This post is a call to us to love ourselves. If that statement makes you feel uncomfortable I’m sorry. Loving ourselves is so important. It’s a prerequisite for having a life going in the right direction and we all have to conquer this and do it very well. We owe it to ourselves.
It wasn’t that long ago and I didn’t love myself properly (still learning to do it properly now), I thought it was vain to love ourselves, thought I wasn’t good enough and generally wished I could be more like someone else or better in some way. I thought this was a “normal” state – critical of myself, not content with myself.
But this has all changed. I’ve been made to realize what it means to love ourselves, why it’s so important and that it’s a very natural and necessary thing to do.
What does loving ourselves mean?
I’ve just said that loving ourselves is a natural and necessary thing yet I suspect that we all don’t agree on this and don’t even have a common view on what loving ourselves means. What does loving ourselves mean? How can we figure that out?
Let’s consider a baby or small child.
When babies are born they are in a completely natural state. I like to consider how they act as an indication of what our natural state truly is.
Do small children love themselves? – Well they certainly aren’t infatuated with themselves or vain (which is what we commonly think loving ourselves means). They just are. They accept themselves and assume they are as good as anybody else. They are having fun exploring life and they are hoping to keep having fun as they grow up. It’s not until the age of about 6 or 7 when children start to judge themselves and compare themselves with others and begin to develop inferiority complexes and other general hangups (Caroline McHugh discusses this in her talk – The Art of Being Yourself).
Children start out with everything right, and then life gets in the way. The problems we deal with in later life are introduced after the first few years of our life. One definition of “the right direction” for our lives is to shed these encumbrances that we’ve gained and find the path back to our natural state, more like the state we had when we were very young.
This is precisely the message behind The Story of the Golden Buddha. This story says that we are “golden” when born and then years of life adds layers and layers of clay on top of that gold. We get used to this clay and think it’s normal. The aim of life is then to realize this, realize that we are golden underneath the clay and find the right direction for our lives, to shed the clay and be the golden person we truly are.
Now to answer the question “What does loving ourselves mean?”, I return to the consideration of a small child. Loving ourselves means accepting ourselves as being a perfectly valid person. We don’t have to think we’re any better than anybody else, but we have the right (and the obligation) to think that we are equally as good as everyone else. This is the key part of loving ourselves. To reinforce this notion, I love the quote from Kim McMillen;
When I loved myself enough… I came to see that I am not special – but I am unique.
This suggests that we don’t have to think of ourselves as any better than anyone else, but we are unique. There’s only one of us. There’s only one person that’s exactly like us and there only ever will be one. That’s a pretty powerful thought in itself if you think about it. Each of us is unique and we have something unique to bring to the world.
We are equally as good as everyone else. No exceptions!
Once we accept this, we’re on the path to loving ourselves correctly, for what we truly are. Having accepted this fact, it’s also easy to see that we’ll treat ourselves with the respect and compassion we deserve. We don’t have to be perfect. We will make mistakes. However, we are equally as good as everyone else, no matter what, and deserve our own respect and compassion.
This then transfers to everyone else in the world. Since everyone is equally as good as everyone else, we will extend respect and compassion to everyone. Just because of this fact. This is now getting very close to the concept of unconditional love that I considered in an earlier post).
The next thing we’ll realize is that life is full of experiences and we’ll want to absorb them, find new experiences and enjoy them. Follow dreams and have fun. That’s what young children do naturally, so it must be our mission, our golden mission before it was covered up with clay.
My personal path to loving myself
I’m very grateful to so many other people who have helped me to see that I’m covered in clay, but golden beneath. They’ve helped me to realize this and to start the effort of breaking the clay away. It’s a long and difficult task that I am now working on, but I’m happy to be going in this direction and I’m grateful to the people that have helped me.
Here’s a list of the things that have had an impact in my life recently;
Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever – My personal path to loving myself began with this book which I read in 2005. I was 75 pounds overweight and had been so for over 10 years. Health was a priority in my family but I let the demands of my job excuse me from taking responsibility. It took the voices of two scientists to wake me up to my reality. Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman, M.D., draw upon the latest advancements in biology, information science and nanotechnology to suggest a dietary program that will slow down ageing and disease processes. The idea being that, as a result, we still be alive when life-extending and life-enhancing technologies – currently in development – become available. At the time, I trusted this book because it was written by scientists. It caused me to change my diet significantly as I avoided bread, rice, pasta, sugar and potatoes, and dropped coffee in favor of green tea. Also started taking lots of supplements.
A course on Emotional Intelligence – My perspective on life – holistically – shifted while participating in this course. It was provided by my employer with the intention of strengthening the leadership skills of its employees. What it did was make me more self aware and realise that I must treat myself with greater respect and compassion. I see this moment as that in which I began my search for the right direction in life.
Simply Raw – It was while watching this documentary that I began to see that physical health is an important precursor to mental and spiritual health. It provided further reason to carefully consider the foods that I put in my mouth
The Finding Joe Movie – This documentary sent an arrow straight into my heart. What an impact it had on me! It taught me there’s a lot more to our lives than physical health. And, it was my first introduction to the incredibly powerful Story of the Golden Buddha. Every time I watch it, I get more and more out of it.
Never Not a Lovely Moon – After the course on emotional intelligence, one of the instructors gave me a copy of this book by Caroline McHugh. Oh, what a treat! Really special. It opened my mind further to the amazement of our existence and how we can go about loving ourselves. It’s the sort of book where you read one or two pages and then put it down and reflect on what has just been exposed to you. It led me to find this lovely talk by Caroline – The Art of Being Yourself.
As I Began to Love Myself – A speech by Charlie Chaplin’s was an amazing find. It is very inspirational and reinforced the need to love ourselves. It also suggested that loving ourselves could be part of our lifelong quest. This work also led me to the next find…
When I Loved Myself Enough – You know that feeling of “wow! that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling/thinking and these words describe it exactly!” and of the hairs on the back of you neck standing on end? Some of the words in this small book have that impact on me. This is certainly a book that I will keep and reflect on at various times in my life because, at different times in life, different things will resonate. It’s a collection of discoveries made by a woman called Kim McMillen once she learnt to have compassion – rather than doubt and criticism – for herself.
The Art of Being Unmistakeable – A book by Srinivas Rao. One of the quotes in this is “Nothing matters. That’s the key to unlocking the handcuffs that keep us imprisoned in worry, self-doubt, fear and disbelief.” or, in other words, if we don’t love ourselves enough, it’s like living life while wearing handcuffs. Why would we want to do that?
I humbly thank all of these people (and others) for helping me to begin my quest for finding the right direction in life.
Let’s Help Each Other
Loving ourselves is so important yet so hard to do. Sometimes I find I’m going well with it but then, in a flash, I’m being very critical and hateful towards myself. It’s a hard road, at least for me. I know other people who just hate to even consider the concept of loving themselves because of the way they’ve been brought up. I completely understand that.
In terms of helping each other out, I’m reminded of this quote from Kamal Ravikant’s book;
That is the beauty of learning, and then sharing. You grow. You share the lessons and help others grow. Here’s the magic – they, in turn, make you grow. It’s a natural cycle.
What’s troubling you about loving yourself? What works for you? What doesn’t?
Can we help each other get through this? Have you any resources to add to the above list?
I’d love your help!