Like many out there, I have been on a quest to master true self-love.
Coming from a history of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and general self-loathing, this journey has not been an easy one.
Again, like most out there who are seeking this ever-elusive state of peace, I took all the steps you’re “supposed to.” I did yoga teacher training. I did life coach training. I did Reiki training. I got coaches. I practiced. I breathed. I journaled. I took all the advice and followed all the protocols.
I made some progress, but there was always this lingering sense that something still wasn’t quite right. I still had this underlying feeling that all these practices I was doing, all the work, all the striving, was actually fueling my lack of self-love, rather than turning the ship around.
With this, I paused and realized that all of the so-called “self-love” teachers and gurus out there were still telling me that there was something missing in me, something wrong with me. Not in an obvious way, but this was the message nonetheless. There was still the view that there was something broken in me—and that if I just practiced hard enough, talked long enough, processed enough—that eventually I would become a person I could love.
I realized that this is where the flaw in the whole system is.
I realized that I live in a world that has a vested interest in my feeling like I am lacking.
Our consumerism-based marketplace plays on me feeling like I am inadequate, small, wrong, bad, not enough, evil, shameful, not who or what I should be.
I looked around and saw that I am being fed messages all day long that enforce this idea that I am flawed, that I must reject myself, that I must be on a quest to fix myself, that I must seek outside of myself to make up for what is not right within me.
I began to see that this continual drumbeat of my fundamentally flawed nature is what keeps the economic, educational, governmental, medical, and entertainment systems running the way they do. The world as we know it depends upon us feeling less-than.
I thought I was so above all this, being the yogi/spiritual/hippy/minimalist that I was.
But when I looked at the self-help world, the New Age spirituality movement, the old school spirituality movements, I saw the same attitude about my fundamentally flawed nature that I saw in the media, the government, and everywhere else in mainstream life.
And it all stems from the idea that we have to “fix” ourselves. Our culture tells us we will be lovable when we are thin, rich, and successful. The spiritual world tells us we will be lovable when we are non-judgmental and have no thoughts. The self-help movement tells us we will be lovable when we have reached all our goals and become super inspiring people.
There is no fundamental love of self there—just different ways of saying we are not enough.
Sounds pretty bleak, I know.
But the good news is that, ultimately, the true power rests in our hands.
I began to realize that without self-doubt, much of what I see operating in the world today would cease to exist. Whatever systems that are at play right now that are feeding on my lack of self-love, only have the power that I give them.
The manipulation, the capitalization on my feeling “not enough,” the continual stream of messages and products and coaches that are all trying to “fix” me, can only continue so long as I decide to agree that there is something wrong with me that must be fixed.
The moment I decided that I was going to go in, get curious about myself, make space for all that I was and am—all that I think, feel, have experienced, want, and don’t want—I was committing a massive act of cultural rebellion.
I was standing up for the me that has always existed.
The moment I stopped looking outside to fix what was lacking in me, and instead went within with the intention of getting to know myself better, with the intention of integrating my wounded and shadowed parts, was the moment I started to change the world.
With this act, I was taking back the power that had never really left me. I began to live a life that aligned with the truth of who I am—God in my specific costume. And in so doing, I created the space for others to do the same.
In this, I was and am able to do my shadow work—meaning I started to look at all those aspects within myself that I believed were broken as simply wounded. I then started to realize that everything about me is light, and what has occurred is that my light has been rejected in certain areas and is now expressing itself as shadow. I still approach myself like this.
I started to see that there was never anything “wrong” with me—I was simply stuck in the belief that I could be and had been cut off from love, and that I needed to seek that love outside myself. This is what perpetuated the self-hate cycle—not my not doing it right. Not my not doing enough. Not my not being good enough. My self-rejection is what kept me running away from myself—trying to fix, heal, save, and transcend myself.
When I chose to go in and love those shadowy, fearful, hateful, anxious, depressed, addicted, self-sabotaging parts, I was standing up for a world where love can reign.
This journey of feeling less-than was ultimately a gift, because it brought me to a place of true self-exploration. It brought me to a place where I could fully become aware of who I am. Without the rejection, the integration may not have happened.
It was no mistake, but it did not need to continue.
I see now that all those self-improvement, self-love, self-healing tools are not wrong or bad, but when approached from a place of self-discovery, integration, and getting to know myself, rather than from a place of trying to fix myself, their effects are so much more powerful.
I believe this is the true root of all genuine spirituality—I am already it. The kingdom is within. It is all there. Just look. Stop running and look.
As we embrace the idea that we are already lovable, change and transformation within ourselves is actually more accessible. By accepting ourselves, we are not saying we are done with our journey.
Not at all.
What I realized is that true self-love is accepting that we will never be done. We will never be fully complete in knowing ourselves, never be fully integrated or fully aware—and none of that means we are not lovable right here, right now, just as we are.
We are complete in the incomplete. We are whole in the fragmentation. We must be willing to learn, grow, change, and expand not because there is something wrong with who we are now, but because that is what life is all about: perpetual change, growth, and expansion.
My journey is no longer a list of things that prove how “not there yet” I am. I have negative emotions, judgmental thoughts, fears, anxieties—the same stuff as everyone else. The difference is that I love those aspects of myself. In that love, they reveal truth to me. I find value in everything. I find truth hidden all over the place. I am less susceptible to manipulation, and I have the capacity to see the world in a more unified way.
Loving the judgment actually makes me less judgmental, because I can lean into the why and understand where my judgment comes from, which usually leads to compassion. I love my negative emotions, and they serve as a system of guidance for my journey. I love my anxiety, and it transmutes into the comforting voice I need to hear.
By not resisting who and what I am right now, I make room for myself to grow and change. Quite the paradox.
I will continue to rebel. I will continue to stop looking for a “fix” outside myself and instead, get curious about who I am. I will stop allowing myself to believe that I am broken, and continue to accept that I am whole, but wounded. And all I need to integrate those wounds is my own love.
This is my rebellion. This is my manifesto:
I declare that there never has been, and never will be anything wrong with me—and I will continue to learn, grow, and change for as long as I breathe.
I am complete in my incomplete view of myself.
I am whole in my fractured nature.
I am worthy of love, in all ways, in all places.
Right. F*cking. Now.
As are you.
Author: Ali Washington
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Supervising Editor 1: Callie Rushton
Supervising Editor 2: Catherine Monkman