April 10, 2015 by Armin A. Zadeh
Saint Thomas Aquinas identified self-love as the root of sin. We have to distinguish, however, between selfishness and self-love. Selfishness involves serving our own desires and interests without regard to anybody else’s needs. Self-serving thoughts and actions may indeed hinder our ability to love. They are often detrimental to relationships, society, and ultimately to our own well-being. Resisting self-serving impulses may lead us to a state of inner contentment and happiness.
Self-love, by contrast, does not serve selfish impulses: it implies self-acceptance. Love for ourselves is not fundamentally different from love for others. At its core is the recognition of goodness and beauty in us that needs to be nurtured and preserved. Self-love, therefore, is directed at supporting our own happiness and well-being and recognizing our own uniqueness and value.
Recognizing our own uniqueness and loving ourselves is critically important for our ability to love others and to maintain stable relationships. If we don’t love ourselves, we have difficulty accepting others’ love for us as sincere. To allow others to love us, we must consider ourselves worthy of receiving love. Acceptance of and contentment with who we are is essential to our ability to mature, and Fromm asserts that only a mature person — one who has overcome the early developmental stage of narcissism — is able to truly love.