When we’re feeling down or insecure, we’re sometimes casually told to “just love yourself!”. But how can we move from a conceptual understanding of self-love, to the beautiful state of experiencing it directly?
As we go through life, we often forget that existence itself is, in fact, bliss. While we’re busy chasing the next great thing to make us feel good about ourselves, we ignore the fact that we are enough, exactly as we are.
I believe the reason most of us have a hard time with accepting and loving ourselves, is because from early childhood our society instills in us the idea that our value as a human being is tied to our attainments and our capacity to meet cultural expectations.
But I maintain that the very fact that you are here at all says infinitely more about your inherent value.
Of course I don’t mean to say that working towards the good of others is unimportant. Nor do I mean that attaining good things in life is a bad thing. What I mean is that whether or not you achieve these things, you always deserve your own love and acceptance.
From a place of infinite misery
For most of my life, I positively despised myself. I may not have known it at the time, but looking back it’s glaringly obvious.
I blamed myself for every negative thing in my life. I must have caused my parents’ divorce. I must be doing something wrong since I don’t easily make friends. I must be the catalyst for all the anger and resentment in my family.
As children, we are not equipped with the faculties of reason necessary to navigate the ups and downs of life alone. For that, we need healthy, attentive and loving mothers and fathers.
When families break apart, when fathers leave and mothers resent, and siblings grow angry, a child will instinctively blame herself. And this blame, this guilt, will stay with her for her entire life, until she faces it and resolves it.
I had all this hate for myself and others, but I guess I didn’t show it. It burst forth in me as an adolescent in the form of depression, anxiety and addictive behavior. I learned techniques to hide these shadow aspects of myself, like acting confident, smiling and laughing when inside I felt dead. Fake it till you make it, essentially.
It wasn’t until I fell into horrific chronic illness that I was forced to face these shadows head on. And it hurts. Don’t underestimate the pain that’s accumulated in repressed emotions.
A repressed emotion is like a pus-filled zit. When you start poking and prodding, some disgusting, vile stuff will ooze out. It’s unpleasant and you’ll want to stop. But you need to let it out.
But when all the gunk is out, you can put on some healing salve and a band-aid, and you will feel a lot better.
In the same way, facing the darkest, most unsettling memories that shake you to your core, is unnerving and terrifying. You’ll want to stop, to leave them alone. To try to forget them. But deep within, you know it has to be done. They have to be faced head on, and accepted and finally, loved.
In order to fully love yourself, you need to love your most hated memories.
In pursuit of love
For myself, the memory I recount in my article on Journaling is one of my most harrowing experiences. There are more, to be sure, but that one used to chill me to the bone.
When I was actively working with that particular memory, I would put myself in my nine year old self’s shoes, do my best to fully experience what I must have been experiencing back then, and then, when it got most unbearable, I would look for that feeling of love and compassion within my grown-up self and channel it to him.
From Tolli of 2017 to Tolli of 2001. Love is the most powerful force in the universe, and its potential for healing is unparalleled.
Love is all
Later on, I used psychedelics to further work with my repressed emotions, and most recently I’ve worked with visualization exercises that I designed specifically to help me love myself.
I call it a love meditation. It’s simple, really. I just lay back for about 10 or 20 minutes, calm my self down and allow myself to relax, and become centered. I then proceed to actively search for a feeling of love inside me.
Sometimes it helps to think of people or events that fill me with love, sometimes it’s enough to just intend for the feeling to appear, and it will. I experience love as a warm, weightless sensation in my abdomen. When I feel it, I start to allow it to infuse my entire body.
Every now and then I’ll even think “I love you, I love myself, and I accept myself fully” and variations of that, just for good measure. The direct experience of the bodily sensations of love are the most important to my mind.
I encourage you to spend as much time as you feel you need on these pursuits. Whether you realize it or not, finding that deep, deep love within is the most important factor in manifesting true happiness and fulfillment in life.
Like all things, love comes and love goes away. Experience is ephemeral in all aspects. There isn’t a single constant that I know of. However, I’ve found on my own journey that the better I understand this fact, the less I suffer from it. The pain is still there, but the suffering is not.
When you find that beautiful feeling of love for yourself, be sure to share it. Sharing love only increases its intensity.