Self-love is, in essence, a loving attitude from which positive actions arise that benefit you and others. This attitude of self-love is based on an awareness of who you are and what love is. Actually, this awareness recognizes who we all are and what love is. That’s why real self-love always benefits everyone. Love doesn’t know how to single out one person and leave out another. Self-love helps you to love and be loved because it’s all the same love. Seen rightly, ‘How do I love myself?’ and ‘How do I love others?’ are really the same question.
Staying with self-love for now, here are four key principles that are at the heart of my teaching on loving yourself.
1. Self-love is knowing who you are
Our learned self (ego, persona, self-image, call it what you like) finds it difficult to answer questions like ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What do I want?’ Being asked to ‘describe yourself’ at a job interview or for a dating-agency profile, for example, can feel excruciating. The learned self has barely any true awareness. It is made up of second-hand knowledge. Its so-called learning is based on making judgements. We are conditioned to think that judging something is how you get to know it. Our learned self is simply a bag of judgements that sees nothing other than the judgements it makes. As Anthony de Mello said, ‘What you judge you cannot understand.’
Self-love is what you experience when you make contact with your Unconditioned Self, which is your eternal loveliness. Self-love arises in you naturally when you see past the outer shell – your body, your ego, your personality, the face you are showing the world – and let yourself sense, feel and recognize the spirit of who you are. The Unconditioned Self is the Self – with a capital S – that knows you better than your personality does. It knows you because its awareness is free of judgement. It doesn’t see images. It pays no regard to any self-image you may identify with. It sees only the essence of who you are. It sees what you are made of.
Self-love is the realization ‘I AM LOVE.’
2. Self-love is knowing you are made of love
Although ‘self-love’ is made up of two separate words, self-love is not made up of two different things. Love is not a ‘thing’ that is different from you. Love is who you are. I want to be really clear about this with you. I am not saying love is in you; I’m saying it is you. Similarly, love isn’t a part of you; it is you. Love is your original energy. Love is the heart of who you are. Love is the consciousness of your true Self. Once again, the ‘you’ I am referring to here is your Unconditioned Self, not the personality.
Personalities don’t know how to love, because they are not made up of love. Your Unconditioned Self does know how to love, because it is love. This love does not need to be manufactured by the personality. Personalities don’t have to make an extra-special effort to look for love, to attract love, to win love, to be loving and so on. All we have to do is relax. Isn’t it true of everyone you know that, when they relax, they are more attractive, more fun to be with, easier to love and also more loving? When you stop trying to be a separate personality, you can be even more of a loving presence in the world.
3. Self-love is how you really feel about yourself
People commonly experience self-love as being difficult, fragile and too much like hard work. They avoid their own company, or feeling self-conscious, for fear of being ransacked by an unruly crowd of self-judgements. This is their experience because they are identified with their personality. However, the truth is that your Unconditioned Self, which is made of love, loves you very much.
‘Your soul longs to draw you into love for yourself. When you enter your soul’s affection, the torment in your life ceases,’ wrote John O’Donohue, the Irish Catholic priest and poet, in Eternal Echoes [091205, £6.39]. These beautiful words are worth reading several times over. Your Unconditioned Self is a consciousness that is free of judgement, unworthiness and lack. It is a wholly loving attitude towards yourself and everyone. Your personality is looking for love; your Unconditioned Self is love. Just stop, and breathe, and relax. Give your personality some time off and let yourself feel how much your Unconditioned Self accepts you, affirms you and blesses you in each moment.
4. Self-love is a sacred promise kept
Self-love is a vow we make to ourselves as we enter this world. The vow is to remember our eternal loveliness and not to get lost in appearances. As children, we grow up into separate little egos, each with our own name, face and personality. Hopefully, as we keep on growing, we realize that there is much more to us than our body, our self-image and our story. It dawns on us that we didn’t become a Self after we were born into this world; we already were a Self before we got here. The memory of that Self is what we promise to keep.
Self-love is how you are meant to feel about yourself. It is natural, not shameful. It is the key to being you. It’s how you honour yourself. It reveals your secret beauty. It shows you your true value. As you commit to loving yourself more, you understand yourself better, you get what being true to yourself really means and you learn how to enjoy being you. Self-love is the hidden ground that helps you to meet every challenge with a big heart. It empowers you to take your place in your life and to show the world what you are really made of.
Self-love is a commitment that says, ‘I will not forget who I am.’ It is a promise that ‘I will not abandon myself.’ It is an affirmation that ‘I will remember what is real.’ The love that is your Unconditioned Self stands by you always. Each time you are tempted to belittle yourself, to hide, to defend yourself, to be cynical, or to attack others, you can call on your Unconditioned Self to help you to choose love. Love is how we recognize ourselves and also how we recognize each other. To love somebody is a commitment that says, ‘I will not forget who you are,’ and ‘I will not abandon you’ and ‘Together, we will remember what is real.’
From Loveability © 2013 by Robert Holden, published by Hay House.