Self-Love Requires Patience And Commitment
“Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”—Rumi
Complete acceptance of our identity is central to our existence. For every interaction stems from the recognition of our true self. The Dalai Lama said it puzzled him why so many people in the West suffer from low self-esteem and lack of acceptance. We have everything we need to thrive, yet are tormented for honouring our spiritual self. Self-love is a soft concept for many, since our upbringing emphasises serving the needs of others. To nurture ourselves first is selfish, so individuals indulge in altruistic service to the detriment of meeting their own needs. How about you? What is the relationship you have with yourself? Is it nurturing or based in guilt and criticism?
To cite a personal example: I spent countless years locked in a futile struggle to approve of myself. This was compounded by an inflexible father whom I could not please. As a result, I turned to high intensity physical activity as an outlet to vent my discontentment. I took part in gruelling endurance sports to punish myself. My inner-dialogue summoned me to go harder until I was overcome with exhaustion or collapsed in pain. Undeniably, the inner voice was the same one echoed by my father, and I had adopted it as my own. Yet underneath, my body was crying out to be loved and nurtured. The constant pain reinforced my childhood conditioning until I could take no more; something had to give. Exercise nowadays encompasses low intensity movement and has evolved to embrace the self-love I uphold. Whilst I’m a work-in-progress, I am at peace with myself having endured the contrasting state.
The path to self-love is slow and gradual, requiring patience and commitment to create an empowering inner dialogue. “Here’s the real secret; underneath all of the “problems” you carry around is just one belief: I am not good enough,” affirms Louise Hay in Loving Yourself To Great Health. Self-love is expressed to the degree we are vulnerable. By exposing our cracks, we give ourselves permission to be authentic and attract like-minded individuals. Contained within that vulnerability is the need to love ourselves again. Countless books and articles espouse loving yourself foremost for others to love you. Whilst I acknowledge this as helpful advice, it should not be your sole reason. Your duty is to honour yourself primarily, because within your DNA is the disposition for self-nurturing. To accept ourselves as whole means to embody our strengths and limitations; our shadow self. To disown your dark side means going to war with yourself, a move away from self-love. Are you comfortable with this idea that self-love is built into your genetic potential? Your role is to let go of the barriers that prevent it being expressed through you i.e. your Limiting Beliefs.
You Are Not Your Feelings Or Thoughts
“Find the love you seek, by first finding the love within yourself. Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home.”—Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Shame, disgust and self-disapproval are feelings we impose upon ourselves. You are not born harbouring such thoughts. It is perpetuated when you find evidence to support it. Loving who you really are starts with the smallest act of self-renewal and self-compassion. It is the recognition you are already worthy, irrespective of your limiting beliefs. In his book Your Redefining Moments, acclaimed spiritual author and my mentor Dennis Merritt Jones writes: “Who you really are is not subject to transition because the true Self is formless and changeless.” You are perfectly imperfect. The dichotomy of that statement affirms that your imperfections make you perfect. Therefore, embrace the wholeness of your being from your place of awareness. Know that you personify goodness by your mere presence. Use your imperfections to engrave upon your character that which you aspire to be. Whilst an overused analogy, the diamond formed through heat and pressure is akin to that which takes place within you. Your trials are nourishment for your soul. Your imperfections are nature’s gifts to impress upon your being. Reframe from assuming you are broken since that only capitulates to your problems.
The words Actually Are in the title, are used to denote the impenetrable self that lies beneath the voice of the ego. This reaffirming voice cannot be obscured since it does not affix itself to labels relating to your self-worth. It is as eternal as your spiritual nature and your primary aim is to make peace with the inner critic. What assurances do you have that the inner critic is not the real you? Look to your feelings as a guidepost. The inner critic strives to make you inferior. This is clear when provoked, you respond in anger to uphold this image. The authentic self does not revile you, nor does it hide behind a veil of deceit. To differentiate these voices, we realise the inner critic is nothing more than a learned script often recited. By confronting pain, we summon our intent to move through it. Pain is a portrait into the past to the degree that suffering means referencing the past by bringing it into the present.
As you abandon your pain story, you recognise you are not your feelings or thoughts, but something you have tied yourself to. In any moment you suffer, direct your attention inwards and ask: “What is going on inside me right now?” Stay attentive to the sensations which arise: a thought or an impulse. Move towards them with modest attentiveness instead of running away from them. The act of embracing your feelings is a show of self-love, because you are nurturing your emotional wellbeing. It is a prompt reminder that I return to the title quote by Rumi who wrote: “Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built up against it.” Ultimately, loving who you really are entails tearing down the barriers that stand in the way of your spiritual essence.