I recently left a tumultuous, codependent relationship that was passionately disguised as a ‘soul mate’ connection. There were waves of tremendous pleasure followed by excruciating pain. Deep down I knew that this kind of instability and imbalance was not true love. The prominent question that kept re-emerging was: What is self-love and do I have it? Here’s what I’ve gathered so far:
Self-love is unapologetic permission to feel exactly how you feel. To accept all of you. To love the process of being and becoming. Self-love is completely being ok with who you are.
Exactly as you are.
It’s an on-going process, a continuous reminder to come back to oneself. An appreciation for life, connection to source, a feeling of wholeness – enough-ness. A letting go of needing to achieve, to prove & defend. No longer allowing external forces to diminish self-esteem or feed pride.
It’s a knowing that who we are is beyond our ego. A knowing that our ego is our friend, a mirror & a teacher. It’s an amazing tool to help us navigate this world. And so is our body and mind. It’s up to us whether we use them for good or harm… for joy or suffering.
Then, from this place of wholeness – wanting to improve, little by little. Sometimes our ego is sneaky and can trick us into thinking that we’ll only be lovable and happy if… and when… But the truth is, we were always lovable and always will be. If we were completely content with ourselves exactly where we were, then our suffering would greatly diminish. We would stop hurting ourselves and others. We would stop desperately grasping for things outside of ourselves to feel whole.
A lot of what we think, say and do in life is to get love, approval, acceptance and appreciation from others. We waste so much time and energy. If only we knew that all of that is already within us. It’s our duty in life to become our own parent and nurture our own self-worth and confidence. To thank our parents for doing their best with what they knew at the time and taking ownership of our lives from here on out. Willing to drop the blame and self-pity.
From that place we can go out into the world and just enjoy whatever comes our way. View outer life as a movie, a play in which things happen so we can learn, be challenged, wake up and remember our true nature. Ultimately, if we consistently remind ourselves to hold ourselves with love, we will stop expecting to feel better from the outer world and rather just be ok with whatever is, right here and right now. Other’s will feel that energy. You will be able to hold space for others. The kindest thing we can do is to be present with someone. Once we learn how to be present with ourselves, we can do the same for others. Hence, the very common saying: You can only love another once you learn to love yourself.
So how do we actually take steps to love ourselves?
The past couple days I noticed that anger was arising in me. I tried to just be with it, hold it, feel it. Observing the sensations of the emotion in my body. I took time to analyze it and allow it to teach me, being cautious of what story I was telling myself. What lesson is it trying to get through to me? I reminded myself that I needed to feel it fully and then allow it to leave when it felt ready to. Chemically I knew what type of hormones I was releasing by holding onto anger and I didn’t want to prolong that. After I felt like I gave myself enough time to fully feel and acknowledge that anger, I consciously chose love. I meditated on giving love to myself and the other person. I forgave myself and the other person. I chose to see this as a blessing, a purification, a way to gain wisdom & compassion. I was actively making an effort to transform hatred into forgiveness by having patience for myself and the other person. I knew that holding a grudge and acting like a victim would only keep me stuck and in the same pattern loop. I was choosing to align with who I wanted to become rather than who I was. I actively cultivated love & peace. And slowly but surely my anger happily bid farewell. And a feeling of lightness and clarity ensued.
When I’m confronted with uncomfortable feelings such as anger, guilt, resentment and jealousy, I see it as an opportunity and I have fun with the process of transforming it. I don’t give my feelings more weight than they actually have, I don’t repeat a negative narrative over and over again. I take a lighter approach by just observing what is and being careful not to overindulge in it. Reminding myself that all suffering comes from self-centeredness (which is close to the opposite of self-love) and a false belief that I am more important than others. Sometimes humor helps. Sometimes I physically and mentally hug myself. I try to be there for myself instead of relying on another person to console me. This would be the equivalent of learning how to self-soothe as a child. Eventually, it’s grip loosens and it passes just as it’s meant to do.
All of these tools are training me and my mind to unlearn toxic behaviors and replace them with uplifting behaviors. I am taking control of my response to situations and consciously choosing the person I want to be. Choosing the future I want to have. Nothing outside of me has the power to do that anymore. I choose to be exactly who I want to be. Again, not from a place of hating the anger and wanting it to go away but rather by accepting it, appreciating it and seeing it as a teacher. Feeling grateful that I have another opportunity to learn and become a better person. Remembering that deep pain has the potential to blossom into the most beautiful realizations. Remembering that there is no lotus without mud.
That is self-love.
It takes practice and it’s definitely uncomfortable at times. It feels like you’re going against the grain. But self-discipline is essential to live a meaningful life and it takes some effort and pain as we transition out of an old habit that we picked up from childhood. That’s why it’s important to be extremely patient and gentle throughout the process. Perfection is never the goal, in fact, there is no such thing. Incremental steps and appreciation for small victories is a great way to encourage yourself to continue. And remembering why you’re doing this in the first place. Try to enjoy the wonder of being a human and having all these vibrant and colorful emotions that give us the abundant material to transform ourselves.
Believe that it is possible and it will be. Yes, your mind is that powerful. We can be our own placebo.
So much of our pain and suffering in life stems from our relationship to ourselves. If we learned how to fall in love with ourselves and really learned to love to be with ourselves through thick and thin, we would avoid doing harm in all aspects of our life. We would treat ourselves, others and the planet with the tenderness and care it deserves. Eventually, ‘self-love’ just becomes ‘all-pervasive love’. A boundaryless and all encompassing energy of oneness. And it all starts with each and every one of us. Imagine the change we can have on the world just through our own energy.
To sum it all up, perhaps self-love is a process of awakening.