A manifesto for Self-love
Updated: Jul 24, 2019
There's a lot of talk of self-love going on in self-help and spirituality circles today: "Do it like you love yourself." Or even better, "What would somebody who loves themselves do?" These are legit questions and can certainly help open up to a deeper understanding of loving kindness and compassion towards ourselves, which is never wrong.
But, and here's the but, what does this really signify - "I love myself?" I mean, have you ever really wondered what someone is actually saying when they say "I love myself" or, "You cannot love another until you fully love yourself?" I've been trying to wrap my head around for years, but I was still confused. If there is an "I", then who is the "me" that I am supposed to love?
Is it just me, or do we all suffer from split personality syndrome?
I have a sense that this whole self-love thing has been greatly misunderstood. Our well-meaning but fragile ego-personalities have turned this into a misguided concept of the mind.
Self-love has become another thing to check off of our spiritual to-do lists. The outer rat race has been replaced by an inner rat-race. And the horror if we'd fail! "I don't love myself enough, oh no, I'm such a shitty person!" Has self-love become another performance to be measured? Now the Inner Critic can spiral us down into even more anxiety, insecurity, and self-doubt, thanks to a new parameter we created: how well can I do at loving myself?
I often found myself doing just that in my writing: if I did well, I could love and approve of myself. I had a pattern where I thought I had to force myself to sit down and write every day at the same time, no matter how I felt. I was a good soldier, working from discipline and effort like my father before me, pushing through it even when my body was hungry or tired, or my back hurt from sitting cross-legged on a meditation-pillow-turned-desk-chair for hours on end.
Writing had become a chore. Instead of making it into my pleasure practice, I felt exhausted and resentful from overriding the messages of my inner being, or my Big She through my body. I measured my sense of self-worth and how much love I deserved by how well I thought the writing went that day-if I had created something worthwhile, how many words or pages I had written, or if other people thought it was good.
I prioritized effort over alignment because this is the way I was taught the world works. Achievement and perfectionism were how I earned approval during childhood, and that very same pattern lingered on in my now-adult brain. We tend to treat ourselves like our caregivers treated us when we were young. They were our role models for love and affection. Daddy gave you love and approval when you got good grades in school? Now you can give yourself love and approval if you do well with work.
But what if this was a misguided belief running on autopilot? As long as we identify with the small she, a.k.a. the personality with her human storyline and conditioning, we will always feel the need for outer approval, a lack of worthiness, and the nagging feeling that we’re not quite there yet.
The small self doesn't know unconditional love. She only knows a love that is dependent on outer circumstances, because that's what she grew up with. I didn't have enlightened parents who encouraged me to meditate to find my source of love and wholeness within. Neither did you, I suppose. We are all conditioned by the environment we grew up in. We've inherited their neuroses and patterns like you inherit your father's skin color or the freckles on your mother's nose.
The love of the small she is based on performance and achievement: "If I do XYZ, then I'll get love and approval." So we try to be good and do the right thing to please others as if our soul's survival depended on it. We smile and say “yes” even though we're hurting inside and want to scream “no”; we bend over backward to nourish others even when our own batteries are depleted; we work hard and push through even when our bodies are asking for rest. It's exhausting.
How about you allow yourself to slow down today, tune in, and listen to what your body is trying to tell you through the whipsters of your soul? When you do that, you are tapping into a wellspring of wholeness, simplicity, and wisdom within. That’s the choice we always have. You can either continue leaning towards your small she and find yourself lacking wholeness, or you can take a step to the left and come back into alignment with who we really are - an endless stream of well-being and unconditional love.
You already know this. You've heard it a thousand times before. It sounds true. You remember. But the next moment, you forget, and you start to identify with the mini-me; and the self-doubt, insecurity, and approval-seeking kicks back in.
It's one thing to "know" something and another to actually live it. It takes some practice to get intimate and start trusting that your Big She has got your back. She wants your best, and She knows what you want: all your deepest desires and dreams, She is already living them, constantly coaxing you to follow her lead through the signals of your physical body, your feelings, and emotions. They are like your inner GPS, your internal guidance system.
To connect with Her wisdom and unconditional love, there's nothing you have to do but relax and let go. Surrender it all over to Her. Trust that Her loving guidance is always available to you.
I like the prayer "Divine Mother, please help me remove any resistances I have towards receiving your unconditional love; so I may feel safe, held, and nourished in my life experience. Thank you. Thy will be done."
Then all you need to do is to follow your intuition to take you back into alignment with your Big She. You may get a hunch to take a nap, run a bath, go for a walk, journal, meditate, stretch, or make a cup of tea. What is the next natural thing that you can do for yourself to come back into alignment with who you really are? Do that. This way, self-love doesn't become another chore on your endless to-do list, but an effortless exploration of your own unique stream of pleasure and enjoyment.
Another beautiful side-effect is that you will feel so much more flow. Once I realized how much I was pushing myself in my writing, I released the limiting belief that I had to do all of this perfectionism. Now, I listen to the cues of my Big She to guide me. When I had just finished the first draft of this article, I had an intuition to add a personal story to make it come to life. My mind immediately tried to come up with something smart (old patterns of approval hunting kicked in-I slipped out of alignment!).
She informed me that my body needed movement. In the past, I would have ignored these physical cues and kept on focusing my brain to come up with the answer first. But I've learned to follow these inner signals. So I opened the doors and stepped out onto the balcony. I took a few deep breaths of fresh spring air and gave in to my body's desire for embodiment. I held a few yoga poses and did some air squats when the idea for this story on writing landed in my mind. Through movement, I came back into alignment, and the answer to my question could come through effortlessly.
When we realize that we are always guided from within, we can relax and let go of all the fear, anxiety, and rigid perfectionism. Surrender it all over to your own Big She. You are not separate from Her. In fact, She is you, the biggest, most wise part of you.
Thus the best thing you can do to up your feeling of self-love today and on any other day is to come into alignment with who you really are. Then the separation between a "me" that has to love an "I" disappears and you can relax into the remembrance of "I AM She, and She is love, and all is well."
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