As a woman, I use this word a lot too: “Self-Love”. Exactly what does self-love mean? If you were to ask me before if I love myself, I would say absolutely. I like myself. I thought I am pretty smart and interesting; I have a great sense of humor. Nevertheless, when I looked into the mirror or as I lied in my bed, a severe depression tormented me with thoughts like “I am not good enough”, “I am not pretty enough”, or “I hate myself”, and “I want to be like her.
Like many of us, I read books; I watched “Eat, Pray, Love” numerous time. I signed up to Yoga class and I practiced meditation. I listen to empowering women podcasts in my car on my way to work. I practiced everything suggested in books and articles. Still, there were days when I could not even look at myself in my own photograph and think I was worthy enough. It was then that I realized that I was really far from loving myself.
It took me years before I fully understand self-love.
In order to understand what self-love is, let us look at what is NOT.
Self-love is not narcissism, selfishness or arrogance. Narcissism is someone with thoughts always begin with “I” or “Me”. There is very little to no room to think about others and much less empathize with them. Everything revolves around “I” or “Me”.
Self-love is not something I pretend to have or achieve. It does not start one day and at perfection the next day. It is continuous learning and unlearning of what is and is not.
Self-love is independent of things outside of us. Self-love is not how many “likes” we have received on our social media, how many videos we have taken on our snapchat and which angle we posed to end up with the best selfie picture.
My realization with self-love arises out of the long battle with myself after my automobile accident. From my early teenage year and even well into my 30s I battled with a poor self-image. I wore tights, stockings, and pants on hot summer’s day to cover up my scars on my legs.
It is not surprising that what I struggled with created a delay to my understanding of what I truly suffered: a broken relationship with myself.
I looked to conditional love outside of me: numbers on a scale, perfect grades, approval from my friends and colleagues, and approval from men, especially in intimate relationships. I gave others the power to determine my worthiness. When men came and went, I felt hurt and empty.
A lack of self-love can manifest as many things. For me, it was struggling with my own body image through my adolescence into my womanhood. For others, it can manifest into addictions, substance abuse, unhealthy or abusive relationships, workaholism, and constant need for approval from others.
The root cause of all these manifestations is the same: we do not love ourselves. We seek external forces for validations and in their absence; we feel a void, a hole, and darkness.
True love is the unconditional feeling of love, appreciations, and acceptance. No matter what you do, you always love yourself with the same strength. It is a sense of love that emanates from within yourself.
True self-love is about the messages we send to ourselves when no one else is listening. It is not an internal dialogue of guilt and shame when we are not living up to others’ expectations of being in this world. Self-love requires that we love all aspects of ourselves, darkness and light, shadows and beauty. Self-love is embracing our being.
Awareness is an important starting place in the practice of self-love because awareness creates an opportunity for the shift. Recognizing that I am on my journey of loving myself to live a wholehearted life is a helpful starting place.
My awareness came through as a result of a profound spiritual awakening when the pain and shame of whom I cannot be overpowered the pain and shame of who I am. It was in that moment of emotional meltdown that I began to become aware of who I truly am.
Self-love is an endless process that takes time and practice. Self-love has no destinations or final stop. Here are some helpful tips on how to practice self-love:
When we practice true self-love, we create space for abundant, allowing love to flow freely from others into our lives and that love reciprocate deeply into the love we feel for others. We live as a whole from a place of abundance. The more you practice self-love, the stronger the message you send to yourself and others around you that “You deserve this”. You begin to create confidence within yourself, you will wake up, and you know you are different. You are in love, with yourself.