Back when I was into reading New Age material to try to heal my body, I read a lot about self love. Many of the books I read and the self-help gurus I consulted stressed how important it was to love ourselves.
They claimed that self love could solve everything from chronic illness to relationship issues. It was the cure-all, the magic elixir. Something about this self love thing resonated with me but I couldn’t totally embrace it.
From how I saw it, self love was being portrayed as an ultra-saccharine, sweet cliche that could solve all of your problems.
Just talk to yourself lovingly and you will be cured of all your illnesses.
Just say these 200 loving affirmations everyday and you will attract the partner of your dreams.
Just force yourself to think loving thoughts about yourself and it will fix everything.
It seemed impossible.
I felt inadequate in so many ways. I was sick and entirely dependent on other people. I judged myself for being ill and unable to get better. I felt like a bad wife because I wasn’t the fun-loving girl I used to be and I couldn’t go out and do the things I used to do.
I was ashamed because I wasn’t working, because I was so anxious and emotional all the time and sometimes just because.
Sometimes I didn’t even know why or where it was coming from, I just felt like I was always doing something wrong.
The shame was relentless.
I was feeling such intense self hatred that loving myself seemed like an impossible leap. There was no way I could love anything about myself in the way they were telling me to.
How could I when I was suffering so much?
How could I love myself when I hated my life, my body and my inability to heal myself?
How could I love myself when my guilt and shame were overwhelming?
I tried the suggestions from my reading material but they felt so phony and mental to me. Did these people really believe you could talk yourself into self love?
What about all that shame and self hatred I was feeling, are you just supposed to ignore that?
Doing affirmations seemed like forcing myself to think something I wasn’t feeling, like pasting a bandaid over a gaping wound.
I couldn’t do it.
I wrote off self love as just not for me.
I eventually realized that I didn’t relate to this New Age stuff anyway. It didn’t sit right with me.
So, I threw the baby out with the bath water and with it went the concept of loving myself.
I was left to come up with my own form of self love.
I call it acceptance.
In the darkest of times where there was very little I could find to love or even like about myself, here’s what I could do: I asked myself, “Can I let this be ok?”
The many times I was caught in a downward spiral of self hatred, I was faced with two choices: I could label those feelings as unacceptable and try to push them away or I could accept that they were there.
I eventually chose the later and the best way to do that was to ask myself that question, Can I let this be ok?
Meaning, can I let it be ok that I feel such intense self hatred right now? Can I accept this part of me that feels so bad, that feels so much shame and guilt? Can I just let it be there and feel it?
The answer was always yes. I could always let it be ok, because once you ask that question, you’re instantly in a place of compassion.
How can you say no to accepting yourself from that place?
I could always let myself be right where I was at that moment and feel those uncomfortable emotions as soon as I asked myself that question.
No matter how uncomfortable those emotions were to feel, if I let them be ok, it suddenly was ok.
It was ok that I was feeling so bad. It was ok to feel it. It was ok that it was there.
In that magical place of acceptance, I was free to feel those emotions fully and let them pass through. Once I accepted them and felt them, they passed on through me like storm clouds. It was my resistance to feeling them that kept them there so long.
The hard part is remembering to ask yourself the question.
This is what real self love is.
It’s not the cliche phrase where you force yourself to think positive thoughts about yourself and deny the other parts that you hate.
It’s the acceptance of all the parts of yourself: the parts that you love about yourself, the parts that you wish would go away, the emotions that make you feel joyful, and the emotions that take you down to your knees.
It’s accepting ALL of it.
That’s the real, genuine self love and acceptance I was looking for but wasn’t finding in my New Age quest for healing.
If you’re like me and you don’t think you can do self love, try what worked for me.
Try asking yourself that question: Can I let this be ok?
No matter what’s happening to you, no matter how bad it looks on the outside, you can make that switch in perspective from judgement to acceptance in the blink of an eye.
Just let it be ok. Let whatever is in your life be ok. You may not want it to be there forever, but for the moment, let it be ok that it’s there.
The first step to self love is always to accept what’s there. Accept the sadness, the fear, the self hatred, the pain.
It’s in your acceptance of it that it’s able to be transformed.
All those painful, uncomfortable emotions just want to come home to you and be accepted and felt. Then they can pass through and make way for joy.
That’s the real self love.