“Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition.” ~Alexander Smith
Part of the work of loving ourselves means learning to love all of ourselves. The beautiful parts, the resilient parts, the fun parts, and yes, the ugly parts. The parts of that us that make us feel anxious and unworthy, the parts we try to hide from ourselves and from the world.
Other people are a mirror and that is their gift to us
When the world is reflecting back to me the parts that I already love and accept about myself, I might not even give a second thought about it. But when it reflects back to me a part of myself that I am ashamed about or don’t like, it’s not until I acknowledge it that I can come to peace with it. It’s not until I can say “this is also me” that I can move on. If I am frustrated with someone for being defensive and controlling, then I must also be defensive and controlling. If I am irritated with the asshole at the post office for not wearing his mask right, I must also be careless in some way. Other people are always showing us how we are out of balance with ourselves.
Something I am also learning is that when I think I am in love with someone, or someone has inspired me or made me excited (which is easy to do), it is because that thing I am drawn to or find attractive about them is inside of me, too. I am beginning to realise that it is maybe not that person or thing that I am in love with—it is the projection of me falling in love with that part of myself.
They are showing me parts of myself that are yet to be discovered, and worth being curious about and enthralled with. And even if that person or thing is not in my life anymore, what a gift to have been shown that.
Inspiration grows with you
I am also finding that what I am inspired by constantly changes depending on where I am in my life and what part of myself I am learning about. Right now, I am working on embracing the parts of myself that are fiery, passionate, and intense, so I admire artists like Frida Kahlo and poets like Pablo Neruda. I also want to embrace the parts of myself that are messy, real, and vulnerable, so I am attracted to writers like Brené Brown, Liz Gilbert, or Glennon Doyle, or kick-ass creators like Issa Rae. I want to love my body and the feminine goddess inside of me, so I am drawn to art and images of curvy and powerful female bodies—especially pinups and boudoir photos!
What we don’t understand we reject
This is also interesting to me because there was a time, when I was younger, that I didn’t understand some of these parts of myself—so I rejected them. My mom had always been beautiful, passionate, and artistic. She was also messy and, at times, vain and self-absorbed (all things I can totally see in myself now by the way).
At the time, I did everything I could to not be like her. I favoured my dad’s steadiness, optimism, and humour. That felt comfortable, that felt…normal. I’d always desperately wanted to embrace normal. My mom made me feel uncomfortable and exhausted. My dad was likeable and easy to figure out, but my mom was a complex, unpredictable maze I could never understand.
Although we have made improvements in our relationship over the years, it wasn’t until I made loving myself fully and self-care a priority in my own life that I started to embrace this part of myself that has always been there, this tiny flame waiting patiently for me.
I am realizing passionate isn’t crazy—passionate is beautiful. Being intense is a gift and it means I have a lot to give. It only makes people who don’t understand or embrace that part of themselves uncomfortable. So how wild it is that, somehow, me learning to fall in love with those parts of myself, also inadvertently taught me how to love and accept my mother in a way I wasn’t able to before.
What you reject might be the key to your freedom
So maybe the parts of us that are the hardest to love are the parts that are worth doing the work for most. Maybe the person we reject the most ends up being the missing key to unlocking these amazing and powerful parts of ourselves that we couldn’t create space for before.
And just maybe, when we realize it’s all just reflections, we can start to put our mirrors down and see people for who they really are. Maybe we can start to see ourselves without judgement and love ourselves for who we really are—our glorious, imperfect, wonderful selves.
Every part of you is worth being seen and loved
I also do want to be clear, do not force yourself to see things until you are ready. Things that involve pain, disappointment, abandonment, and abuse take time and support. It’s taken me 40 years to get where I am, and sometimes, I still feel like I am in the beginning. So wrap whatever that thing is up in a beautiful box, with a beautiful ribbon, and mentally put a card on it that says “don’t open till your heart says you are ready,” and when you do open it, I hope that you don’t do it alone and that whatever the lesson is or was brings you peace and grace.