“The amount of happiness that you have depends on the amount of freedom you have in your heart.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Lately, I’ve been feeling a sense of vulnerability that I always wished I could feel without being afraid.
I have always wished I was one of those people who could show my authentic self to the world and still be able to look you in the eye after I let you see me, without quivering in shame or regret.
Not too long ago, I shared my feelings with someone who I deeply loved. This was one of the hardest, scariest things I’ve ever done, but it gave me the freedom to be vulnerable and to finally have a heart that’s ready to let love in.
Loving this person has taught me so much about love, forgiveness, and acceptance. Although he did not want the same things I want, just having him in my life has taught me more about how to feel unconditional love and genuine compassion for myself.
As a result, I am experiencing a deep level of unconditional love and compassion for others.
I used to walk around taking things very personally.
If I walked by a stranger who gave me a dirty look, or if a bank teller was rude, or if the man I loved didn’t want to love me back in the way I wanted him to, I thought it meant there was something wrong with me. However, I’m realizing that none of it has anything to do with me.
I have a brand new sense of awareness now.
When I begin to experience negative self-talk inside of me, I seem to be shifting almost immediately to a place of self-love, forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion for myself. This inner awakening has begun to translate into a new perception of my outside world.
Instead of my usual thoughts and reactions that occur when confronted with less than ideal responses from the external world, I am able to see me in you and you in me.
Right away I begin to feel compassion, because I know that you hurt, just like me, and you feel joy, just like me. You worry and feel scared sometimes, just like me. You have bad days, just like me, and you have amazing days, just like me. You are seeking, just like me. You want to believe in love, just like me.
I look at people passing me by in the store, on the streets, or in traffic, and have a deep sense of knowing that they too feel separate sometimes, and they too have times when they fear they will never be enough—just like me.
We all feel the same things.
This realization has allowed me to continue loving even when it isn’t returned to me in the exact way I initially wanted it. True love, after all, is to love someone and expect nothing in return.
I practice this daily by being honest about what’s in my heart, without holding on too tightly to the outcome.
For me, practicing love is the same as practicing the art of letting go and giving others the freedom to just be—accepting them exactly the way they are. It’s something we can do with friends, family, love interests, and strangers alike.
I can now look this special man in the eyes and smile because I know he is just like me. I know that he can see me now because I finally revealed myself to him, and I feel good about myself for doing that.
I can accept him and just experience him for who he is and where he is on his path, because I know now that we are the same. I know that what will happen, will happen, and what will not, will not.
In the meantime, I continue to make more room inside of my heart to give and receive love.
The simple act of making a shift within has completely transformed the type of relationships I’m attracting. When you live from a place of self-love, the world mirrors love and compassion back to you.
When you give yourself unconditional love, compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance, you’re then able to give that to others.
Here are five tips to feel more love and compassion for yourself and therefore reflect that back to the world.
1. If you don’t feel real love for yourself yet, act as if.
Act lovingly toward yourself and do things that nurture you, make you stronger, and make you proud of who you are and how you live your life. Exercising, meditating, helping others freely, and eating a healthy diet work really well for me. Practice progress, not perfection.
2. When you feel hurt by someone else, remind yourself that they are just like you.
They hurt, feel fear, have insecurities, and feel the need to defend and protect themselves. They are no different than you and me.
At times, we all react to the programming in our minds. As you commit to feeling unconditional love and compassion for yourself and others, you will begin to transform the programming in your brain. All you need is awareness. Just be aware.
3. Remember, others are on their path just like you are on yours.
You are both just doing the best you can.
4. Be of service in the world.
Nothing will help you find compassion within yourself and for others like coming face to face with people who have much less materially and way bigger problems than you.
5. Turn within and ask your higher knowing to show you where you lack integrity, love, trust, compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance.
Then ask yourself to heal.
Be patient with the process. Sometimes small shifts happen over time. Allowing your own process to unfold is an act of love in and of itself.
Photo by Kara Allyson