We constantly remind ourselves and each other to “treat others as you would like to be treated” or “treat others as you would treat yourself.” While this is a beautiful maxim it offers no assurance that we treat ourselves well.
Most of us are much harder on ourselves that we would ever be on another. We think of our own shortcomings as permanent and immovable. We dwell on our failures and flaws and allow them to feed negativity and inaction rather than serve as feedback for future success. We permit ourselves levels of indifference and inaction that we would never tolerate in an employee, colleague, or friend.
For most of us, treating others as we treat ourselves would lower our expectations and reduce our compassion. Turn the golden rule on it’s head and extend the same love, understanding, and standards to yourself that you so readily offer to those around you.
When a friend struggles through a difficult break up, we tell them “there are other fish in the sea.” Yet, we dwell on our loneliness and tell ourselves stories of inadequacy when faced with a similar situation.
We encourage others to take a big leap or make a big change when something in their life no longer suits them. We value the bold. Yet, we do little to change our own discontented realities.
We hold employees and co-workers to high (but fair) levels of competency, work ethic, and effectiveness. Yet, we so easily justify and allow our own lazy and apathetic work habits.
When friend’s hurt us or let us down we accept apologies and never see their mistakes as fixed pieces of their nature. Yet, we hold or own standards differently. We let our mistakes make major blows to our self-worth and feed internal stories of “not good enough.”
It is time to begin taking our own advice. We need to hold ourselves to the expectations we hold for those around us. Yet, we need to apply our external ability for compassion and understanding inward.
I call this Ruthless Self-Love. 
- Finding the perfect balance between contentment with yourself as you are, yet always wanting to move forward.
- Demonstrating so much love for who you are that you insist on the best presentation of yourself and your efforts in everything that you do.
- Maintaining a continual growth mindset not from feelings of inadequacy but but from love of what your future self can become.
This is not an easy quality to cultivate, but it is the highest pursuit. If everyone in the world was committed to being, loving, and becoming the best version of themselves, we would live in a completely foreign - and beautiful - place.
Idealism aside, how can we work to develop ruthless self-love?
I can offer no perfectly defined path up the mountain, nor a view from the top. I can offer only the two constant reminders that I use in my life and a few daily practices that help me toward developing my own ruthless self-love.
A Constant Reminder
How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything. I hold this advice in my mind as I progress through each day. I think of every moment as practice in becoming my future self. Every action, decision, habit, and pattern is a practice repetition. I remind myself that when I am challenged - physically, mentally, emotionally or with temptation, fatigue, procrastination - I will reach into my backpack of practiced reps and draw one at random. I want to fill my bag with positive performances and productive patterns. I remind myself that repeated actions snowball into habits and the more positive actions I take the easier futures ones become.
Be of Service. I also think of this one as “Be Useful” or “take out the trash.” In other words, if you see something that needs to be done, do it. Don’t wait, hesitate, or schedule it for later. Just do it. If you can help out another in any way, do it. It is easy to batch tasks like cleaning and taking out the trash and schedule them for a later date. I am in no way perfect and quite often let all else fall away when I’m consumed in a project. But, I find that taking small actions immediately builds momentum. When you are productive and useful in anything, you are productive and useful in everything. Give it a shot - take out the trash, hold open a door, offer a smile to stranger - you will be amazed what these small things will do for you.
“Smile like you mean it and it will be returned”
A Daily Practice
I have several daily rituals that feed my soul and support my growth. Most are personal and I encourage you to find your own. I will share one practice that I learned from Lewis Howes and The School of Greatness that I recently adopted and have come to love.
Just before bed, sit down for 5 minutes or less to recap on your day. Use this time to make the following lists:
- Three Things You are Proud of Today. These can be anything that happened to you or you did. They can be simple things like “I woke up with the first alarm rather than hitting snooze” or “I smiled at that old lady” to larger accomplishments like “I nailed that presentation” or “I landed that big deal.” We so easily hold onto the things we did wrong and forget the things we did well. Take a minute to dwell on what you did well today. You earned it.
- Three Things You are Grateful For. A daily gratitude practice is perhaps the single most valuable thing you can do to develop contentment and self-love. Studies show that actually writing these out or speaking them aloud proves much more effective to overall mood and outlook than does simply pondering them. Feel free to be simple or profound. Some days I journal about loved-ones to the verge of tears. Sometimes my list looks like: sunshine, avocados, coffee.
- Top Three Things to Accomplish Tomorrow. What only three? That’s right, no piling your list high. Feel free to make a to-do list later but in this practice limit yourself to three. What are the three things that are important above all else tomorrow. I often do not accomplish my three for focusing elsewhere. The point is not to be rigid in forcing yourself to complete everything but to determine the most important things in your life are at the present moment. I often load myself with difficult or lengthy tasks, but I also often include things like “go surfing” or “make nut butter.”
Cultivating the quality that I call ruthless self-love is really what we are all trying to do. The details are different for each of us and you may not like the name “ruthless self-love.” The true aim is to develop a deep love, understanding, and contentedness with what and who you are. From this love, you may desire to push yourself to new heights and new levels of self-mastery.
My methods and reminders serve me. Whether you adopt any of them or not, I share in the hopes that they inspire you to look deeper inward and extend love and compassion to what you find.
- I first heard the term “ruthless self-love” from Aubrey Marcus. I do not know if it is originally his, but it resonates deeply with me all the same.
- I highly recommend The School of Greatness and all the other podcasts and content from Lewis Howes. He is an inspiration and a truly special individual. I am so grateful I had the pleasure to meet him and hear him speak last summer at the World Domination Summit.