In this month of romance, I have often spoken of love. It’s an obvious choice, and I am nothing if not obvious! This month I’m moved to speak of something perhaps not as obvious: self-love.
Self-love. The very term smacks of selfishness, self-involvement, and a hundred other ideas we’ve been taught to avoid “religiously”; that is, if we’re good people at all. And, I suppose, with good reason. Most of us have suffered in some way, at some time, from the selfishness of others. I remember, particularly, that this was a big issue in childhood (it usually involved candy).
But I hope that this month will change our thinking about self-love. It may help to see this term always with a capital “S” and to think of self as the Self of Spirit, that Self that refers to the Allness of God. We are all some part of the Great Self.
But that’s not necessary, either. It’s okay (and more than okay) to love your just plain self, that ego, that identity, that individuality known as YOU. (As they say, it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it!) Rather than taking something from someone else (the fear behind selfishness), you are actually giving to others when you love yourself. No one who is depleted can give to others (and we grow depleted of all essential nutrients like joy and compassion if we aren’t re-supplied with love at regular intervals).You just can’t give what you don’t have. When you pay attention to your own love needs, you are not making withdrawals from a limited fund of good. Love is unlimited and the more you give to yourself, the more there is. Weird how that works, huh?
We have declared that this year is the year of transformation. Working off the first of many definitions of the word, we are interested in “changing the FORM,” in other words, a change in the physical world that you can touch with your senses. For many of us, there could be no greater transformation than a living a life burnished and glowing with love. The good news is, that all-important love is not something that is dependent upon luck, appearance, or any other person. That love can come from you yourself.
Buddhism speaks of compassion for all sentient beings, and always includes compassion for yourself as well. Can we really “get” this? We may be masters of compassion when it comes to the suffering of others, but very unfeeling about our own pain. We may judge ourselves as undeserving of compassion, after all, we “brought it on ourselves,” etc. etc. It is time we opened ourselves up to our own compassion. I will always remember one of my first ministers saying, “Be gentle with yourself.” It was an unimaginably sweet idea to me, someone who’d experienced little gentleness in life.
I recently heard Bob Greene, Oprah’s fitness guru, talking about his new book, “The Life You Want.” He had a handy five points to follow and they, just coincidentally, all relate to the transformative power of self-love. He said to
1. Have a realistic vision for your life.
2. Convince yourself you deserve the vision.
3. Identify the biggest barriers holding you back. (A barrier is an issue, not an excuse.)
4. Break through the barriers.
5. Put yourself first.
I know many people will balk at number 5, but it’s crucial! It might not be so hard if we all keep one thing in mind: We’re All One. If you love yourself, you ARE loving all others. There is no separation. I can’t wait to get into this month of near-heretical thoughts! It should be absolutely transformative!