As we draw near to a holiday that expounds the perceived value of loving and being loved by another, that seeds romantic fantasies of red roses dripping in chocolate and steamy sex on satin sheets, that continues the conditioning in our culture that love is something external and in limited supply to be found and held onto for dear life, I invite you to a different kind of lovefest:
I mean, really, truly, deeply, wholly, madly love yourself. Love yourself from top to bottom, inside and out, and in the places seen and unseen. Love yourself not just as good as, but even better than you’ve ever loved another.
Because this is the surest way to experience real love. This is the truest way to feel what it is actually like to be loved unconditionally. This is the only way any of us will ever have a chance to strip away the conditions on our love, the ones we place on ourselves and on others.
The overwhelmingly large majority of us haven’t a clue what real love is all about. It’s not something we’ve been taught by the ones who’ve come before us, and it surely isn’t something we see demonstrated by the ones we model our lives after in the present. We’re a society of people who don’t really understand the very thing we’re most desirous of.
And we can love ourselves anyway.
Yup. That’s right. And that’s actually the perfect place to begin cultivating your connection to enduring, authentic, unconditional love. It’s the pieces of ourselves that are held in the shadows, cloaked in shame and fear, that most need this from us.
That voice of judgment in your head who is constantly playing a soundtrack of self-recrimination in your mind and judging others too? Love it.
That one in you who manipulates, projects and contorts to avoid feeling the depth of sadness, loneliness and emptiness that lives inside? Love it.
That pit of fear in your stomach that causes you to sell yourself out and deny your Truth in an attempt to hold onto the false love of another? Love it too.
When you can honestly begin to love the darkest shadows of your being is when you can begin learning what true love is all about. It is through this indiscriminate love of your whole self that you make yourself whole.
Understand that loving all of yourself isn’t about condoning it all. Chances are you’ve felt, thought, said and done some pretty miserable things along the way. Goodness knows I have. If you inquire deeply enough, you will find those feelings, thoughts, words and deeds were born from an unskilled attempt to feel loved. You did the best you could at that stage of your journey, and now you can do it even better. Love yourself now.
You might have to dig really far down into your story to find where any or all of this is true, and if you’re dedicated enough, I know you will. You will see that somewhere in there is a disowned part of yourself, a point along the way where you were derailed by a trauma that was beyond what your delicate self could cope with in any other way. So you found a way to feel love amidst the pain. Love yourself for that. And then love yourself right here and now for recognizing you can let that story go. Let go not just of the story, but all the conditioning and patterns and false beliefs associated with it, and love yourself.
Love what you deem ugly as much as what you call beautiful. Love the dark corners of your inner landscape as much as what shines in the light. Love your failures for they are just as dear a teacher as your successes, maybe even more so.
Be prepared to do a whole lot of fake-it-til-you-make-it when it comes to loving yourself. You will probably feel like a massive hypocrite for a while. Love yourself anyway. You are likely to come up against some serious blocks, points where you absolutely cannot fathom offering kindness to your own self. Love yourself. People outside of you will try to convince you that you’re not worthy, and your ego will probably do the same. Love yourself anyway.
Love yourself because it is your birthright and true nature to live as love.
Love yourself because there is no one more deserving of your love than you.
Love yourself because until you do, whatever love you exchange with another can never be true.
Love yourself. Love yourself. And then love yourself some more.