“Just love yourself!” is a popular mantra in the self-help and spiritual communities. Self-love is heralded as the pivotal achievement, the panacea to all ills. So let us revisit self-love. Is it really that easy to just love yourself?
There have been many people over the past few years that, for good reason, told me not to be too sincere, take it easy and accept who I am… to love myself. Not bad advice I thought.
Actually doing it proved difficult.
So I started wondering if something was fundamentally wrong with me. It appeared to be so obvious to everyone, so easily done. “Hmmm, maybe I should be more like them, meet those expectations and get permission to love myself.”. Or so I thought.
The thing about loving oneself is this… easier said than done. Contrary to New Age fluffy-talk one can not “simply love oneself”. Self love is neither something I decide in my head nor the result of affirmative repetition.
Lack of self-love is often observed in our relationships to others. There are tons of people big on compassion and self-love full of self-righteous contempt for people like Donald Trump, who are apparently “not that enlightened”. In the very first meditation workshop I held last year, a good friend of mine voiced some criticism on a spiritual matter. A woman came to me and said: “Just wait, he will eventually get there.”. I find that very condescending. So apparently some people seem to manage self-love stowed away in a closet, but in everyday social interactions that is apparently easier said than done. Der Mangel an Selbstliebe offenbart sich oft erst im Kontakt zu Anderen. “Judge not, lest Ye be Judged”.
Loving yourself is thus not really that easy. Trust me on this.
Even meditation or any other form of ritualised spiritual or personal development practice does not help. At least not on its own.
I have been meditating for 13 years. I really worked hard on a number of things… this strange thing called enlightenment, healing a number of things and, well, on loving myself. I really believed I could meditate myself into a state of total self-acceptance.
And yes, I enjoyed many session that helped me accept my experiences for what they are.
Yes, I have learned to master very very strong emotions.
Yes, I managed to observe my crazy mind unattached and quiet the chaotic frenzy in my head.
Yes, I am in and of and with me, fully aware of my body most of the time.
And yes, I have learned to cope with extraordinary and very complex emotional and sensory experiences.
That is all very, very helpful.
What did not change was my everyday fear… about money, about losing my health again, about being able to hold a job again. That was especially true for my relationship. All the mundane and normal things… I was not able to face them any better.
For a certain period of time, meditation was like a tranquilizer. A means to escape this world. To flee my problems and my pain. I felt great while meditating, I was afraid while not. Life was too much. Bad combination.
While this might be a necessary step, I warn you guys to dwell on it too much.
Our life is polar. Chaotic, challenging, ever-changing. To attain an absolute state of anything, be it self-love, unconditional love or whatever is a delusion. It will not and should not work like that. For a good reason: growth and expanding oneself more and more. One of the main reasons for being on this planet is to eat shit and enjoy the stark contrast of our reality. And learn, and expand.
Show me a person that says of herself: “I love myself.”. We will move in with that person. And within a few months we will know where self-love is missing. We are all hurting (ourselves) from time to time.
Our love relationships are the perfect place to revisit where and how we not fully love ourselves. Let me raise the stakes and say that our most intimate companion – our partner, friend, parents, siblings, dog – is there to precisely point out where we do not love ourselves.
Nobody is better at pushing my buttons than my wife. No one puts my old and recurring patterns more front and center. Nobody else is able to whip up my emotions like this. It is her that through every word and every action drives me towards completion, if such a thing exists. The more I tried to look at this dynamic through meditation and tackle our relationship issues more calmly, the louder the whole thing grew. Live, die, repeat. Bam! That changed when I began to view this process as a mirror for my inner disposition and tackle my emotional ballast in this way.
Emotional pattern finally dissolve when acted out in relation to another. The inner process is but a prep. The challenge life itself.
To accept, what is, and more, to accept what I fail to see as true or valid… maybe that is the path to self-love. Saying goodbye to any resistance, compensation and illusion about what is within us. And to the mirror of our reality that shows us just that.
Maybe we can feel them… just then. These moments of connection, self-acceptance and love. For 5 minutes, 3 weeks, two months. Until life dishes us our favorite records again and again. That is the way it is, isn’t it?
To master all aspects of love, romantic (amor), sexual (erros), loving others (caritas) and the unconditional love of God (agape)… we sure got ourselves a big project.
Things being the way the are, self-love remains just that…
an unfinished, ninth symphony.
Namasté Brothers and Sisters