Love is the web of life. At our essence, we are beings made of love. Since it is our natural state, we do not need to seek love outside of ourselves. But that is exactly what so many people do. Instead of tapping into the fountain of love that lives in our centers, we search high and low for people to fill a void. In some ways it may seem easier to love other people than to love ourselves. It may seem like the only way to feel loved is to have another person tell us how lovable we are, as we constantly hunger for validation and external approval. But this type of seeking can lead to co-dependency, relationship addiction, self-depreciation, and other unhealthy patterns.
Relationships are meant to be containers for evolution. Two self-filled people show up to nurture, support, and uplift each other, not needing the other to fill them up. If we come to relationship looking for love we do not feel for ourselves, both we and the other people will be disappointed. But if we can learn to love and accept ourselves, than we can have enough love for the whole world. Here are a few steps towards connecting with your own wellspring of love, so that you can move through the world full and able to give love, rather than seeking it and feeling like you need it to come from a source outside of yourself.
Be Grateful for What Is
The first step towards self-love is opening to true gratitude. Whatever your blessings or challenges may be, choose to be grateful for everything in your life right now. Stop wishing things were different. Let go of comparing yourself to other people, or to some ideal of who you think you should be by now. Allow gratitude to infuse your daily activities, from waking in the morning to preparing your meals to doing your work to resting at the end of your days. Make expressing gratitude a practice, by writing down aspects of yourself for which you are grateful everyday.
Gratitude is a powerful antidote to looking outside of ourselves. When we can be content with ourselves, truly appreciating our lives and the gifts of our bodies, minds, and hearts, then we do not need others to make us feel better. We can choose to share our lives with other people and be grateful for our relationships, but we do not feel like we need those connections to experience love.
Acknowledge Your Wounds
We are complex beings, each with our unique gifts and challenges. Nearly everyone has emotional scars. At some point in our lives, nearly everyone has experienced pain, trauma, abandonment, loneliness, loss, addiction, or some other intense emotional experience that left a wound. Self-love is not about perfectionism, nor is it conditional. We do not say we will love ourselves when we are healed, or that we would love ourselves if we did not have baggage and shadows.
We cannot not ignore the broken places, the hurt places, the scared and angry places, if we want to experience true self-love. But we cannot judge ourselves for our wounds, either. We look at the darkness within us with as much compassion as we can muster.
We name our wounds. We give them air, and breath, so that they can be transformed into allies. We use the tools of deep inquiry, breathwork, emotional intelligence, counseling, movement, and other modalities to heal them. We do not force change, nor do we numb ourselves to our pains and fears. We become aware of them, we accept them, and we invite them to transform with gentleness and grace. This is how we find deeper self-love.
Grudges pave the road to hell. Holding anger, blame, and resentment towards our selves creates and intensifies diseases in our bodies and minds. And they make it impossible to feel love within ourselves, or truly love other people.
One potent key to self-love is to forgive yourself. For everything. Every mistake, every inadequacy, every unskillful choice, every moment when you were out of integrity, every time you hurt yourself or someone else. Forgive yourself for every situation you entered that caused suffering, every time you were a victim or a perpetrator, every time you thought, spoke, or acted from a place of fear. Accept that you have always, always, always done the best you could in every moment of your life, based on your level of presence and understanding at that time.
Honor your history and shortcomings, and let yourself off the hook. Do not ignore your mistakes, but do not harp on them either. Forgive yourself, and you will find it that much easier to forgive and embrace the world.
Be Aware of What Is True
Listen deeply to the truth of the moment within your body, mind, and heart. What was true of you last year or even yesterday may not be true in this moment. Part of loving yourself is knowing your self, in the fullness of your multi-faceted ever-changing complexity. Knowing who you are in each moment, as you accept that you will constantly evolve and shift. Embrace your evanescence, delight in your ephemerality, and open to perceiving yourself anew every day.
Find Your Silence
We cannot know and love ourselves if we are overwhelmed by the cacophony of the noisy world. Listen for the music of your soul. Find moments of silence in your life, so you can hear the sound of your own heartbeat, the rhythm of your breath, and the truth of your spirit. Meditation, yoga, spending time in nature, pranayama, and contemplation are all excellent tools for helping you quiet your mind so you can hear your true self. So you can hear the melody of love that is always playing inside you.
Accept ALL of You
Self-love is not a pick-and-choose experience. We cannot choose to only love the parts of ourselves that we like, that we think are pretty and witty and popular. We need to open to loving all the parts of ourselves. Nothing can be left out in the quest for self-love. We all have shadows and immature aspects. We all have aspects of our bodies and personalities that we judge and might wish were different.
Love your body, all of your body, including your size, your wrinkles, your belly, your knees, and your cellulite. Love all of your flaws, as much as your strengths. Embrace your quirks, cherish your idiosyncrasies, honor all the aspects of your individuality.
Become your own most interesting topic. Pay attention to yourself as you would a new lover. Observe your likes and dislikes, your particular gifts, your deepest desires. Watch how you change over the course of a day, a month, a year. Inquire into how you really operate, what really supports you to thrive, what your deepest gifts are, and how you can share them. Remain curious about everything you see within your own inner landscape, and do your best to perceive yourself through the lens of love.
Our minds make up all kinds of negative stories about ourselves all the time. This criticism stifles our creativity and is a form of self-imprisonment. Would you treat your children or friends as harshly as you treat yourself? Can you choose to stop beating yourself up, and stop spewing negative self-talk (internally or out loud)? Can you offer yourself the compassion, kindness, and patience you would give to a beloved child?
Focus On Your Strengths
While it is important to acknowledge and accept our challenges and wounds, part of self-love is bolstering ourselves. Inviting our evolution. Discovering our strengths and gifts, and figuring out the most effective way to share them with the world. If you have fledgling talents, give them time and energy so they can develop into powerful gifts.
It helps to literally strengthen your body through exercise, and literally strengthen your mind through intellectual stimulation. And explore the ways that you can play up your natural gifts and talents to become magnificent tools.
Commit to Practicing Deep Self-Care
It is impossible to receive love from others if we do not know how to give love to and receive love from ourselves. Consistently performing tangible acts of self-care are vital for feeling self-love at the deepest level. Commit to nourishing and caring for your body, mind, and heart through nutrition, exercise, rest, and the many simple but profound ways that we can love ourselves up. This self-care will ripple out and improve all areas of your life and all your interactions.
Love is the driving force of the Universe. There is a valid reason that people seek love in every interaction and relationship. It is okay that we tend to look to other people for the love we need. But we cannot receive love from other people if we are incapable of giving it to ourselves. No external source can replace our inner wellspring of love. If you are looking outside yourself for love, you are looking at a cracked mirror. Only the deep reflection of your center can help you experience the ocean of love that is our natural state.
(True unconditional love) emerges from a spiritual source inside yourself. This is more than a feeling; youve tapped into a universal aspect of Being. No longer do you have a personal stake in the people you love. Pure compassion is possible now and a sense of belonging to the human family. Relationships involve no struggle or contending needs and wants. Love becomes a self-sufficient state of fulfillment
~ Deepak Chopra