Unconditional Self Love…. Ahhh… Such a romantic notion, it brings images of relaxation, eternal calm, holding ourselves with a sort of confident grace… Dancing through life… *Le-Sigh*… (Insert eye rolling here)
There’s a lot of talk out there about self-love and even unconditional love. Typically this is translated as little more than simply taking the time to care for yourself. Although doing things like taking the time to exercise or get a massage feel good and are great ways to show love towards yourself, it lacks the depth of unconditional self-love. So, what does unconditional self-love actually mean? How does one attain it? Why does the world at large lack it so much?
A person who is very close to me and I were having a conversation as to why most folks find it so hard to really love themselves. Her thought was that because most of us on the inside aren’t all that good; we think terrible things and have feelings that we aren’t proud of. First of all, I would like to take a moment to give props to my friend; most people wouldn’t have the awareness or courage to come right out and admit that they aren’t really a good person, and they don’t think most other people are all that good either. With this being said, I was a little shocked by the thought that she believed that having feelings and thoughts that aren’t so nice would equate a person with not being a “good” or “nice” person. But the more I thought about her perspective, the more it made sense to me why this would be a popular notion.
Unfortunately most of us have been taught that we really don’t deserve love, that love is either something that we have to earn, or is just for those who are lucky enough to mercifully receive it.
Lack of self-love, let me count (some of) the ways....
1) We may have been taught this in one way or another as a child, and I could write an entire blog on the variety of ways this might show up in childhood alone…But I won’t… I think most of us can draw on our own experience here.
2) There is, of course, the role of manipulative marketing that exploits our insecurities, so that we buy their products or services…
3) There is even popular dogma that teaches that we are nothing unless we accept a certain set of doctrine associated with a specific deity. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not coming down on religion, I'm not... There are many teachings within these belief systems that are helpful, however, it is my perspective that this particular thought is not.
4) In addition to this, most people bear the scars of some sort of abuse. It is unfortunate that this is the norm and not the exception. Statistics show that abuse is a major problem world-wide.
Even for those who are fortunate enough to have escaped any major abuse, with this all in play, is it any wonder that deep inside a lot of people don't feel all that powerful or even special? Is it really a mystery why many of us have forgotten our natural connection as a divine being living a human life?
The key to self-love lies in the word unconditional. That means the whole enchilada, not just the part that gives to charity or goes to yoga class or prays, but even the part that despises your ex, or the part that is a greedy jealous jack-off. But HOW? How do we take these heavy shadows and not just accept that they are there but actually LOVE them? Just a little warning, there’s a good chance that some readers may not like this, so brace yourself… This is not the work for any deity to do FOR you, if your deity is working with you, they probably already love you. This is work for US to do. We must be active participants in this process. If you buy into the truth that “we are all one,” and everything in the universe is a reflection of the source, then it is our responsibility to be alchemists, and use the fertilizer that life has given us to make flowers. If we just cast these shadows aside, we are still staying in the consciousness that we are separate from the creator and the universe around us. So how do we be that active participant? This is a huge undertaking and one that will require intervention from a variety of sources, both divine and in the physical realm.
Ironically, learning how to let go can be the most courageous action one can take.
But, Gullveig, aren't you contradicting yourself? I thought you said we had to be active participants? Have you ever tried letting go? It's the most difficult yet simple thing to do in the world! It takes practice and vigilance, and this is the active part.
What does it mean to "let go?" To disassociate yourself from all that you think you are, the roles, the titles, the gifts, the challenges, and all the pains and even pleasures that you own; to not understand who you are but feel who/what you are, without judgement or analysis. There are many tools out there to help with the journey including, meditation, hypnotherapy, energy healing, professional counseling, making condolences to those you have wronged, journaling, and asking for guidance from a divine source that you resonates with you... But at the end of the day all of these tools are leading us to the same end... To let go of the attachment that we have to experiences that disempower and belittle us.
Everyone’s shadows are different and will require different paths for the courageous who dare to tread through the mists of the subconscious and the dark neither regions of the heart to bring understanding and compassion to the lost and preferably forgotten parts of ourselves.
To begin, however, it might be helpful to try this… Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, feeling your inhale and exhale… Now picture yourself as a small child, even if you don’t have vivid early childhood memories, just picture yourself as you looked when you were maybe 3 or 4… If you have negative judgements about yourself that stem from this early age, you can try to look at this child in a detached sort of way, not like he or she is you, but is a child that you love… Look at the child, notice how beautiful he or she is, how innocent, how loving they may be. Notice how vulnerable they are. Notice if you have the feeling to protect them. Would you ever try to harm them? Would you ever tell them unkind things that would make them believe that they are less amazing then they really are? Now notice that this child is still you.
Yes, you have had experience since then, maybe you have done some harmful things since then, maybe even hurt some people and the concept of forgiveness and self-forgiveness is a concept for another blog post. Locking aspects of ourselves away only makes them yell louder, like a toddler who is being ignored they will scream and yell until they get your attention. Sometimes, that maybe all they need, just to be recognized and accepted. This is especially the case with the more mild shadowy emotions. Example, instead of, “No, I am not going to be upset with my child for throwing a temper tantrum in public this afternoon,” and trying to fight the anger back try, “Yes, anger, I see you.” Breathe deep and let then anger flow through you, exhale it out, and see how much of it you can let go.
Of course, this will not be enough for the more intense emotions or for deeply entrenched scars. This is where courage and tenacity comes in; just like any sort of healing, we explore different methods and tools until we find one that is the right medicine for that particular type of pain. And with each new experience, each time we are able to take a harmful experience or belief, learn from it and grow, and move forward freely, we have strengthened and expanded our skill-set as personal alchemists. Since there is no predetermined path to self-love, it is an on-going journey, and just as we have found it or witness a glimpse of it, we will have experiences that will make us question ourselves again, makes us understand new depths of self-forgiveness and acceptance and require another submersion into our murky depths. So, we gear up and hit the road again…We might read, go to workshops, see professionals of various sorts, write, analyze (but not too much), and above all, we feel and breathe.
Some might ask, “Why bother?” If this is an on-going process, with no end in sight, what’s the point? To skip out on working through and accepting our shadows is to skip out on what makes us human, to deny our divinely perfect imperfection, to miss out on our birth right as our own personal alchemist. This is not a linear process, it is a cyclic one. It is not goal-oriented because it is limitless... Just like unconditional love is…
For those who have taken up the torch to explore these dark recesses, they find that little by little they are more whole, and through each birthing pain of integration they find that they actually shine a bit brighter, because as the saying goes, without the darkness there are no stars.