One of the most talked about subjects in personal development is “Self Love”. I am often asked “how do I learn to love myself more?” and my answer may surprise you. I always say “That’s the wrong question.”
You see, love is who you are. You were born loving. You were born whole, complete, perfect…a miracle. Anything that has you doubt your worthiness is a falsity. The real question as I see it is “What can I give up right now to remember who I am?” We don’t need to learn to love ourselves, that’s a bit like saying that the sky needs to learn to be blue, to experience more love in our lives we must be willing to give up what’s in the way of loving ourselves. We must stop blaming, shaming, comparing, judging and striving to arrive at some better place in the land of later on. In essence, self love is not so much about doing something for yourself (taking bubble baths and making time for loving self practices) it’s more about removing the obstacles that are in the way of self love. Tony Robbins famously says that all the pain that we experience is from the love that we withhold. Whoa! You mean it’s not because others don’t love me the way I deserve? Nope. It’s all you. YOU are the captain of the Love Boat. How well you love yourself and others will directly translate into your experience of happiness, joy and fulfillment in your life…contrary to popular belief it is not how well others love you.
So what can you do to access more self love? Start by removing the obstacles, one by one, as a daily practice. For me, shame was one of the biggest obsticles to self love. I, like most people, have done things that I am not proud of. I hid those things and internalized them as “bad”. I didn’t want anyone to know about those parts of me. I covered them up with people pleasing and placating so that no one would see the dark shadows that loomed beneath the surface. The problem was that I would always be on the look out for people who might “know” which caused me to be distrustful and therefore withhold love from others in an effort to protect myself and my secrets. It also had the side effect of creating the destructive habit of comparisson. I found myself comparing how I looked, my level of success, how fun I was or wasn’t and all kinds of other ridiculous things to those around me to validate myself. “I am better at_________” would let me feel smug for a few moments but never feeling loved, or loving. In fact all comparissons seemed to perpetuate deeper levels of insecurity and self loathing and then the comparissons led straight to their darker cousin’s house…judgement. I told myself that judgement was simply discernment. I have to discern what is good and bad, what I like and don’t like to be successful. At least that’s what I told myself. But like its nasty relative comparison, judgment left me feeling anxious and often defensive. Not exactly desireable states.
The idea that all the pain that I experienced was from the love that I withheld stuck with me. I didn’t know exactly how to drop my self destructive habits but I knew I didn’t want to feel anxious and petty anymore. So two things happened. First I started giving more love by cheering for others. Genuinely. Giving praise just to make others feel good (merited praise, not flattery) and I noticed that when I gave love more often, comparison started to fall away. If I could be genuinely happy for others and cheer them on why would I need to compare? If a complaint or comparisson would come into my mind I interupted myself and looked for something good that I could say instead. I started to feel like a better person. The more love I gave to others, the more I loved who I was becoming.
Then I started sharing some of the things that I had found so icky about myself. Mistakes of the past, shameful thoughts and deeds all became fair game , beyond the safety of close friendships, and made their way into my teaching and leadership. So many people recieved these previously dark and shameful secrets with a long sigh and a “Me too.Thank you for sharing that, its such a relief to know I am not the only one.” They say the truth sets you free. It does. What followed was the release of a weight that I had carried for so long I forgot what lightness felt like. I felt free, more at ease in myself and the best part was that it made me want to give even more love. One thing I know for sure is that love is expansive but when it comes to giving love, if you are waiting for the love and approval of others to feel good about yourself you will be waiting a long time. To expand love, you have to give it away. When you give it away, you make space for something new…or something that’s been there all along. You are worthy of love and the way to get it is to give it. Start somewhere. Start small but if you want more peace, joy and freedom in your life make it a non-negotiable practice to give love. You will be surprised at the exponential nature of that kind of investment.
With all my Love,