Sure. It’s super easy for me to love and feel at peace with myself after I’ve connected deeply with another person or helped out a stranger or was given a compliment. At those times there’s a warmth within me that spreads and makes me feel all aglow. I feel proud walking around as me. I can more easily appreciate the wondrousness of others and my world. From this vantage point, I seem to see opportunities and abundance everywhere I look. I am grateful for it all– including my own self.
But then there are those other moments.
After I’ve snapped at my kids or my partner; when I look in the mirror and see flaws (or worse) in my reflection; and when I think, say or do something that literally makes me feel ashamed. In times like these I clamp down, cave in, tighten and the warmth and glow within me is quickly extinguished. In fact, I can hardly remember what it’s like to feel and see beauty everywhere– within or outside of me.
During those other moments, I feel about as far away from peace as can be.
The power of loving yourself.
We’ve all heard this, but how many of us truly practice it and strive for it?
It is nearly impossible to share love with others and your world if you do not fully love yourself. Loving yourself and being at peace with who you are (all of it) is essential and required if you want to give to others and be of benefit to your community and world.
When you’re in a place of self-love, your entire perspective of others and life is positively enhanced. You can more easily ferret out and focus in on aspects of others and situations to appreciate when we grant yourself complete love.
I think that loving yourself sometimes gets a bad rap. I know that there is a part of me that associates self-love with narcissism or being self-centered. Those who are labeled vain, arrogant or narcissistic quite often feel hollow and lacking within.
The stereotypical bully or prima donna who seems more powerful than or too good for everyone else is usually one who suffers with low self-worth or lagging self esteem. When a person is truly at peace with him or herself, there is an underlying calm, assurance and confidence about the person. There is a sense of love that is present and even unconditional.
It is delightfully contagious.
Even when I set aside the negative associations that are linked to notions of self-love, it can still seem quite tricky to actually love myself no matter what.
What about those ugly aspects?
Even the Dalai Lama, the Pope and others who are enlightened or otherwise saintly are not perfect.
To love yourself unconditionally does not mean that you are claiming to be perfect in the sense that you have no more room to grow, learn and improve. We all have “bad” habits, “ugly” aspects or “embarrassing” traits. Let’s just face it. If we came into this world already knowing it all, where would the fun be in living?
The trick to learning to love yourself is to appreciate everything about you and who you are right now– even the stuff you cringe about when you acknowledge it. In fact, if you’d like to make a change in your life, noticing what you don’t like and then loving yourself — INCLUDING the habit, trait or aspect– is a first step to opening up to the new way of living.
I have a habit of being judgmental of others. When it comes to specific differences, I sometimes become self-righteous in my mind (and probably my mannerisms). I find myself thinking, “I can’t believe that this other person is doing that!” Or “I would never act in that way!”
Of course, once I realize I’m thinking such thoughts or I hear myself speaking them aloud to a friend or family member, I feel ashamed and horrible.
Then the judgment turns inward.
The ugliness builds and builds until not only am I degrading this other person who is choosing to live differently than I am, but I am also cutting myself down for being so narrow-minded and critical.
Nobody wins when this spiral starts to take off. And nobody gets to bask in the love that fuels and sustains a passion for life.
As you become aware of what you don’t like about yourself — whether it’s being judgmental or some other tendency — pay close attention to what you do next. If, as I have done in the past, you turn against yourself and rail on internally about how horrible it is that you are or do _________ , just stop right there.
Even if you can’t love yourself for being judgmental, having the body you have or yelling at your kids at this moment, at the very least you can pause before you take yourself further down the road of self-loathing.
Set up peace talks between you and you.
This might mean that you start looking more deeply at this habit or tendency of yours that you do not like. Don’t analyze or try to rationalize it. Instead, feel into yourself and acknowledge that there is some purpose this aspect has served in your past or in the present.
There is always a flip side to any “bad” habit. Sometimes it is to help you cope with what feels like an out of control situation. Other times it is a way to make your voice heard and seem validated. There truly aren’t any “bad” habits– there are merely those that take us in a direction we want to go and those that take us to unwanted places. Sometimes the consequences are desired, other times they are unwanted or even dangerous.
And this can change over time.
What was once a useful, even necessary skill for dealing with a set of circumstances may now be detrimental to you reaching the goals you currently have. As you attain a deeper understanding of your tendencies and acknowledge the ways that they might have served you in the past (or even the present), you can soften and begin to ease up on yourself.
You might decide that you are ready to make different choices and respond in a new way. This doesn’t have to be done at the expense of self-love.
You don’t have to castigate yourself in order to do improve. In fact, from this ease-full and open place, you can usually glide into the change you want rather than battle yourself to get there.
It all comes down to love.
As corny or hokey as it might sound, love is all there is. When you deny yourself love, you literally cut yourself off from the nourishment and power that is life. Be gentle when you look in the mirror, listen to your thoughts or hear yourself speak. Surround those unwanted aspects with a sense of love and an environment of curiosity.
From that expanded place of possibility, you can make choices to change or perhaps to stay the same.
You can more fully be at peace with the you who is perfect in all of your imperfections as you expand and grow.