Since I was a boy, I’ve heard it said that when Jesus preached, “Love thy neighbor as thyself”, He meant that we must first learn to love ourselves before we can love others. Thus, many have taken the teaching to mean that we must all become self-absorbed and focus on building our own self esteem. I lost a brother to a “Recovered Memory” cult because of this “love thyself” reversal of Jesus’ teaching.
In reality, Love thy neighbor as thyself is based on the premise that we all already do love ourselves. The trick is to figure out what that means. In what way do we all love ourselves?
We could probably think of others, but the primary way in which we all love ourselves is that we all seek the basic necessities of life for ourselves: food, water, warmth, shelter. We never thoughtlessly disregard our own hunger, for example. Even the most depressed person eats and drinks, and tries to stay warm and dry (even someone who commits suicide does so because they think it will benefit them).
Once we understand the ways we already love ourselves, then we can begin to understand what Jesus meant by “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”