When you break emotions down, there are really only two. One is love; the other is fear. We are either acting in love, or out of a place of fear. All other emotions derive from one of those two branches.
We often think that love is something we just feel for others. For most folks, It feels natural to love others. For some of us, it’s unavoidable. It happens organically. We give and share our love for others easily. We reserve our love for others. We say I love you to many people in a lifetime or maybe in a day. But have you ever, just once, thought or said it to yourself?
Often we hear the phrase, “You have to love yourself before others can love you” Or, “you have to love yourself.” Unfortunately, that’s a subject they didn’t cover in school. Most of us weren’t raised with the tools to know how to actually do that. Or why. The reason to grow love for yourself is simple: how you feel about yourself has a direct impact on your health and well being. Self-loathing, doubt, and insecurities can lead to negative experiences, strained social relationships, depression, addiction and even illness. At the very least, these emotions and self-thoughts paint a dim view of life and all it has to offer. Besides, it doesn’t DO any good. It doesn’t serve anyone to hate themselves. What point or purpose does it have?
Self-love and happiness tend to hang out together. If a person doesn’t hold themselves in high regard, they may have no clear boundaries with others and say “yes” when they don’t want to. They might also find themselves in a situation where they treat everyone else better than themselves. Our negative emotions DO influence other people around us. Let’s be honest. Few people want to spend their time with an emo Eeyores with low self-esteem. It’s exhausting to be around people who are constantly self-deprecating. Self-love is an important aspect of a happy and balanced life. Loving yourself also determines how others interact with you, and what value you place on yourself. But what does loving oneself entail?
It includes self-acceptance. You accept yourself completely and totally as you are and care about yourself despite whatever faults you may think you have. Despite what other people think about you. Regardless what other people have said about you or done TO you in the past. Despite your past mistakes and perceived failures and known quirks. Besides whatever horrible childhood or life trauma you have had in the past. Even outside of the negative thoughts you have about yourself from time to time.
Awaken to your wonderful qualities. You may begin by thinking about compliments others have given you. Start being confident about the things you do well, and the traits you admire about yourself. A good cue is to notice the traits you are attracted to in others. They are your mirrors. If you like something about someone, it may mean that you have that same quality yourself or would like to cultivate it. This self-acceptance also means that you begin to entertain the idea that you are perfect just as you are in this moment. If not perfect, that you are OKAY where you are, knowing you are growing and improving at your own rate. Or at the very least, acceptable and worthy of a little patience. This is where you are on your path. Know that you are worthy and deserving of every good thing out there. Just by virtue of being a living creature in a complex Universe, you have the right to pursue love, success, abundance, good health and happiness. We don’t withhold love from one of our children because they’re not perfect all the time. We are all works in progress. None of us are walking on water yet. It would be inappropriate and unhealthy to only share love with those that met every (sometimes unrealistic) high expectation we have of ourselves. So why would we ever refrain from giving love to ourselves?
Loving yourself also means forgiving yourself. Constantly forgiving yourself for mistakes from the past, real and imaginary. Because the truth is, you may be the only one who remembers you even made a mistake. Honestly, people’s favorite topic is almost always themselves. They are too busy doing the addition on their perceived mistakes and failures to remember all of yours, too. Things that happened in the past are just memory and no longer actually exist. Why are you going to let them rent so much space in your head? We require mistakes to learn. We need them to grow. If we did everything right the first time, why even bother to learn anything? Then we’d be gods. A great affirmation for this is: “I now forgive myself for all mistakes from the past, real or imagined.”
With self-forgiveness comes compassion. Treat yourself and your mind with the gentleness one would treat an 11-year-old child. And with the respect one would give a Guru. You ARE your own expert and greatest teacher. Only you know the wisdom that exists within you based on your experiences. Only you can act upon it. You are completely individual. There is no one else like you in the whole Universe. You are the only living representation of yourself. So in a way, you are the Ambassador of One, from the Country of You. From the Planet of Self. Your wisdom and skills are unique and needed by the world. Bring it.
Being compassionate with yourself means simply this: soften up inside. Be gentle with yourself. Rather then wasting time calculating your failures and shortcomings, spend that same time making mental inventories of all of the qualities about yourself that you DO like. Then appreciate them. All of those things about yourself that you know are good, great and potentially stellar. Having compassion with yourself gives you the chance to say, “I learned from this.” This was an opportunity for growth. An O.F.G. Now you know how you want to do it differently next time. Send yourself a little appreciation for making the effort. Then let that shit go. Have as much compassion and patience for yourself as you do others. Or you plan to cultivate for others.
A lot of folks think that loving yourself and expressing it is egotistical or arrogant. I’m not talking about some jumped up, over-the-top expression of false self-esteem. I’m talking about a relationship you cultivate with yourself that may be so private, others can only sense it about you as a kind of glowing inner health. Some people deflect when you give them a sincere compliment because of this fear of egotism. Egotistical and arrogant people are just wearing a mask to cover insecurity. It’s the opposite of loving yourself. Egotism is fear based. Confidence is love based. If you stay on the journey of self-love, you are expressing confidence rather than arrogance. Confidence is a powerful tool that magnetizes people, places and events to us so we can get more or what we require and desire. Essentially, self-confidence is the tractor beam by which we attract all the good things in our life. Without it, we often find ourselves hiding. Not being seen. Not getting out there. Not challenging ourselves. Playing it small, and making sure we don’t draw too much attention to ourselves for fear of judgment. That’s not really fair considering you share a planet with billions of people that require your participation in our global experience. You are a part of this world. You are a light in it. Turn the light ON. Be a beacon. We want to see you. It is up to us to inspire and motivate one another with our positive thoughts and energy that perpetually make the world a better place. To help others move out of fear so they can become who they truly want to be and shine like a diamond. We do this by first moving out of our own fears and lack of confidence and showing up.
To begin the journey down the path of self-love, woo yourself gently. Fall in love with how awesome you already are and with the potential of everything you are becoming. A simple daily task you can begin on this journey of self-love is the following. Every time you go to the washroom look in the mirror and put your writing hand over your heart. And think or say, “I send love and appreciation to myself. Because I’m awesome.” You’ll immediately notice the feeling that you get when you say or think this to yourself. If that statement feels like too much of a stretch, think this one: “More and more now, I love and appreciate myself.” Or, “Every day and in every way, I become more confident now.” After all, you live within your own mind and body. It’s the shell you will inhabit all of your days. The marriage you have with yourself lasts a lifetime. So you may as well love the one you’re IN.