Love can be a fickle and fleeting creature.
When I say this, you may be nodding your head in agreement as you envision a former lover or partner.
However, that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about the complex relationship we have with ourselves.
Because society focuses so deeply on romantic love, we often overlook the importance of nurturing the relationship we hold within. You spend every single moment dwelling in your physical body and mind.
Until we feel completely free and safe inside, a sense of happiness will be just as elusive to us as a “perfect” lover. Until we are overflowing with self-acceptance, compassion, and trust, we are virtually unavailable to give to others.
I don’t know about you, but during the holidays I need an extra layer of personal accountability. As we overeat, overdrink, over-socialize, and over-pressure ourselves into a sense of cheer, we can slip into a bit of negativity.
We may need more validation and support during this sentimental season. Love suffers when we feel depleted.
The holidays remind us that another year has insidiously ticked by. Maybe we’ve progressed as planned, maybe have fallen short of our expectations. Perhaps we’ve made leaps professionally and personally; maybe we’ve barely squeezed by.
Here’s the most important thing to remember:
You are lovable, worthy, and divine. regardless of these realities.
So take the following as a kind reminder. This is what all self-loved people do.
Treat yourself as you treat others.
We have all heard the saying, “Treat others as you want to be treated.”
For me, extending kindness, respect, and courtesy to those around me feels automatic. Of course in our intimate relationships, we naturally feel more raw, triggered, and sensitive in response to our partners, so we have to be more conscious. Still, it can feel easier to extend acceptance and compassion to others.
There are moments when I have different rules for how I treat myself. Disownment and harshness can become my automatic responses. I wasn’t always aware of this pattern, but then a good friend confessed:
“You make me feel bad about myself sometimes.”
I was shocked. Hadn’t I been a good, supportive friend?
“When you criticize yourself, it makes me feel like you must be thinking the same about me.”
This was a turning point for me and how I spoke to myself. How we treat ourselves has a ripple effect. Have you ever witnessed someone completely accepting themselves? It gives us permission to do the same. Quite oppositely, have you ever seen someone completely beating themselves up? It can make us feel less than.
Kindness is an illusion if it’s only sourced outwardly.
Nurture your deepest character traits.
It’s easy to feel great about yourself when your shiny, surface qualities are serving you well. If you are physically beautiful, funny, athletic, and so on, chances are you will be rewarded. And don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing. However, I call these qualities shiny because they are more superficial, short-lasting, and externally influenced. Narcissists, in fact, navigate the world primarily with these qualities.
I believe that self-loved people can look deeply within themselves and really see their deepest character. They feel connected to things like their own empathy, intellectual curiosity, and self-awareness.
We all fall into superficial traps.
I, for example, just like most of us, want to look great. One of my favorite things to do is entertain other people and make them laugh. But being cute and funny is just one layer of someone’s humanity. We should all strive to honor the parts of ourselves that are buried a bit deeper. Once we realize a bad day, a dark person, or the simple process of aging won’t rob us of our magnificence, our deepest sense of worthiness can bloom.
Seek partners, not saviors.
I have a theory about the people who use relationships to be saved. Many of them end up needing to be saved from the people they mistakenly believed had rescued them. For example, if you are feeling out of control, you may end up with an oppressive partner. Similarly, if you don’t know who you are, you may find someone who will force you to conform. These relationships aren’t workable in the long run.
When we feel strong and loved from within, there is nothing to be saved from. There’s no scary monster for a partner to fight off. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe in “knights in shining armor.” But my knight’s weapon isn’t his sword; it’s his shield. He simply uses it as a mirror to reflect my own goodness back to me.
A partner is someone to have exciting journeys with. They’re someone who helps you laugh harder, dream bigger, and propel you farther in your self-love. This partnership is ablaze with shared wholeness—not smothered by joint emptiness.
Search for wisdom instead of perfectionism.
Studies show that our nervous systems hold onto negative experiences more than positive ones. Add that to the fact that life is hard and we navigate painful challenges regularly. Of course we don’t always like ourselves.
We all experience failures and setbacks. When this happens to me, I try to ask myself the question:
“What can I learn from this?”
If it’s a repeated mistake, you have to dig deeper. If you keep finding yourself in bad relationships, toxic jobs, superficial friendships, bad health, or spiritually low places, it’s time to tap into your wisdom.
Ask yourself the tough questions: Are you perpetually self-destructive? Are you addicted to the thing in question? Are you depressed? Where can you get more support? Failure is your friend when you use it as an ongoing catalyst for self-improvement.
In my younger life, perfectionism drove most of my actions and was my primary coping mechanism. Control was disguised as self-confidence. As you can imagine, this was a short-term approach that soon stopped working. The goal is to learn from, rather than control what we encounter. With this mindset, life becomes a profound journey to be experienced rather than a scary game to be mastered.
A wise person once told me that the meaning of life is to learn how to love ourselves and how to love others. Seems pretty simple, right? But it’s not.
It makes sense that we tend to use the external world to feel validated and contented. However, if this were a foolproof strategy, we wouldn’t see spiritually bankrupt millionaires or lonely married people. If this were the right way, our society wouldn’t be plagued by compulsion, sadness, and pain.
Hope comes from within. No matter what happens, regardless of who flows in and out of our lives, we fully own ourselves. Though I wish for all of us to find beautiful partnerships and material prosperity, I know we can be whole without it.
But this is only if we unconditionally love ourselves.
Let us be the partner we seek. Let us build our internal wealth.
No matter what happens, you will always have you.