Lately, I have been thinking a lot about this concept of unconditional love for both ourselves and others. Defined by many as “affection without limitations or love without conditions,” I sometimes question whether unconditional love in its purest form is attainable and sustainable.
When it comes to unconditional love for others, many say that although there may be times when they don’t like or are upset with the people they love, underneath whatever might be going on in the moment, they do always love them.
However, when it comes to unconditional love for ourselves, after working with thousands of people, it is clear that our love for ourselves is very much conditional. Why? Because we have lost sight of who we are. And as I write in The Integrity Advantage:
To love ourselves, we need to know ourselves.
The problem is that most people know themselves in a distorted or liming way. Our sense of self has been largely formulated by the projections and programming of others. We take on what other people think of and say about us, even if the other person doesn’t have any idea who we are. We also take on the projections of others without questioning whether that person is seeing themselves or us. As Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
Our sense of self is also slanted by our limited view of ourselves. Most of us are walking around constantly beating ourselves up and berating ourselves. When it comes to ourselves, we are constantly judging and fixating on our flaws and what needs fixing. We see only pieces of ourselves and focus on what we are not instead of realizing all that we are. We forget that we are born whole and complete and that wholeness is our birthright. It is not and cannot be taken away. It is the integrity of who we are and it is inside of us. It’s just that events happen that cause us to create negative interpretations and limiting beliefs about the essence of who we are. As a result of these situations, we cease from knowing ourselves. We cease seeing our true selves and, as a result, our view of and love for ourselves becomes compromised.
But the good news is that it is never too late to get to know yourself and take on self-love. Here are 3 tips to support you on this journey.
Tip #1: Claim Your Whole Self
Many of us do not see in ourselves the qualities that we are in awe of in others. We think, “I could never be that brilliant, talented, courageous, or exciting.” On the other hand, there is a list of qualities that we don’t like in ourselves or others, judge as negative, and vow we will never possess or show to the world. Not wanting to be certain qualities, we whittle away at the full expression of who we are and fill ourselves up with contempt for the unwanted parts of ourselves. We don’t want to be stupid, lazy, or weak.
We cannot fill ourselves up with self-love if we are hating parts of ourselves!
I love the saying, “G-d [or the Universe] didn’t give us any spare parts.” Shadow work is predicated on the concept of wholeness. Every emotion and quality - “negative” and “positive” - is inside of us and they are there to serve us. Just like every experience and person who enters our life is there to deliver an insight or seed of wisdom and comes bearing some gift, so do all of our qualities and emotions. Just think about it. Wouldn’t it serve you to be selfish if you needed to create boundaries or take some time for yourself?
To truly know ourselves, we must claim our wholeness. Understanding that we are smart and stupid, exciting and boring, responsible and irresponsible, and perfect and imperfect gives us access to the spectrum of qualities that we are born with and allows us to be the fullest expression of who we are. When we claim our whole self, our feelings of shame and attempts to hide who we are diminish. Instead, a deep acceptance and appreciation for all that we are emerges.
When we understand we are everything, we want for nothing!
Self-love flourishes when we own that we are whole and complete just as we are.
Tip #2: Turn the Tide on Negative Self-Talk
Our negative self-talk is automatic. It incessantly loops around our head, creating a choir of criticism that diminishes our sense of self and turns us into our own worst enemy. Believing our negative self-talk to be the truth of who we are and what we are capable of, we play small, remain invisible, and quiet our voice. We imprison ourselves in a limited perspective of who we are and what we are capable of. Transformation is a shift in perception. The negative self-talk is not the truth of who we are. It’s just an outdated pre-recorded message that needs to be deleted and replaced with kind and empowering thoughts and words.
To get to know ourselves with new eyes and cultivate more self-love, we need to turn the tides on negative self-talk. We need to treat it like the bully that it is, stand up to it, and tell it to shut the f*** up! We need to take on proactively shifting the voice inside our head. We need to look for:
· what’s right instead of what’s wrong,
· what we learned from a situation instead of how we messed up, and
· what we have and are, instead of what we lack and are not.
Self-love will flourish when we start talking to ourselves like someone we love!
Tip #3: Learn To Fill Your Own Cup
Most of us look to the outer world to fill our cup. We look for love, validation, affirmation, and the answers to what is best for us from people we don’t even know or sometimes don’t even like. Instead of living on automatic pilot or looking to the outer world to tell us “what’s hot and what’s not” or what we should be doing, we need to take that U-turn back to ourselves to discern what we like, want, need, and desire. We need to start building our muscles of self-trust and self-referral. We also want to be conscious of filling our cup with things, situations, thoughts, choices, and people that are loving, healthy, and in our highest.
To aid you in this process, start routinely asking yourself “What Is the Most Loving Thing I Can Do for Myself in This Moment? What Is for My Highest Good?” There are days when I let these questions lead me. I use them in making every decision, from the activities I partake in, to what I eat, to whom I spend time with. I honor the answers I get from inside. I honor my vibration and energy with the philosophy that “If it is not a big ‘Yes!’ then it is a big ‘No!’”
If it is true that we teach people how to treat us, then
when we make ourselves matter, so will others!
Ultimately, self-love is a choice and a practice. And the good news is that if we attract that which we are, then guess what happens when we commit to a self-love practice? That is what will show up in both your internal and external worlds. Once you take on loving yourself, anything that does not have that vibration of love just feels wrong, out of integrity, or like bottom-feeding. Your tendency to settle or self-sabotage dissipates. Your being alters. Filled with self-love, love becomes the magnetizing force from which you attract. You will create and encounter more loving situations, be able to love others more fully, and let more love in. If anything other than that shows up, you will bow out gracefully and say, “No, thank you!” since staying around or settling for that would not be an act of self-love.
So, as you move into today, this week, this month, take on loving yourself. If you love yourself, you will feel deserving enough to live a life that is in alignment with your highest vision of who you want to be. If you love yourself enough, you will feel worthy to truly have and be all that you can be and to claim your greatness. Find the structures that support you in doing that. And remember, who you are is love.
Transformational Action Steps
(1) Make a list of the qualities that you don’t like or judge as negative in yourself or others.
(2) Start finding their gifts by asking yourself, “How has or could this quality serve me?”
(3) Any time you start indulging in negative self-talk, tell it to “Shut the f**k up” and shift it to a thought that serves your highest.
(4) Keep asking yourself “What Is the Most Loving Thing I Can Do for Myself in This Moment? What Is for My Highest Good?” and let your answers guide your actions and choices.
(5) Take on learning about the shadow so you can reclaim, your wholeness. Join us at The Shadow Process Miami September 14th to September 16th or The Shadow Experience at the Omega Institute June 22nd to June 24th. Click on the links to learn more.