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The Importance of Self-Love: See the Beauty Others See in You

Beautiful you

“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” ~African Proverb

A young woman in my town died recently. The cause was a drug overdose, although the precise circumstances of her death were unclear. She was a recovering addict, and the rumor was that she had relapsed. There was even some conjecture that her death might have been deliberate.

In the end, no one was sure of anything except that she had died.

The town in general and my family in particular were sent reeling. This girl was young, pretty, sweet—a talented artist who was loved by many, many people.

Since her death, having compared notes with numerous people, I’m stunned to witness how many lives she touched and at how deep a level.

For example, one close friend remembers her as his son’s first girlfriend. And my own son, who now lives in Central America, became close friends with her just before moving.

My daughter met her several months ago and was excited by the prospect of getting to know her. (Both girls were artists and they had decided to get together soon to draw, paint, or maybe just hang out.)

As for me, I met her about six years ago when I was bartending in a local inn. It was the middle of the night and she had just had a violent fight with an abusive boyfriend. She was a crying mess. I took her home to my own house so she could sleep in safety and peace.

We loved each other instantly, and after that night we promised to pursue the friendship, although we never did. Occasionally, we would send warm greetings to each other through a third party. Often, I would run into someone who knew her but in fact, I never saw her again.

I came to learn a lot about this girl second-hand. For example, some years earlier, she had dated the brother of a close friend and given birth to his son. It was then that she fell into the addiction.

Because of her addiction, the baby was taken away from her to be raised by grandparents. This was the repetition of a pattern as she, herself, had been raised by a grandmother because her own mother was unfit. 

Happily, in the case of her infant son, the baby’s young father stepped up to the plate and took over raising the child, since she wasn’t together enough to do it herself.

After years of struggle, she’d finally cleaned up her act and was living on her own. It was during this time that she met my son. They spent some time together and he came home talking about her.

She was struggling and unhappy, although she was painting again. But nine months later, she was dead.

Looking at pictures of her at the memorial service brought back strong memories and feelings for me. In particular, I remembered the feeling this girl conveyed the night we met: despite her beauty and warmth, her low self-esteem was painfully apparent.

During the days surrounding her death, countless tears were shed: My friend and his son cried together; my daughter and I consoled each other through our tears, as she described their meeting…

“Mom, the very first thing she said to me was that I was beautiful and I was like, ‘No! You’re the beautiful one!’ I can’t believe it but she actually didn’t know how pretty she was.”

My daughter’s words chilled me as I remembered… When I first met her, this lovely young woman looked up at me from a place of pain and said, “You’re beautiful. You’re so beautiful. I wish I were beautiful like you!”

With that memory, the pieces fell into place: this attractive, kind, and lovely woman was able to see beauty everywhere except in the mirror. 

Our entire town gathered together to mourn her death. What struck me most was how many people loved her and how many lives she impacted, and yet she had been oblivious to her own value and power.

Had she known how many hearts she touched, she certainly would not have died so early and so pointlessly.

It’s always a sad and unnatural thing when a young person leaves the earth, but in the case of my young friend there is a lesson to be learned.

If we adjust our perspective away from the sadness of the story, we can observe that this lovely girl gave her life so that those around her could learn what she herself did not know: that self-love is not only desirable; it is crucial.

In fact, without self-love we are in danger of losing our very lives.

In our Judeo-Christian culture, we are taught that self-love is narcissism, and therefore, a sin. But actually, narcissism is not self-love at all but in fact, its direct opposite.

The narcissist is obsessively concerned with self because underneath that obsession lies malignant inferiority and self-doubt. The stock of self-love is so depleted that there is not enough self-absorption in the world to fill the void.

All love must begin with self-appreciation, for if we do not value ourselves, how can we ever honestly honor someone else? It is only when my being becomes a container, filled to overflowing with radiance, that I am able to convey that radiance to another.

Personally, I refuse to allow this exceptional woman’s death to be meaningless. In her honor, I determine from this moment forward to see beauty and value in all of life, including in myself.

I will appreciate my qualities and lovingly tolerate my defects. I will treat myself with compassion and gentleness. I will honor my feelings and speak my truth. I will ground myself in the present moment and live in life’s flow. I will receive the gifts that I was born with, as well as those the universe offers me on a daily basis, and I will share those gifts with the world.

If we all do the same thing, this one life and death will no longer be a tragedy, but will become the pebble in the pond that sets in motion a ripple effect of love.

Photo by Kiran Foster

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About Tiela Garnett

Tiela Garnett is a life-coach and writer. She has created the site Personal Guru to assist you in empowering yourself through connection to the Master Teacher within your own life. Contact her for inspiration or one-on-one coaching at Personal Guru.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Fiona

    A beautiful message

  • Tiela Garnett

    Thank you, Fiona – I’m happy you appreciated it.

  • Jennifer O.

    I love your word choice with “lovingly tolerate my defects”. I have been struggling with that particular aspect of self esteem. Sure I can appreciate what I like about myself…it’s dealing with my defects (both imagined and real) that can trip me up. I think I’m going to add your phrase to my daily affirmations. Many thanks!

  • http://www.akirahrobinson.com/ Akirah Robinson

    Thank you for this. I feel like I can relate to this message. I am a survivor of partner abuse. Though I do not blame myself for what my ex did, I do know that I remained in that relationship for almost four years because I failed to understand my own self-worth. Though he wasn’t right for me, I stayed because I wanted to feel loved…because my own self-love wasn’t sufficient. I am so happy I was eventually able to get out of that relationship. I’m glad it didn’t cause the end of my life.

  • Tiela Garnett

    Very sweet, Jennifer – good for you. It seems like many of us think we need to be perfect in order to be loveable! But ultimately, it’s our defects that make us both human and unique! (I also notice that the people who are most bothered by their own defects are really the best people because they are working so hard on their personal growth.)

  • Guest

    You must really have a lot of love in your to take care of a stranger with such open arms.

    Thank you for this great post this morning =)

  • growthguided

    You must really have a lot of love in your heart to take in a stranger who is suffering.

    Thank you for this great message this morning !

  • Tiela Garnett

    Your message brings tears to my eyes, Akirah. I, too, know what it is to be abused and I understand the pain of undervaluing the Self. Clearly you learned a great lesson, or you would still be there. CONGRATULATIONS on developing the strength and self-support to get out of that situation! Please recognize the courage that it took and appreciate your tremendous growth!

    If I can be of any assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me:

    http://personalguru.me/guru-coaching.html

  • Tiela Garnett

    What a very kind think to say – thank you for your comment.

  • Julie

    Well said. I am coming to the conclusion that self-love is the most important state of being I can cultivate. It, or its absence, impacts every action and thought. As I look back at my life thus far, I can see this so clearly.

  • Jeff

    Your story is so brutally hionest and touching that I felt compelled to write. I know myself what a slippery slope low self-esteem and “I’m not good enough” attitudes are. It can be relentless and drag you down, and makes it hard to look in the mirror and like what you see. It’s difficult to feel good about yourself when the person who stares back at you from the mirror is your harshest critic. I think it’s the hardest battle most of us will ever face- to know we individually have value and worth, and to know the person staring back from the mirror is a good person who does make a difference.

  • http://www.akirahrobinson.com/ Akirah Robinson

    Thanks! It was a rough season of my life, but I’m definitely in a better place now. I work with women in similar situations and am embarking on a writing career so I can discuss these issues with others. I am working hard to create a silver lining to my experience with abuse and it feels good.

  • Tiela Garnett

    Good for you, Akirah – you’re taking the lemons and making lemonade!

  • Tiela Garnett

    Thank you for your comment, Julie.

  • lv2terp

    Beautiful lesson learned, thank you for sharing that! Your self-love affirmations are wonderful!!!! :)

  • Tiela Garnett

    Yes, Jeff. Isn’t it amazing how many of us suffer from the “not good enough” syndrome? Thank you for writing!

  • Tiela Garnett

    So sweet! Thank you for your comment…

  • Tim

    Thank you for sharing your story, tragic though it was. I got your message and really understood its importance. There must be many people out there right now who are in the same situation as your friend. Thank you for sharing this with me.

  • growthguided

    You are very welcome!

  • Tiela Garnett

    You’re quite welcome, Tim. Sadly, lack of self-appreciation is almost universal among humans.

  • http://www.onestoppersonaldevelopment.com/ Chim Aaron

    It’s a sad story you shared, but unfortunately it’s the reality many live everyday. It is human nature to dwell on faults, to be critical, judgmental, not just of ourselves but of other people, the world, the government etc. After hearing this all our lives, it’s very difficult to focus on what’s good about anything, including ourselves. Throw in the disease of comparing oneself with others, and the recipe for low self-esteem is set. Only with a conscious effort to tell ourselves that we love ourselves, that we value and appreciate ourselves, and that we forgive ourselves, can we begin to break the cycle of negativity that pervades us.

  • Tiela Garnett

    So true, Chim – judgement and comparison are “diseased” states of consciousness (to borrow your metaphor). Personally, I work consistently at releasing all judgement and comparison from my life but it’s easier said than done!

  • http://www.justloveyourself.com/ Jill – Just Love Yourself

    I agree with you 100 %, ‘without self-love we are in danger of losing our very lives”.
    A year or so ago I realised the ways I was not loving myself, and how cruel I actually was to myself. On the outside, people would see me as a happy, cheerful person, but I didnt love myself unconditionally. I know loving myself is the greatest give myself. I can now look into the mirror, deep into my eyes and say I love you, and mean it. To love yourself, is not for those who are mentally ill, or suffering from addiction or sex abuse, every single person will benefit from loving themselves more… there is always room for more love. It just keeps expanding within yourself and your life around you.
    Thank you so much for sharing this post.
    Jill