Learning to Loving Ourselves
“It's not your job to like me - it's mine”
― Byron Katie
It is often said that we cannot love others until we learn to love ourselves. We cannot give away what we do not posses. I disagree. For many of us we learn to truly love ourselves through loving others. We love our parents, our siblings, friends, and our children. We can all find at least one other human being we love. Many of us experience the pure unconditional love we have for a pet. When our self-worth is damaged, or nonexistent, our self-confidence is in the toilet, and we do not believe in our inherent worth, it can be beyond challenging to find a way to love ourselves, neuroses, grime, drama, agony and all. It may be a deep-seated belief we have always carried with us, or it may be a more recent event that has knocked our self-confidence off kilter, causing the sense that we are somehow damaged and unlovable.
Learning to love ourselves is unquestionably an inside job in that no one can give us that gift, no one can fill that emotional and spiritual hole deep within our heart and soul. If another held the power to heal that deep wound we would have been healed long ago. Others may offer us a quick fix, a temporary, fleeting balm. Relationships, alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, and food (said the woman who believes that Double Stuffed Oreos are as spiritual experience as us earthlings can have) may do the same...for a brief moment. But they are illusions at best that never, ever, last. Ever.
There is an exercise I love using when working with women. It is superficial yet powerful. I ask them if they have ever had the thought "if only I was prettier, thinner, taller etc I would love myself more. I would be happier. I would know peace" For men the inquiry can certainly include physical appearance, but is often centered around "if only I made more money, was more successful, or was more appreciated I would love myself. I would be happy. I would know peace" For the sake of the example I'll focus on the gals. I then ask them if they've ever had the thought "if only my significant other, or loved ones, told me more often that I was pretty enough, thin enough etc I would feel loved. I would be happy. I would know peace." I've yet to come across a woman who has not had these thoughts. We move on to the question: has your significant other every told you were pretty enough? If yes, how long did that make you feel OK? A day? An hour? Five minutes? Did you believe them? And if we believed the other person, and that person had the power to heal our wounded soul, why would we continually require that validation? Wouldn't once do it?
Here's the thing. The moment we ask someone else if we look ok, if we are ok, we already have the answer solidly locked down. The moment the underlying sentiment "am I enough?" slips out of our mouth it's over. If we were honest we would really say "I've just gone crazy. Care to join me? I should warn you, it will not end well for you. There is no right answer, because I know the answer." And this is also true: in those magical moments, when the hair, the makeup, the outfit, the sense of a job well done, an accomplishment hard earned, in the the moments, however fleeting, of feeling enough, do we ever turn to another and ask if we look ok, if we did well enough? If we are ok? Never. Ever. Because we know.
“We are not held back by the love we didn't receive in the past, but by the love we're not extending in the present.” ― Marianne Williamson
The paradox is that we can learn to love ourselves through being of service to others, through making a conscious decision to choose love, to choose integrity, to choose being who we wish others were, especially when we don't want to. Stuck in resenting our parent(s) for failing us as children? Instead of concentrating our energy on what kind of mom or dad you have, what might happen if we focused on what kind of daughter/son we are (yeah, in spite of everything)? Hurting because our partner is not who we believe we need them to be? What kind of partner are we? As long as we believe the other person(s) is not who we believe we need them to be it's a fair assumption we are not being our most compassionate self toward them. How could we be? But what if our way out of misery and blaming, and into becoming our best, most loving self, lay not in that which we have received, or have been denied, but in what we offer others? What if we raised the bar and chose to be precisely who we wished others were? How could we not fall in love with ourselves if we were that person?
How do we begin the journey of learning to love ourselves? Simply. We begin by considering the following; if we loved ourself what might we do next? How might we behave toward ourselves? How would we talk about ourself? Would we go on and on about how our butt looks no matter how many squats we do? Would we speak of ourselves in derogatory terms? Would we starve our precious bodies, or fill it full of junk, or would we feed it as though we loved it? Would we blame ourselves for things beyond our control? Would we hold onto the mistakes we've made? Or would we forgive ourselves and leap boldly toward an understanding that we needed every, single, solitary experience we've had? Could we embrace the knowledge that we did the very best we could at the time with the skills we possessed at the time?
We consider the person(s) we love most in this world. How do we treat them? How do we speak of them? How do we speak to them? Do that. The amazing news? We don't have to believe what we're saying, doing, or not doing, even a teeny, tiny bit in the beginning in order to act as if we actually love ourselves, until we finally do. And at first we won't. It's ok. It really is.
There was a time in my life I had no clue how to love myself. I had no sense of my self-worth. That's not really true. I had a sense of my self-worth and it wasn't good. The why's are irrelevant. I was informed I must learn to love myself before I could love others. How? With what? It's like going to an empty well in search of water. I knew this for certain: I loved my precious little boys more than I could possibly articulate and so I focused on loving them with everything I had. I loved others brilliantly. I loved my family and friends. I was passionate about loving them and still am. I loved how I loved others and that became the foundation on which I built my love for myself. I loved others until the day I realized I loved the woman I had become, and that allowed me to love the woman I had always been. I discovered, through loving others, to feel nothing but love and compassion for the girl I had been. What a gift. What a miracle. There is reason we say that the fastest way to get out of our heads, out of ourselves, is to be of service to others. When we give love, love cannot help but return to us. It is a universal truth.
Just for today, just for this moment in time, we can choose to love. And when that moment passes? We can choose to love some more...
Peace & Love Always