written by Jelena Fu, Serbia 2021
“Loving myself is so difficult!” my friend told me as I was walking her to the door after a meditation session devoted to loving-kindness.
Most of us have been raised to believe that self-love is selfish, that we need to put others first, that our needs are not as important, that we should make others happy even at our own expense. The list goes on. This concept is quite foreign to the Eastern cultures as they have been taught from an early age to view themselves as worthy, lovable and divine. When Dalai Lama was asked by Western psychotherapists about this issue, he was shocked to learn that so many people around the world dislike, loathe or even hate themselves. Lately, the idea of self-love has spread around the globe and with the right reason. As the popular saying goes:“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
Self-love is crucial for our well-being, for setting healthy boundaries, for our relationship with others.
Let’s look into what self-love is and what it isn’t.
A very important aspect of self-love, which is now being more researched and applied in psychology, is self-compassion. We usually learn to direct empathy and compassion toward our loved ones, abandoned animals, the sick and the poor. We know how to open our hearts so wide that love pours out effortlessly along with wishes for them to be well and safe and protected. When we become our own best friend and view ourselves as someone dearest and worthy of all the love and care, we start practicing self-compassion.
Accepting ourselves as we are is another key aspect. We spend so much time and energy on blaming and criticizing ourselves. We are always dissatisfied with one thing or another: our looks, our actions, even our attitude toward ourselves. The magic thing happens when we look at ourselves without fight, resistance or wish to fix something. We meet ourselves in the present moment with true acceptance and that opens door for true growth rather than constant “fixing”.
Another vital element of self-love is being able to forgive ourselves. Forgiving our own mistakes, wrongful actions, “deficiencies”, failures, etc. can happen only along with compassion and acceptance. Self-forgiveness can feel as a mission impossible, especially to those with perfectionist tendencies who are always very hard on themselves. It is, however, possible. Consider these wise words: “Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.”(Unknown Author)
Self-love isn’t pampering and spoiling ourselves with shopping, fancy chocolate and wine, expensive travels, etc. only to dull our sense of inadequacy, disappointment and other uncomfortable feelings. Self-care shouldn’t be confused with indulging yourself in coping behaviors. Self-care means taking a break in our busy schedule, finding alone time to meditate, meeting a good friend for a meaningful conversation, getting a massage for the tight shoulders. Coping behaviors are just band-aids that help us cover up the real situation and get even further from much needed acceptance and love.
Striving for perfection is very far from real, unconditional self-love. It’s a chronic state of feeling not enough, inadequate and somehow deeply wrong. Perfectionism can be a celebrated phenomenon on the outside as it drives growth and improvement. However, it very quickly and almost always turns into burnout, anxiety and even depression. We can’t really grow from a place of lack. Only when we can confidently say “I am enough just the way I am at this moment”, we can start functioning from a place of abundance and make choices and decisions that affirm our worth.
Self-love is what fills us with energy every day. It is the internal source of happiness that doesn’t dependent on any external factors. It is the necessary ground for personal growth and provides us with confidence to create healthy boundaries and have loving relationships with people around us.
As tacky as it sounds, love really does start with you.
To dive deeper into self-love, learn practical tools for cultivating it and access 19 beautiful meditations, buy our course: https://www.selfgrowthcourses.com/courses/self-love-course/
Participants said about this course:
“Loving, Healing and Soothing each and every day!
I found this course filled with love and at times appreciated the gentle nudges to go deeper and sit through discomfort in a safe space. I loved the different elements of the course and the creativity that came with it. I have enjoyed learning about myself and will take away some tools to add to my self love and self care journey. Thank you very much for creating such a beautiful course.”