“You can’t love anyone else until you can first love yourself,” states the expert on self-esteem in the self-help manual.
“It’s time to love yourself. You’re worth it!” declares the sassy female voice in the TV ad.
“Feeling unworthy is caused by an inability to love ourselves,” blares the glossy magazine feature’s strapline.
“Speak to yourself as you would to someone you love,” urges the motivational teacher on YouTube.
And in response, we spend increasing amounts of time and effort trying to prove we love ourselves by snapping as many pouting, provocative selfies of ourselves as we can manage to take, photoshop and post—so that everyone in our circle can comment on how amazing we are.
We treat ourselves, and pamper ourselves, and spend money on ourselves because we deserve it and we’re worth it.
Yet it never feels that way! Certainly not in a lasting way. After a temporary high, we fall back into the same hollow, empty void we’ve been trying so hard to escape from.
It’s actually reached plague proportions, this phenomenon. It prowls and preys on those who are gullible, fearful, struggling with self-doubt, rivalry and competition. In this age of the selfie, we’ve created a frightening, highly contagious virus. It’s the disease of love gone wrong.
Why “gone wrong”?
Well, just look. See through different eyes. See the fear. The desperation. The mask. The pretense.
See the pain.
How can any of this possibly lead to a sense that we are worthy? It’s the blind leading the blind down a blind alley.
What’s gone wrong is that love isn’t, as we so often see stated, a verb. It’s not a doing.
If it was, then all this feverish activity would be making a difference somehow, wouldn’t it? It would lead to a sense of self-love and worthiness. We’re doing the “love yourself” bit with all our fervent might. It should be working.
But that’s not how it works, because these same souls, searching for what seems to be eluding them, eventually turn up in my therapy room. Oh so many. And from each one I hear the same pain:
“Why can’t I love myself? I should be able to feel lovable, but instead I feel like a fraud.”
“I try to love myself. I pamper myself and set time aside for proper self care, but I don’t feel love; I feel misery.”
“I worry all the time what everyone else is thinking of me. I don’t feel love for myself; instead I spend my time worrying who’s better looking, cleverer, got more friends, is more popular.”
“I can’t understand why I can’t love myself. I use affirmations to myself all the time, but I don’t feel any different. Is there something wrong with me?”
“How do I learn to love myself?”
And so we begin the journey which has a different destination.
See, there are several things that are unhelpful about the question, “How do I love myself?” It’s built on some inaccurate premises. See what you think.
It presupposes that:
1. There’s something called love that we can decide to do.
2. That we can do this in isolation and relying solely on our own resources.
3. That we can discriminate when doing this thing called love—deciding who it goes to and who it doesn’t
4. That giving love to ourselves is going to make us happy.
5. That we are all separate and reliant on ourselves to do this thing called love, which apparently is a verb.
In actual fact, that’s a pretty powerful recipe for disaster. Because if we think about it, what we really want is to be able to feel love and feel loving. And once we can do that, the rest follows. Because love doesn’t discriminate. Its nature is to simply be. And its compassion and kindness touches all things. Including ourselves.
That’s what makes us come alive with that sense of happiness we’re looking for. And to get that we have to stop thinking of love as a verb, and start understanding that love is actually an energy.
We all know that really, if we think about our experience of love.
It’s the energy it brings that puts a spring in our step, a grin on our face, and makes our heart swell. When we discover that amazing energy, and find it flowing through us, our heart swells and we feel connected to everything, at peace with everyone. We flow because love is flowing through us. The energy that is love.
And here’s the thing that always astounds me as I watch while others come back to life. The miracle that gives me goosebumps every time I watch it happen!
I see people start to remember!
Call me crazy, but I know I’m watching them remember!
I’m not actually teaching them anything when we walk along beside each other in my therapy room for a while. I’m simply inviting them to remember.
I’m inviting them to remember who they really are. And once they do, everything else follows.
Love stops being a verb. It ceases to be something we must do to ourselves. It’s no longer the magic answer to overturning our sense of unworthiness.
Instead, it’s an energy which has the capacity to bring us all back to ourselves. Simply because love is who we really are. Beyond thoughts of the self, way beyond the obsessive self-centeredness of the ego, our higher self, our true essence, is love.
How do I know that? Because every single soul who has an experience of awakening discovers exactly that. And by awakening, I don’t mean a blinding flash or lightning bolt, I mean the delicious awareness shared by everyone who transcends the self and comes face to face with what is beyond:
The most beautiful, peaceful, joyful and profound sense of interconnectedness and oneness.
Steve Taylor, in Waking From Sleep describes one such experience…
“There’s a feeling of ecstasy building inside me, as if the energy is moving softly and slowly and intensifying…I can sense something beneath the clouds and the sky and the sunlight. The apparent separateness between them dissolves away. They are not separate things, but expressions of the same force, a kind of ocean of radiant energy which underlies them and flows through them. They are all one, and the force that makes them one is so harmonious and benevolent that I feel that the world is a miraculously beautiful and meaningful place.”
I believe that this is the energy we all are, and that separateness is an illusion only. And I have seen, more times than I can count, and have known personally also, the change that comes over someone once they have tasted this.
There is a knowing, a resonance, a profound remembering. We realise that we’re no longer seeking love, or trying to do love, but that rather we are love, as is the energy that holds everything in its tender embrace.
We don’t learn to love ourselves by doing, but by being. We have to tune in, both to the quiet beating of our own heart, and to the deeper beat of the universal heart itself. It becomes both a being and a doing, but the focus is different.
So perhaps the more useful question might not be, “How do I love Myself?” but, “How do I become again the love that I already am?”
Author: Janny Juddly
Editor: Travis May