Proper parenting: children need unconditional love

A fatal educational error causes children to be damaged for life

Mother and child

ShutterstockImagine there’s this one miracle cure that can improve all your relationships. It makes you more lovable, more successful, more loyal, more satisfied. It causes you to do your tasks better and more efficiently than ever before. It makes you see your friendships and love relationships from a whole new perspective.

You think there is no such thing? Oh yes, there is: it’s called self-love.

Now before you think something like "Huh? Egoism is supposed to make everything better", let’s make one thing clear: self-love has nothing to do with self-love or even narcissism. Self-love means saying yes to yourself. That you are at peace with yourself.

Confused? OK, let’s try it another way: How many times have you done something you dislike just to please others?? Yes, you did that because you are not close enough to yourself and therefore need the validation of others.

Self-love must develop in childhood

"Self-love does not mean that you revolve only around yourself. Quite the opposite. Most of our relationships fail precisely because we don’t love ourselves enough," says psychiatrist Michael Lehofer in an interview with Business Insider. Lehofer recently published the book "Being with Me".

His thesis: Because many people can’t love themselves, they look for confirmation in others – in people and in material things. "We really exploit others and want their love and appreciation at any cost, instead of looking for it in ourselves."

The great misunderstanding of self-love begins in childhood: self-love arises, as Lehofer is convinced, when we are loved unconditionally by our parents and the people around us. This is by no means always the case. Because in order to prepare children for life, parents often mistakenly attach conditions to their love. We have to be good, obedient, ambitious and nice, otherwise the parents do not love us.

"We want to comply dutifully with the conditions, because then the dad, the mom, the internalized parents promise us the affection," writes t Lehofer in his book. By inter nalized parents, the psychiatrist means the relational traces that our parents leave in us throughout our lives and that we project onto others. Now you could say that it’s our parents’ fault if we don’t love ourselves, but in truth that’s exactly the crux of unconditional love: if parents already didn’t get it, how are they supposed to pass it on?

And this then has an effect on our whole life. Lehofer is of the opinion that egoism or narcissism result from a lack of self-love.

Example: Behind the unscrupulous ambition of a top manager hides secretly the fear of not being recognized. And this recognition from others is supposed to compensate for a lack of self-love . Or to put it another way: Because he can’t love himself, others have to acknowledge him. "If he loved himself, he would not be concerned with advancement, but with the cause. Namely, what is best for the company and for the employees," explains Lehofer.

"I’ve gotten out of the habit of wanting to be super"

Michael Lehofer Michael Lehofer

So people who want to be loved by everyone at all costs are very often the ones who love themselves the least.

The desire for a lot of money and materialism are also related to this: "We buy and buy, because we think that we are then more desirable, actually more lovable. But the truth is: It will never be enough if we don’t start to love ourselves at some point."

The good news is: Lehofer does not believe that self-love cannot be relearned later on. Because at some point in life, everyone has experienced at least some rudiments of unconditional love and can fall back on those. "We simply have to question ourselves. There we can also consult a friend who is close to us."

Let’s take the unscrupulous manager again as an example: he can ask himself why he acts this way. Does he do this because he wants recognition? Why does he need this recognition? Isn’t it enough for him to know that it was a good thing for the company?

"I myself have gotten out of the habit of wanting to be super," says Lehofer. "In the past, when I gave a talk, I thought it was about the audience saying afterwards, ‘But he talked great.In reality, it’s about the attendees taking away the best for themselves. This should be my only claim."

Self-love can prevent stress

In this respect, self-love also has to do with finding the right priorities in life. Why do I want to be successful? Because I want to do what I do to the best of my ability for the benefit of others (and myself) – or because I desperately want to be admired by others. This is the fallacy: I will never be able to do a thing in the best possible way if I act according to selfish motives.

"Especially in the business world, the word ‘optimize’ often plays a role. But the truth is: the self-loving person always acts optimally. I affirm myself and do my best."

And that would eliminate the biggest social problems of our time: permanent stress and excessive demands. Because that’s exactly what happens when I want to give more than I have in me. Someone who is close to himself knows what he can and can’t put up with.

And there’s something else, as the psychiatrist points out: "Love makes you calm, because it gives you security. So when I love myself, I make myself feel safe and calm. It’s not just me who benefits, but everyone around me ."

It is a fatal development in our society that self-love is frowned upon and confused with selfishness, while stress is virtually en vogue. At the same time, one would be the solution to the other.

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