Once you love yourself more you'll find that a love for life will follow.
Self-love. My business partner, Pamelah Landers, first introduced me to this term several years ago. At the time, I didn't have an experience of what she was talking about. However, I did have a sense of what she was referring to. Prior to my relationship with her, I had been told repeatedly, "In order to love others, you must first love yourself." I understood it intellectually but had NO IDEA what it meant in practical terms. I was also told, "just be yourself," "don't be so hard on yourself," and "lighten up." None of this was helpful and was used as fodder to judge myself more harshly—because clearly I was NOT getting it! Besides which, the people sharing this wisdom rarely had a relationship with their own selves that I would covet!
Before I get into what I've come to understand about self-love, let's explore what self-love isn't.
What Self-Love Is NOT
Self-love is not self-centeredness, arrogance, or narcissism. Self-centeredness means that you have fear and insecurity and thus, are caught in a neurotic (neurotic = anxious, fearful, negative) mind-spin about your own needs, desires, and goals to the exclusion of considering the welfare of those around you. Arrogance is another form of insecurity where you feel you have to brag about what you'd accomplished, just in case anyone doesn't know.
Narcissism is actually a mental condition. Psychology Today Online describes it this way: "Narcissistic Personality Disorder involves arrogant behavior, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration—all of which must be consistently evident at work and in relationships. People who are narcissistic are frequently described as cocky, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. Narcissists may concentrate on unlikely personal outcomes (e.g., fame) and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. Related Personality Disorders: Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic. Narcissism is a less extreme version of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Narcissism involves cockiness, manipulativeness, selfishness, power motives, and vanity—a love of mirrors. Related personality traits include: Psychopathy, Machiavellianism.
Narcissists tend to have high self-esteem. However, narcissism is not the same thing as self-esteem; people who have high self-esteem are often humble, whereas narcissists rarely are. It was once thought that narcissists have high self-esteem on the surface, but deep down they are insecure. However, the latest evidence indicates that narcissists are actually secure or grandiose at both levels. Onlookers may infer that insecurity is there because narcissists tend to be defensive when their self-esteem is threatened (e.g., being ridiculed); narcissists can be aggressive. The sometimes dangerous lifestyle may more generally reflect sensation-seeking or impulsivity (e.g., risky sex, bold financial decisions)."
If you relate to any of the descriptions above (and all of us have some elements of what I've described), maybe it's time for a dose of self-love?
So, What Is Self-Love?
Self-love, bottom line, is to feel complete and whole within one's self without needing to be filled up from the outside. It doesn't work to try to get people, places and things to "fill you up" as you probably have experienced!
Common ways people try to fill up are the obsessive desire for a "soul mate," sugar consumption, co-dependence, workaholism and many other 'isms.' Of course, if you think the outer world can fill you up, you are already caught in the illusion that keeps your addictions and negative behaviors in motion. These are difficult habits to break, but self-love will break them—easily and gently.
Possible Stage Of The Self-Love Journey: Noticing Your Self-Talk
How many times a day do you praise yourself and let yourself know that you love and approve of yourself? Do you look in the mirror and say, "Hi, beautiful?" This is NORMAL healthy self-talk. However, for most human beings, what runs through the mind is a rampage of negativity, self-criticism and the criticism of other people ("You idiot!"—this one seems to emerge most frequently for me while driving!).
If you've checked out the news (at any point in history!), it's clear that what is highlighted is not people being self-loving, but people trying to get others to change so they can feel better. That is a useless strategy, but when fear and insecurity take over, the dumb strategy wins over the rhetoric of "love thy neighbor" every time. Fighting fire with fire NEVER works, it only creates more destruction. No matter how noble an act of violence may seem, it keeps the violence in motion. The same is true in how you speak to yourself. Self-criticism is self-violence, self-attack. You probably wouldn't drop bombs on children, right? Why drop them on yourself?
I invite you to consider be loving to yourself. And, as Pamelah says, "If you can't be loving, can you be kind?"
Possible Stage Of The Self-Love Journey: Happy Bursts
As your dialogue with your self improves, you may notice you are having bursts of joy for no reason in particular. This is a very good sign of self-love developing more deeply within you. Since you are filling yourself up with love (loving thoughts, loving self-talk, loving actions), you can simply enjoy life and be grateful for what it has to offer, rather than finding lack in your circumstances or your relationships. You begin to understand that putting energy on the negativity in the world doesn't heal the negativity—it just adds to it. By focusing on your joy, you increase the joy around you. And that relieves the world of some of its negativity!
Possible Stage Of The Self-Love Journey: Unleashing Your Feminine Power
This is probably my favorite aspect of the experience of self-love: "Feminine Power." Pamelah and I have been discussing this lately. In talking it out, I have come to a current definition—which isn't easy, as feminine power is a feeling, not an action.
Feminine Power is receptivity to the life force within you and outside of you. You wait for life to come to you and inform you, rather than going after it.
For me, I feel erotically, sensually charged by life itself. My senses notice the color of the sky, the birds in the trees, the sounds around me. Food tastes exquisite and there is a sense of deep satisfaction in my bones. I move with ease and there is a sway in my hips that is definitely new. There is no rush to be anything, do anything, prove anything. I am at peace with my own body, mind and spirit. Ambition has transformed into mindful, heartfelt contribution so when I do decide to take action (action is masculine energy), it is intuitive action, guided by my inner self, guided by self-love.
Other evidence that my energy has changed is that men are consistently asking me out on dates—at dance class, at my favorite lunch counter, while shopping. I smile, chat a bit and then the invitation comes (It doesn't matter whether I say "yes" or "no." It feels so good to be asked!). Also, while dining, I notice people offering me samples of drinks and food or picking up the tab altogether. (These occurrences rarely happened for me until this year!)
This is the thing about feminine power—it's your energy that is the magnet, not the size of your hips. I'm the oldest I've ever been so far, I weigh more than I did at 20 (when I was slender and self-critical) and I have grey hair that I dye—and wrinkles! So what? I feel terrific. I feel beautiful, sexy and alive. The energy of aliveness IS the magnet for all you desire—love, money, sexual satisfaction, creative expression, spiritual peace. I wish I could have understood this when I was younger. I do hope to inspire women of all ages to develop their energy imprint. Sure, a good haircut, dress, shoes, and make up all help the presentation...but it's not essential. Your feminine power is your receptivity. When you are receptive to life, life is receptive to you.
Personally, I've never had this much fun simply "being myself." Now I know what that means!
I wish for you self-love. Always. You deserve it.
This article was originally published at yourpurpose.com/blog/. Reprinted with permission from the author.