strength to push myself to change the course of my life starting with finding a meaningful career. The genesis of this change was simply getting really fed up and angry about the condition of my life.
Within a week, I got three job offers. One of them was with a large, well-known international corporation. Although I was scared to death because of low self-confidence and little self-love, I choose the intimidating corporate job.
Within a couple of years, I had risen to a management position and eventually to a senior executive management position. This gave me a fancy title, huge responsibilities ($400 million in annual product sales), a nice salary package, a generous expense account, a new company paid car (including gas & washes) every six months, a condo, and later a house. I was feeling on top of the world. 😀
My self-confidence and self-love skyrocketed. But not in a healthy way. Both were conditional. My self-confidence and self-love were conditional based on things outside myself and outside my control. It did not come from within, as it should. That’s the only lasting self-love that no person or circumstances can take away.
When all the corporate stuff was gone when left the company after many years (with a golden parachute), I struggled. My self-confidence and self-love plummeted. When I couldn’t duplicate the job, both plummeted further. I wanted to return to having an impressive corporate job that gave me those feelings again, but I did not want to be a robotic corporate soldier again. I felt pulled in two opposite directions. There was the pull to get a similar corporate job and the pull to become an entrepreneur.
I should mention that I came from an extremely formal (suit & tie daily) and rigid corporate environment. It was nothing like the new humanistic and creativity encouraging approach introduced by many young entrepreneurs today. I’m so proud of these men and women.
I believe two powerful forces of social change influenced them.
- The massive corporate layoffs that started in 1980’s and 1990’s.
- The shift in social awareness that started in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Eventually, the pull to create and control my own career as an entrepreneur won over. It was at this point that I began to discover true unconditional self-love and with it came self-confidence and contentment.
I’ve come to view titles, suffixes on names, material possessions, and wealth as meaningless in my evaluation of myself and other people. I evaluate people regardless of their age, ethnicity, or religion based on three principles: character, integrity, and loyalty. Period.
I’ve run into a few of my former so-called corporate friends (a few were true friends) over the years. I can see their deeply ingrained corporate mannerisms and propped up egos. I find it comical now.
It took me years to shed the corporate mentality, jargon, and viewpoint. When I hear or read those annoying corporate phrases today like “Reach out to you.” “Low-hanging fruit.” and countless others they hold no value for me and often make me chuckle. I’m so far away from being a corporate soldier today, that my former co-workers probably would not recognize or be able to relate to me.
Part of my corporate divorce involved downsizing and simplifying my life. I’ve done these things to such an extreme over the years that some heavily brainwashed and materialistic people would be horrified. It’s not their fault though. They are simply unaware, caught up, or chained to the “game.”
Today I (intentionally) have the fewest number of material possessions, but the greatest amount of contentment, freedom, and self-love. I’m not saying it takes extreme downsizing and simplifying to achieve unconditional self-love, but it proves that “things” do not bring it about. However, downsizing and simplifying do bring greater contentment and freedom.
Be kind to yourself by acknowledging, developing, and guarding your unconditional self-love. Then regardless of your career, finances, possessions, or circumstances, you can be happy and confident.
You establish unconditional self-love by acknowledging your right to have it, appreciating your strengths (especially those in your character), and accepting and being able to laugh about your flaws. Finally, you protect and preserve it regardless of your circumstances and especially from the opinions and expectations of other people and society.