“Our hearts can grow strong at the broken places. Much of spiritual life is self-acceptance, maybe all of it. Indeed, in accepting the songs of our life, we can begin to create for ourselves a much deeper and greater identity in which our heart holds all within a space of boundless compassion.”
- JACK KORNFIELD
Self-love is a journey and though it may sound obvious to always “self-love,” it is not always that easy. Self-love is a complex relationship between the parts of ourselves that need nourishment, the wounds that need to be healed, and the aspects that we must challenge in order to grow and remain safe in positive evolution.
As humans, we all need love from both internal and external origins. There is an inherent desire to experience the euphoria and comfort that love provides. But, love is also complex. Love is not always black and white, and this outlook applies to the loving relationship that we build within ourselves.
It is in our power to be the nurturing love. This is the love that is kind, gentle, compassionate, warm, and reassuring. It is also in our capabilities to be the healing love. This is the love that forgives, lets go of past hurts, and encourages us to turn the page. And we must also cultivate the tough love. This is the love that teaches us how and when to say no, even if it creates disruption. This is the love that protects us from harmful situations, places, and people, even if it goes against the status quo. And this is the love that inspires us to be brave, journey outside of our comfort zones, listen to our intuition, and trust what is calling our heart.
I have had my own battles with self-love mainly based on the strong perfectionist voice that lives within me. I have always demanded and still catch myself demanding beyond what is “average,” or at least in my mind, whatever “average” really is. While some people more naturally exhibit these features in what I believe can be due to genetic, generational, karmic, and for astrological reasons, as humans, I would reason that this issue is largely due to environmental influences. We live in a society, America in particular, with a heavy daily barrage of what is “the best,” what is “the ideal,” what is “perfect,” “acceptable,” etc. Our social constructions become a mirror that whether realized or not, create our side-by-side comparison of how we match up against the rest of the world. And we are subconsciously trained that what is the best and what is perfect is what will succeed and what will essentially survive. It is innately programmed within our instinctual make-up to strive towards a “survival of the fittest” mentality, and if we don’t, what good are we? What is our value? This is where the inner dialogue must be made aware in order to transform. Self-love is largely tied to self-worth and how we value all facets within ourselves just as we ARE. Not how we can be or what will make us better, but here, in this form, now.
Throughout my life I have had what we call “dark teachers,” or the people that face us with some type of difficult challenges, conflicts or lessons. For me, some of these people are what we know of as bullies. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have been well liked and respected by most people. I was popular and relatively social, but deep within, I was also very shy. Because our society is most accustomed to praising more extroverted types, the merit of the introvert can sometimes be over-shadowed or made subject to victimization. So whether my shyness was seen as weakness or whatever the reason was, these dark teachers greatly challenged my self-love (or so I believed at the time). Whether it was negative comments said to my face, behind my back, sometimes physical altercations, or standing embarrassed as a mocking spectacle in front of a group of people, I began to question… “what is wrong with me?” The external confrontations we’re so prevalent that I would come home in tears. I did not understand why I was the source of judgment, why I was on the main stage for critique. The outward chatter began to infiltrate into the negative dialogues that began in my own mind. What started as few and minor insecurities unfolded into full-blown negative self-talk. My body, mind, and heart we’re all verbally attacked by my own self-critic and the vulnerability that I felt in my own personal security.
MIND: “I’m dumb.” “I’m not smart enough.” “Why can’t I be better at that?” “Why can’t I focus better?” “Why can’t I be smarter like this person, that person?” … etc. etc.
BODY: “This is too big here.” “That is too small there.” “Why aren’t my legs thinner?” “Why aren’t my boobs bigger?” “Why can’t my nose be smaller?” “Gross, those chicken pox scars on my face.” “Another breakout… why is my skin so bad?” “Why aren’t my arms leaner?” … etc. etc.
HEART: “Am I worthy of this, that?” “Am I deserving of love?” “Would someone really love me because of this?” “I’m not good enough” "Am I good enough?" … etc. etc.
And I chose to be very transparent here for a valid reason. This is the world of insecurity as many of us know. As you can see, I began mentally attacking myself and I pinpointed every perceived “flaw” that I possibly could. There was no love in this self-abusive chatter, and I was at a loss for how to dig myself out of this negative spiral. Clearly there was internal repair that was in need of attention, but where do you even start right?
Ultimately, the absence of self-love becomes this damaging cycle of mistreating ourselves, which translates to mistreating others, which loops back around to those antagonizers de-valuing their worth too. Our bullies are usually the people that feel even greater pain, lower self-esteem, and are in need of inner love. Self-love can be an elaborate dilemma because even though we are in control of maintaining our own self-love, we can also be advocates for how others manage their own emotional security. Love starts with the self, but it becomes more easily accessible to share positive love with others. When we share love, love grows everywhere that it touches.
Returning back to our dark teachers, and I think that we all can relate to some type of exposure to provoking relations. In my adult life, I still seem to encounter these “bullies” in some capacity or another. While I have grown and become more confident in my own skin (trust me, it really does come with age!), I am reminded that this is still my test, my practice in self-love. Sometimes our dark teachers enter our lives as a way to heal unresolved pain. They stir up the emotional areas that we thought we could hide and forget about, but eventually it comes to the surface in order to receive attention. Use these teachers, obstacles, and challenges as a way to come back home to the love within yourself. No matter what someone says or does, create a strong shield of inner love to expel away any negativity. Share love with those that are hurting so that they can come back to their own place of peace and healing. Take the time to develop that inner love and peace that will showcase you as an example to others. The more we can love within, the more we can send that love out. And the more we send that love out, the more that love will circulate in return.
Revisiting my statement that “self-love is a journey,” but we also have tools to better aid us along this path. We have methods that we can practice daily in order to fuel the love inside that wants to be felt and seen more often. This love is always within us:
Bergamot - Helps to release emotional pain
Ylang ylang – Elevates mood. It is said to open the heart. Research shows that it can also help to release negative emotions such as low self-esteem, anger, and jealousy.
Bergamot and Ylang ylang – Used together are said to boost confidence.
Rose – Believed to encourage self-esteem, confidence, and positive mental strength.
POSITIVE AFFIRMATION CARDS
As some of my students know, I love law of attraction practices and techniques rooted in positive self-testimony. Positive affirmation cards are a beautiful way to create uplifting intentions in your life. Whether you choose a card every day, once a week, or once a month, these reminders serve to instill empowering self-inspiration
Power Thought Cards – Louise Hay
Gratitude is a wonderful tool in not only creating abundance, but it improves overall happiness. Whether we believe it or not, there are people out there that absolutely love who we are and wish that they could have some attribute(s) of our unique inner and/or outer beauty. Practice gratitude for even your most "minor" personal traits and begin to see how amazing you really are!
Metta prayer is a Buddhist meditation rooted in loving-kindness. It is a powerful self-guided mantra that is said to remove negative states within the mind and embrace overall kindness.
May I be free of anger and aggression against myself.
May I let go of all self-hatred and self-contempt.
May I let go of all feelings of hopelessness and despair.
May I let go of all self-sabotaging thoughts and actions.
May I let go of the feeling that I am inadequate and defective.
May I let go of the fear that I am unimportant and undesireable.
May I let go of feeling shameful and misunderstood by others.
May I let go of the feeling that people always let me down.
May I let go of all unrealistic expectations of myself and others.
May I let of all claims of needing to be treated differently.
May I let go of all self-indulgence in my emotions and behavior.
May I let go of all self-doubt and emotional vulnerability.
May I let go of wanting to protect myself by withdrawing from others.
May joy and warmth fill my heart. May I love myself!
- Steven Goodheart
CHAKRA MEDITATION & POSES
In yoga, Anahata is the fourth chakra that governs the heart. This energy center represents unconditional love, compassion, and joy. When this chakra is aligned and our self-love is full, flowing, and vibrant, you will feel surrounded by love, compassion, joy, and greatly connected to the world around you. Here are some suggested poses to enhance the balance of this chakra:
1. Camel pose
2. Prayer mudra
3. Low lunge pose, arms above head
4. High lunge pose with shoulder opener
5. Wild thing pose
6. Upward-facing dog pose
7. Bridge pose
8. Reclining bound angle pose
9. Sphinx pose
10. Bow pose
Sometimes giving love is the best medicine to teach us how to receive our own love. The more we volunteer, devote ourselves to greater causes outside of ourselves, our personal anxieties may slowly diminish and our confidence in our abilities grows. We appreciate the love that we already are and the love that we share. We observe our inherent good, and how can you not love that?