I’ve never been one for massages. In fact, the very idea of them makes me uncomfortable.

How people can find total relaxation while a complete stranger rubs, grinds, and pulverizes your body with their knuckles (or worse, elbows) is beyond me.

Nevertheless, due to some troublesome neck problems I’ve been having, I recently found myself face down on a massage table for a full 60 min session. I was willing to give it a try.

My friends always went on and on about how massages are so relaxing, they fell asleep right there on the table. Do you think I slept for even a second during this hour?

Of course not.

I ended up having one of the most deeply personal conversations I’ve had in recent memory. And with a complete stranger to boot. She told me all about her life history, which naturally gravitated to what was most troubling her at the moment.

She was currently in what she felt was the most meaningful relationships she’s ever had, but was still finding it difficult to find fulfillment and contentment. Now in her mid-30’s, there were just so many things she still wants to accomplish. She wanted to be with someone who still allowed her to be independent on her own terms.

And that’s when she said it. The phrase that has seemingly appeared out of nowhere. One that has inspired an entire movement of people who are yearning for more contentment in an increasingly dissatisfying world.

Ah yes, self love.

There is a dangerous and pervasive attitude permeating every aspect of our society. The idea of “self love” has been warped and distorted.

While it is absolutely important to love yourself to a certain degree, many have taken this way too far, neglecting the needs of others and isolating themselves in the process.

Caring for yourself, respecting yourself, and having a sense of self-worth is very important. But should it be our primary focus?

Doing so focuses our attention inward, and fosters a selfish attitude.

We can find evidence of this all around us. The world has never felt more divisive. It seems like the more people preach about displaying unity and inclusiveness, the more walls continue to be built up.

Everyone is “talking without speaking and hearing without listening”.

When I’m feeling sad, and instinctively start to turn my attention towards myself, here are some things I force myself to do instead:

3 powerful things to do when you’re feeling down

1) Focus your attention on one person. On one simple act of kindness.

It can be a close friend, a family member in need, or a stranger in the grocery store checkout line. Just do something nice for someone. It will make their day, trust me.

2) Identify and eliminate sources of stress, tension and sadness.

I’ve made an effort to be more mindful of how I spend my time lately. After I complete a certain activity, I focus on how I feel right after completing it. Do I feel better or worse having done it? If it’s worse, I eliminate it. (or drastically reduce it)

For me, I found Netflix (and TV in general) to be a big source of negativity, so I got rid of it.

3) Make time to do nothing.

Get into a habit of daily meditation.

Start with just 3 mins a day. It really helps you see things with a clearer perspective, focuses your attention, and increases your gratitude for the things you do have. (I’ve found using the Headspace app extremely helpful for guided meditation training)

Sorry Bieber, I’m going to love others first

Many people claim that happiness comes from putting yourself first. I believe there is far more evidence that proves the exact opposite.

To summarize the difference between self-love and selfishness in one sentence:

Selfishness is the practice of putting your own needs above all others, while reasonable self-love is making sure your own needs aren’t always considered last.

The best part about putting others’ needs ahead of your own is that you will directly benefit as well.

When you see the positive effect your actions can have on others, you will no doubt build your self-worth and confidence, and you will live with a greater sense of purpose.

There is a dangerous and pervasive attitude permeating our society. Is self love selfish? Or has it simply been distorted and misused? If you have low self esteem, it may be time to take a hard look at what self love really is.
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