The last of a 3-part series on love:
3 Principles of Self-Love
- BE YOURSELF
What if you were free to be yourself? …All of the time? Sounds the most natural thing in the world. Right? Yet, most of us walk around with a mask on. Most of us react to situations from our defense patterns and negative self-talk. We make choices based on expectations from parents and society. We compare ourselves to others, which leads us to feeling inadequate and not good enough. We act and make decisions in order to fit in or to get approval from others.
If we take the time to get to know ourselves, to know who we are and what we want and need, we can begin to make new choices. We can begin to put what is true for us above others’ expectations of us. When we break free from the masks we wear and from our subconscious conditioning, we can instead be fully present and respond naturally to whatever happens. We can be ourselves.
Getting to know who you are and being true to yourself is the beginning of falling in love with yourself. You may argue self-love is selfish. But when you take the time to get to know what is true for you, and let go of the desire to please others, you are better able to sustain healthy relationships. Self-love enhances the ability to love others.
- WHAT’S YOURS IS YOURS; THEIRS DOESN’T MATTER
The first step is really clear on who you are and on what you think and feel. Most of us are too busy trying to figure out what the other person is thinking and feeling, what is motivating them, and what will please them. When we stop focusing on the other, we are better able to distinguish our feelings and thoughts from theirs.
Once you’re clear on your thoughts and feelings, then you can claim ownership for your experiences. Doing so empowers you to shape those experiences and your life. When someone does something hurtful, a common response is to say “you hurt me, or you betrayed me.” The truth is the reason they acted that way has nothing to do with you, and your response has nothing to do with them. If you feel hurt by something they did, that is your inner experience by choice or conditioning. Another person in that situation will likely have an entirely different experience.
Taking full responsibility for your experience rather than blaming another requires some emotional maturity. On the other hand, it does not require you to condone bad behavior or to not speak up if someone breaks an agreement with you or is abusive. You need not serve as a doormat. Instead, you can learn how to talk to someone about their behavior without blaming them for your hurt or upset.
Remember the other person is also responsible for their experience. You cannot know what is going on inside another, nor is it your job to figure it out. This doesn’t mean you have to stop caring about them and their wellbeing. You can listen to them, seek to understand, and have empathy for what they are going through. At the same time, you can understand you are not responsible for their feelings, which will free you from trying to mold your actions to their expectations or dance around their triggers.
Focus on what you are thinking and feeling, and stop worrying about what is going on with the other person. Stay true to yourself. Don’t take anything personally. Learn to get comfortable saying, “fuck off,” a lot more often.
- SEE YOURSELF IN EVERY PERSON YOU MEET
Now that you know yourself better and are past self-criticism and defensiveness, you will discover how much you love yourself. When you fall in love with yourself, that love fills you up and overflows. You begin loving your work, your hobbies, and the others in your life. Your choices become aligned to who you truly are. Your relationships become more real and open. You stop blaming others and yourself.
Loving yourself isn’t selfish or self-centered. Rather, you begin to see yourself in everyone you meet. You begin to see the very same spirit in you is shining from the eyes of every person around you. You begin to feel connected in a deep and profound way to each person you encounter, from the garbage man, your cab driver, to your significant other.
What happens when distinctions of separation fall away, say between friend and stranger, man and woman, black and white people, people from opposing politic parties or from warring religious sects? What happens when you feel connection with all human being, maybe with all beings on the planet? Fear falls away. Blame, anger, and guilt disappears.
When you love yourself, you are capable of loving everyone around you. You are able to live in an open, honest, undefended, unapologetic manner. You can be yourself.