What does it mean to truly love ourselves? I have been sitting with and contemplating this question for some time now and it seems that my definition and understanding of this concept is forever changing and evolving.
The concept of loving myself has always made sense from an intellectual perspective – I understood that to love and honour myself was a prerequisite to living a life of expansion and joy and that when I was able to cultivate this self love, freedom would be my reward and others could meet me in this place. Buy what does self love actually mean?
Of course I could love the ‘nice’ and ‘positive’ qualities within myself, like altruism, kindness, compassion, love, generosity etc but what about the parts that do not fall into these categories? If my experience has led me to believe that to be angry, judgemental, selfish and fearful are ‘negative’ and unacceptable traits to possess, how could I love myself within my own anger, my own fear, my own selfishness…? If my belief system has me conclude that anger is ‘bad’ and ‘wrong’ then what happens when I am angry? If I believe this to be unacceptable then I will not accept my own feelings of anger and therefore will make this part of myself wrong and this is absolutely not a way to be in loving relationship with myself.
To be human means to experience the whole spectrum of human emotions – both the light and the dark, the good and the bad, the positive and the negative. To understand and experience the depthsof despair, the elation of joy, the force of anger, the beauty of compassion is absolutely what it means to live on this earth as a human being. To believe that we must continually live in a state of elation and joy and therefore express only the ‘good’ parts of ourselves is denying ourselves the truth and sets a very high target to aim for! And what if we miss the target? What if one day we cannot aim so high? Does that make us wrong, less than, too much, not good enough? It absolutely does not. It simply makes us human.
We are always in a state of flux, in a state of flow and e-motion means just that, energy in motion. It is flowing through us continually and cannot stay the same. To do so would go against the law of nature, for change is a natural occurrence. We are complex beings who are forever changing – we cannot remain static and rigid 24/7, 365 days of the year! And anyway, who would want to? How incredibly boring would this be?! We need to feel these different emotions and experience these different parts of ourselves to be fully alive and to really embrace this incredible journey and gift that is the human experience.
This is not to say that I can use this as an excuse to be forever angry and in a place of blame, for I know better. It does however mean that when less than desirable emotions and feelings rise within me (and if, G-d forbid, I may actually feel or express these emotions!) I can forgive myself for simply being human. Within this recognition and forgiveness I come to a place of acceptance that I am made up of my life experiences and that sometimes I may be triggered, that I am a complex being with many different parts that make up the whole and that sometimes these parts need a voice, need room for expression and space to be heard. In a nutshell, I am made up of both the light and dark and to love myself, means to love every part of myself, even those parts that I would rather keep in a box under the bed!
My choice is to live fully. My choice is to allow myself freedom from self judgement and in unleashing all the labelling of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, I give myself permission to be fully me, permission for every part of me to have the space to be seen and heard. Within this permission I am able to move out of contraction, out of keeping myself small and into an expansive way of living that allows me to spread my wings…
I give myself permission to love and accept myself exactly as I am.