I love the word love. I love writing it, looking at it, I even have it on my desk as a paperweight. In fact, this is a photo of it. There is a small drawing I made with the word love on my fridge….a reminder that when times are tough, there is love somewhere in my life to get me through. Surprisingly, self-love has been the most difficult type of love for me to learn and so I am devoting further space to this topic, specifically speaking about how to get to the place of loving ourselves. I know this is a difficult topic for a lot of people and when it is usually raised, not very much thought is given to how this act of self-love is supposed to take shape. We speak about importance of loving ourselves, without really looking at the “how” behind this notion.
So What Is Self-love And How Do We Practice It ?
I am not talking about manicures and pedicures and massages or daily exercise regimes…although these can be a helpful part of the ritual of loving ourselves. I am talking about honest to goodness self-love that makes us acknowledge our worthiness as human beings existing on this planet, and gives no excuses to expectations of respect from the world around us. This type of self-love stems from acknowledgment that we are intrinsically good. This means knowing that the bad things that happen to us do not tarnish the worthiness within. It also lies in understanding that we do not have to be perfect to be loved….no one does, and no one is perfect. The idea of perfection is a social construction, or one that comes from other sources. It cannot be sustained by anyone.
Self-love comes from knowing that trauma doesn’t make us ugly. Trauma may be ugly, it may make us feel ugly, but it does not make us ugly. These factors need to be differentiated if we are to make space for love. We are also fallible human beings and humans learning, so having engaged in “bad” stuff or having hurt others does not mean we need to hurt or punish ourselves. If anything, my standpoint on this is that when we engage in hurtful actions toward ourselves or others, or when these are done onto us, this is precisely when we need to apply a strong dose of self-love. Why? Because when we are being harmed or hurt, or when we act in ways that we are not proud of, we suffer…and when we suffer or just experience guilt, discomfort, shame, we need to experience love in order to balance out the pain. If we do not do this, we become stuck in the muck of negative feelings, and we can drown if we remain here long enough.
I firmly believe that self-love begins with acknowledging the pain within, and soothing, healing, caring for this pain in ways that are not harmful. It is also recognizing that our circumstances, life in general, or whatever we are going through is difficult, without looking down on ourselves as weak. It is about saying “I’ve had enough pain and so I will not cause more onto myself”. Developing self-love is a long and winding road, but a road we must take in order to achieve healing, or to experience happiness. It is a road I walk daily, in different ways, sometimes running along smoothly, while at other times stumbling slowly. Although I am much better at this than I used to be, and no longer push myself past my limits, I am a human learning and there is always more to know.