Deodorant and skincare products. Hugs and showing affection. Talking about mental health and practicing self-love (as a man).
When he was growing up, all of these hippy concepts were strangers to my Dad, but for me and my now adult son, they are an integral part of our day to day lives …
… with the possible exception of self-love.
Why is it so many men still find it so hard to express and practice self-love?
Is it because they somehow see it as an unmanly concept? Are they worried about the thin line between arrogance and self-love?
Or is expressing interest in self-love a sign of weakness and a threat to their own masculinity?
Whatever the answers to those questions, there are many good reasons why men should learn to practice self-love.
How about improved mental and physical health, a sense of peace and inner calm, a less stressful existence, and being a better person to be around?
And that’s just for starters!
The benefits of self-love for a man are manifold. But for many men, it’s a step into the unknown or a step in a new direction.
As with every new journey, there are lessons to be learned along the way.
Becoming comfortable with your own masculinity. Learning to be kind to yourself. Enhancing relationships with those around you. And letting go of old beliefs that no longer serve you.
That may make it sound like the journey is hard work, but once you take the first step, you’ll find that everything starts to fall into place.
What’s more, it’s a path that has already been trodden by many men before you, meaning you can benefit from their learnings and experiences.
The journey begins here!
Practicing Self Love As A Man: The Two Meanings Of “He Really Loves Himself”
We’ve all seen him in the papers or on the television.
The successful young footballer or reality television star: arrogant, brash, cocky, self-centered, vain, and full of himself.
Dressed up in flash clothes, with a fancy haircut, and spouting words about himself and how good he is.
How utterly ghastly, abhorrent, and repulsive. We look at him and think to ourselves “he really loves himself, doesn’t he?”
But stop for a moment.
The likelihood is that he has had to work hard and hone his talents to get to where he is.
Why shouldn’t he enjoy the fruits of his labor? In some respects, our reaction says more about us than it does about him.
Are we guilty of being jealous of his success? Perhaps he was brought up in poverty, and some of the excesses are a direct result of that.
The point here is threefold.
First, we shouldn’t judge.
Second, how that young man chooses to carry himself is none of our business.
And third, perhaps he is manifesting something that we feel is missing in our own lives.
Some people believe that there is a thin line between self-love and arrogance. But the truth is that it’s actually a very wide line.
The sooner you realize that, the better. It’s actually very easy to differentiate between self-love and arrogance.
Arrogance is ultimately a counter-productive, unhealthy, and unhappy emotion. By its very nature, it focusses on the self and ego and excludes other people.
As if that wasn’t enough, it also has a low vibration that is extremely unattractive to most people.
Self-love, on the other hand, is the hallmark of someone who has found inner peace and inner contentment.
It’s an inclusive emotion that resonates with other people. Its high vibration radiates a positivity that is irresistible to other people.
So think twice when you use the phrase “He really loves himself.”
It applies equally to a quietly confident man, living a contented, balanced, and rewarding life.
Venus and Mars Are Different Planets
As the great James Brown used to sing, we live in a man’s, man’s, man’s world.
For better or (usually!) worse, politics, business, religion, sport, and television are all still dominated by men.
With good reason, the response from those seeking more balance has often been – and needed to be! – extreme.
But in the rush towards equality, has something important been lost?
For many people, masculinity has become a dirty word, equated with aggression, violence, chauvinism, and domination.
Yet there are many masculine qualities that are hugely positive: nurture and protection of the family, strength, courage, leadership, and hard, physical work.
For men to practice and express self-love, first they have to accept and come to terms with their masculinity.
They need to understand that masculinity is a natural and positive force.
It only becomes negative if you let it. So focus on the positives, and trust your inner feelings as to what is right.
Ignore other people if you have to!
Keep The Balance
The next step towards self-love for men is to get in touch with their feminine side.
That can be difficult because qualities that are valued in women can somehow take on different connotations when applied to men: a woman is tender, empathetic, and selfless. But a man is effete, soft, and weak.
In a bid to correct the disparities caused by many centuries of masculine/feminine imbalance, there has sometimes been a tendency to allow the pendulum to swing too far back the other way.
The Goddess forgets she needs a God. The Yin forgets she needs the Yang. The Moon forgets she needs the Sun.
The feminine needs the masculine, in exactly the same way that the masculine needs the feminine.
For a man to practice self-love, he needs equilibrium in all things: family/partner time, spiritual/secular matters, work/life balance, and acceptance of both the masculine/feminine aspects of his character.
Mind Your Language!
You also need to mind your language!
We’re not talking about profanities and swearing here, but about the vibration, intent, and impact of words.
If you don’t believe how powerful words are, remember that warm feeling you felt when you received glowing praise from a normally reticent parent, boss, or colleague.
Watch the self-depreciation, too.
It’s OK to have a laugh at yourself every so often, but everything in moderation.
If you continually make yourself the butt of the joke, you may come to believe that’s what you are: a joke.
So make sure any self-depreciation always includes a bit of self-love!
Cheap, throwaway phrases like “Men are all trash” do great harm, too. Some men undoubtedly are, but most are not.
And likewise, some women are, but most are not.
A phrase like that sends out a low and miserable vibration that does no good to anyone, regardless of their sex!
In order to practice self-love, men need to have positive, healthy respect for all aspects of themselves.
If they are forever doubting themselves because some people believe they are “all trash” then they will never truly experience the benefits of self-love.
Self Love Tip: Address The Stress
Traditionally, society has expected men to be the breadwinners of the family. This can lead to them taking on too many responsibilities, and putting themselves under huge pressure to succeed.
They then feel bad and stressed out when they fail to reach the high targets they have set themselves.
Such a scenario is hardly conducive to self-love.
A far better approach is to focus on what you have achieved, and not on any perceived failings.
It’s good to go for gold, and to set yourself high standards, but you can’t win them all.
“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same” said Kipling’s poem.
Those wise words still ring true over a century after they were written.
So as well as believing in yourself, go easy on yourself. When you do so, you’ll find the world suddenly seems a better place.
Stress is a heavy burden to carry, and you may not be aware of how tense and wound up you are.
I liken stress to a noisy air conditioning system in a meeting room: you only notice how intense it was when it’s switched off!
Out With The Old, In With The New
When my wife and I moved from the UK to Ireland in 2003, we decided that she would go out to work and I would stay at home and look after our four young children.
I used to get some strange looks in the yard when picking up the kids after school.
Some of the Mums thought I was weird, and wouldn’t talk to me.
As I made new friends in the local soccer club and in the town, people would ask me “What do you do for a living?”
When I answered “Househusband” the next question would invariably be “No, what, do you really do?”
It was clear that many people back then weren’t ready for a brave new world of male and female equality!
To some extent, society today is still conditioned by such traditional values and beliefs.
We expect men and women to conform to a standard set of rules, and find it difficult to handle situations that don’t fit the norm.
But it can be done.
Some of those Mums in the schoolyard who thought I was weird are now good friends!
So always be open to new situations and scenarios.
Pushing back boundaries can be hard work at times, but it can also be great fun and very rewarding.
And that applies exactly to learning how to practice self-love as a man.
Don’t Let Other People’s Issues Become Your Issues
Perhaps you can hear someone you love and respect, like your parents or siblings, saying that they have no time for woolly, weak, and sissy concepts like self-love.
If they want to think that way, that’s OK. But that’s no reason for you to hold the same beliefs.
Some of your circle will reject any ideas on self-love.
That’s their problem, not yours.
If you know that they will react negatively, just be discrete and don’t tell them what you are doing … although fairly soon, you may find they start asking you questions about why you seem so much happier and more relaxed!
Rise above any criticism, but if you do have to respond, remember that an ounce of humor is worth a pound of reason!
I won’t deny it.
At times it wasn’t easy when people looked back at me with varying emotions of pity, horror, or incredulity when I told them I was a househusband.
Their negative reactions did get to me on occasion, but one day I came to a startling revelation: I realized it was their problem, not mine.
I was happy in my role, and so were my wife and our children, so why should I care about what someone else thought?
Once I’d made that connection, I would stare back at their expressions of pity, horror, or incredulity with my own expressions of the same!
And you know something? It felt amazingly empowering and liberating!
So don’t let other people’s perceptions or issues get inside you. Follow your own path.
Practicing Self-love As A Man
If you truly want to enjoy the benefits of self-love, it’s really important that you set aside some “me time.”
Don’t feel bad about doing so. The people around you will benefit from the new you just as much as you will!
Meditation is one of the best tools you can use to practice self-love.
It will give you time to think and give you space between your thoughts.
With a new-found sense of calm, you’ll be able to see what is truly important in your life.
Talking and communication are two other essential elements of practicing self-love: not just with others, but also with yourself.
You can learn much from other people about their experiences, and also be reassured that you are on the right track.
And finally remember moving from the old, self-loathing model to the new, self-loving model represents a huge shift in your life.
It takes time, so take your time: the ultimate rewards make the whole transformation worthwhile.
The Greatest Enemy of Self-love
Especially for men, there’s one great enemy of self-love: namely yourself, or more specifically, your ego!
Your subconscious mind, where your ego mostly lives, finds it very difficult to accept new ideas … and to admit that it might have been wrong.
The simple expedient of being aware of your ego and subconscious mind is a big first step in the right direction.
The ability to think – really think – about our beliefs is a wonderful skill to possess.
Once you are aware of your thoughts, you can start to change them for the better.
A little ego is no bad thing, indeed it’s a vital element on the journey to self-love.
But don’t let it take over: just maintain a sense of balance, proportion, and perspective in everything that you say, think, and do!
The Greatest Love Of All
Sometimes a song captures a moment or emotion so perfectly that no other words are necessary.
If you want to start loving yourself more, there is no better way than by listening to the song “The Greatest Love” by George Benson and subsequently Witney Houston.
As the lyrics so memorably put it: “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”