“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha
I have struggled with a lack of self-love for most of my life. I’ve experienced feelings of guilt and shame on a regular basis and have constantly sought the approval of others. My father committed suicide when I was fourteen years old, and that shaped my feelings about myself.
It completely rocked my world and everything that I thought I knew. It happened at such a vulnerable age. I was on the verge of beginning high school, just going into the teenage years, and my self-esteem was already pretty shaky. My dad’s suicide shattered what was left of it.
I struggled with his suicide for much of my teenage and young adult years. I felt angry for a long time, put up walls around myself so that others could not get too close, and never felt worthy enough for lasting friendships and intimate relationships.
About five years ago I began the path of spiritual study and practice, which has changed my life like nothing that I have ever experienced before. I am thirty-four years old now and have been moving into a place of greater, deeper, passionate love for myself. I want to share with others what I have done to experience this in my life.
These points below have helped me to expand in my consciousness and move to a place of actually feeling the love that already lies within.
1. Embody love in everything that you do.
That means give your loving attention to each task at hand. The more love that you put into whatever it is that you are doing, even if it is just brushing your teeth, the more that you will cultivate a love-filled consciousness.
I began this practice months ago when I found myself constantly complaining in my head about the same old daily routine. I decided to see how peaceful and loving I could be while I was doing whatever I was doing. Not only did it make the actual activities more pleasant, a deep sense of peace took over me.
2. Practice complete acceptance in your life.
I struggled for years with thoughts that my life should be different, that my father shouldn’t have been depressed for so many years and ultimately take his own life, and that the past should not have happened the way it had.
What is more painful than the actual experiences that we may be having are our thoughts about the experiences. The fact is that we have all experienced painful situations, and to deny them, wish them away, or say that they should not have happened only creates more pain.
Complete acceptance of the past for what it is and of yourself for exactly where you are right now is truly powerful.
3. Have compassion for others.
Many like to use the word forgiveness, but everyone is doing the best that they can with what they know. Our true essence never gets its feelings hurt, only the mind does; therefore, there is nothing to forgive.
When I looked at my dad and his suicide from the perspective of my spirit and placed myself into his shoes, I felt such compassion and love for him.
What matters more than anything is not what the other person is doing but what we are doing, so practice sending the other person love no matter what. Look at the situation from their standpoint and release the tight grip that you may have on your own point of view.
4. Be still and know that you are love.
Our true, infinite nature is that of love, so recognize that infinite nature by retreating into stillness as much as possible. There are many ways to still your mind, but the one that has been the most effective for me, especially in the beginning stages of this practice, is to place my attention on my mind.
I practice seeing how long I can go in between thoughts. They may come, but let them go, and eventually the space in between will get wider and wider. The one witnessing the mind is your true nature.
5. Pay attention to the thoughts you have throughout the day.
Are they critical, judgmental, and negative toward yourself and others? If so, stop when you become aware, accept and allow the thought to be, send love to yourself and to the other person, and move on.
We create our reality through our thoughts. For example, I felt like I was a victim for so many years. The only thing that that did for me was create situations where I became the so-called victim, since that was what I had in my thought processes and, therefore, in my energy field.
6. Surround yourself with love.
Do what you can to move away from the people, places, and things that drain you of your energy. Surround yourself as much as possible with those who are loving and supportive.
If you are at a job that you dislike with a passion, look for something else that you are passionate about. Love yourself enough to give that to yourself as a gift. The more that you begin to honor yourself and do what you feel is for your highest good, the more love that you begin to feel.
7. Follow your intuition.
Begin to take steps toward those passions and dreams that you have. We receive little nudges for a reason; our intuition is directing us that way. When we stop and listen to those feelings and begin to take baby steps to act on them, a whole new universe of possibilities opens up for us.
I have been practicing this for the last five years or so now, and it has taken me down a path that my mind could never have even conceived. Many times we feel urges to do certain things, but our thinking stops us from acting. Begin to take baby steps each day in the direction of your passions.
The more that I practice these, the easier they become. I feel a general sense of peace that I have never experienced before. There was major resistance that I had at first because of the old brain paths that were set in place.
Fortunately, those brain paths can be undone and a new way of thinking, being, and doing can be brought forth. Peace and love are what make up our true nature, and all that we are doing is allowing that peace and love to shine in their natural essence. That small self then becomes the grand self.
One thing that I forgot to mention: You are worth it.
Photo by thea-bee photography