The Purpose of Life: Love Yourself

Summer is really here, despite the thunderstorms, and, like New Year’s, it feels like an appropriate time to take stock.  This article, therefore, seems like a perfect way to reflect, to chart goals for the summer, the fall, the upcoming year — whatever timeframes feel relevant.

Kris Carr’s bold idea is that we spend too much time attaching our life goal(s) to external factors, whether they are career-oriented, family-oriented, or quantifiable (e.g. climb Everest, write 5 books, etc.).  Instead, Carr argues, the only true life goals are those which focus on ourselves.

“Your purpose has nothing to do with what you do. There, I said it. Your purpose is about discovering and nurturing who you truly are, to know and love yourself at the deepest level and to guide yourself back home when you lose your way. That’s it. Everything else is your burning passion, your inspired mission, your job, your love-fueled hobby, etc. Those things are powerful and essential, but they’re not your purpose. Your purpose is much bigger than that.”

This leaves me feeling both lighter and more determined, as structuring one’s life by these guidelines requires more work, though it ought to leave one less dependent on other’s approval for a healthy sense of self.  This, Carr thinks, is what it means to cultivate self-love as the goal of one’s life.

One way to put this philosophy into practice is by reflecting on what it means to love another, and then applying those same strategies to yourself.  We know more than anyone else all of the times we slip up, especially those of us with high expectations of ourselves.  Give yourself a break, knowing that beating yourself up will not make you more productive.

I think one of the areas in which this lesson applies to my life is to actively fight against society’s definition of what I am ‘supposed’ to do, or to enjoy.  When you love someone, you do not expect them to do everything you want to do, and to love doing it.  You find a balance, where you both do things that you like, because above all, you love each other’s company.  It is no different with ourselves — the goal, still, is to live a productive, giving, and meaningful life, but all the while to love the person you are living it with, namely yourself.

In case there was any doubt that Judaism caught on to this timeless truth, consider that the fundamental mitzvah in the Torah (according to both Jesus and Talmudic sources) is to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Vayikra/Leviticus 19:18).  This commandment continues to be a clarion call in how we ought to relate to others.  Note, however, that it begins by assuming that we love ourselves.  If this assumption were not in place, then the Torah would be teaching that it is all right to hate another, as you hate yourself.  And as Hillel, in his famous recounting of this commandment (Shabbat 31a), explains, the rest (of the Torah) is commentary: go and learn it!

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