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For the first time in my life, I am living.
I am living for me.
Getting to this point took 31 years.
It took 31 years to really learn how to love myself and receive love from others authentically.
If you would have asked me if I loved myself before now, I would have said yes and believed it. I would have argued if you told me I was not being authentic in my words.
It is my hope that in sharing my experience of what it felt like to let love in, that others may be able to hold a mirror to their own pain and have the chance to use it for the teacher it is. I wrote this doing a deep dive into shadow work—a necessary step in the process of letting love in.
Shadow work is the process of recognizing that we all have darker aspects of ourselves. These aspects are often kept in the shadow, hidden by the ego due to feelings of guilt, shame, anger, and sadness. These emotions come from rejecting all of who we are as a means of avoiding pain—something none of us can ever truly escape.
Try as we might to hide it, the shadow aspects of self are necessary chains in the armor that protects us. A useful tool for darker times when harsher approaches are needed to get the job done. The shadow is vital to survival and serves a purpose; it is only when it is repressed that it becomes dark and toxic.
I wrote the following in the wake of emerging from deep shadow work, facing every rejected and hidden piece of myself one by one, full of fear and utter sorrow. Now on the other side of this work, I am humbled, and sit in unconditional love and appreciation for the version of me that lived through this experience, as it was pivotal in my being all of who I am today.
For anyone going through it right now, I hope this can serve as a reminder that you are more powerful than you know. You are seen, heard, and held in love. Always—without exception.
On Shadow Work:
The feeling of accepting your shadow, completely and without judgment, can be one of great pain. Especially for those who have never truly loved themselves. Or worse, those who do not understand that love is a state of being, of acceptance of all that is—not an outward expression, but an inner knowing that this, love, is all there really is.
This knowledge is painful. The apple is bitter, stale, and sharp. It does not go down smoothly. This pain of loving oneself cuts through the heart space, dragging you in and down, only to loop back up and around again. Relentless and never-ending. The process is never complete. And as long as there is resistance, there is pain.
Let the love in.
Let it in.
That is the work.
But no one tells you what that means and how it can feel when what you thought you knew was a self-projected fantasy to protect your ego—flailing about, begging you not to let go.
So let me tell you what it means to let the love in.
Let me be candid and honest so that you may be better prepared than I was.
To let the love in means to let down all the walls and barriers we have built to protect us because we felt love was unsafe. We were taught to believe love was unsafe from the experiences that shaped and molded us. We did not want our broken hearts to be wounded again, as they had never healed.
Instead, we coated our hearts with self-protective armor, locking it in, so that the wound could not be seen or touched.
Letting love in means we are piercing through this armor with the very thing we have been avoiding.
In my experience, in the beginning, it feels like heartbreak. Like fear and utter, incomprehensible sorrow, a mental incomprehension of the paradox. The grief of realizing all you have held yourself apart from, while also getting a glimpse of the ecstasy and bliss that is to come, that is waiting inside.
When the armor breaks and the heart opens—when the love comes in, it floods.
It flows like water, making its way with grace into all the cracks and crevices that are brittle and jagged from the erosion of time, heartbreak, and pain.
And this hurts—letting the love in. It hurts because we are afraid. We are afraid that to be whole means we risk becoming empty again. At least without self-love, we never knew the totality of what is truly possible. What has never been experienced cannot be taken away.
And so instead, we shut ourselves down. We keep it locked inside—afraid to love ourselves and afraid to let love in. Not because we do not want it, but because the sheer pain is too much to bear.
This is the truth for some. Of self-love, healing, loving our shadow, and letting love in.
Messy and complicated.
Beautiful and divine.
All the things.
And in the end, there is no better gift. For once this lesson has been integrated, the deeper understanding surfaces.
That you were never empty; those crevices were never really cracked or jagged. That the love was always there, smooth and ubiquitous, flowing like water.
We are always whole and complete. It is only the perception of our separateness that holds us apart from this experience.
When this deep truth hits, the illusion is dropped, and you realize you can never lose what you have had all along.