“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~Rumi
Most of us are so busy waiting for someone to love us that we’ve forgotten about the one person we need to love first—ourselves.
Ironically, it was when my ten-year marriage fizzled that I began the innermost process of self-discovery about love.
While discouraged and saddened at the crumbling of our relationship, I began to explore love more. How had it fizzled? Why had we stopped loving each other, and what had happened to our love?
The People Who Were to Have Loved Us
I grew up in a rather patriarchal culture and family, which had trouble expressing or showing love.
In fact, they showed love in unusual and unhealthy of ways. My mother used harsh language, put-downs, and comparisons to others to berate, embarrass, and ridicule me about my personal habits, lack of achievement in school, and potential career choices.
My dad showed love in the form of his belt, which lashed against my body throughout my childhood. I remember horrific lashes, which left marks around my legs, buttocks, and back. If I were lucky, the lashes were made by the softer leathery-parts of the belt. If I wasn’t, it was the buckle, which did the scarring.
The violent strikes resulted from disobedience, for challenging my parents’ authority, and mediocre grades.
My adolescent years were filled with memories of some of these physical scars, which have disappeared, but also emotional scars, which continued to linger.
My ex-wife’s parents similarly showed love in unhealthy ways: ignoring her feelings, constantly criticizing and comparing her to others, and not expressing their love for her.
What I’ve realized since our divorce was that we were two damaged people who had trouble loving ourselves, let alone each other. When the love you’ve known has been physically harmful, emotionally painful, and psychology scarring, how do you love another person?
With this realization, I’ve had to find ways to love myself first.
You too may have been unloved or shown love in unhealthy ways in your life. Here are some tips on loving yourself first before searching for love in your life.
1. Be kind to yourself.
You may have hurts, emotional pain, and shortcomings. Learn to accept yourself, shortcomings and all, even if your family and previous partners may have berated you about your inadequacies.
We tend to be harsh on ourselves, often because the people who were supposed to love us were unusually cruel and heartless to us. We hear their non-stop chatter in our minds and our beings.
Focus on your many positive qualities. Focus on your strengths, your abilities, and your admirable traits. Let go of harsh judgments, comparisons to others, and self-hatred.
When you can see yourself as the soulful and divinely inspired person you are, the damaging internal dialogue doesn’t hold up.
Be gentle with yourself.
2. Feel the love within you and be that love.
You may experience both self-hatred and self-love. Spend more time focusing on self-love.
Try loving and positive affirmations. Nourish your soul through a love-kindness meditation or spiritual practices that help you feel compassion and love toward yourself.
Once you feel vibrations of self-love or the peace of positive affirmations, try to be in that place of love throughout your day.
Infuse this love with your interactions with others in your life.
3. Give yourself a break.
You’re not perfect. No one is. You don’t have to be at the top of your game every day. No one is happy all the time. No one loves themselves always. No one lives without pain.
Be willing to embrace your imperfections and excuse your bad days. Don’t set such high standards for yourself emotionally and mentally. It’s normal to feel sadness and pain and to hit some low points in life.
Allow yourself to embrace these emotions without judging yourself for them.
4. Embrace yourself.
Are you content being alone by yourself without feelings of anxiety, fear, and judgment?
You may have to go within and seek solace in yourself to be comfortable in your own skin. Practice moments of alone time and be aware of how you treat yourself.
Learn to embrace solitude and allow yourself to be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about yourself.
The process of self-discovery can happen through the process of clinical therapy or counseling. This healing process can help you discover who you are and what your obstacles to loving yourself are.
In the alternative, periods of introspection, silent meditations, journaling, and sharing your feelings with supportive friends may help you be more aware of who you are.
The process of loving yourself starts with understanding your true nature.
It took a combination of meditation, therapy, writing, and silence to come to terms with my past and my present. Only once I realized I wasn’t loving myself could I attempt to change that.
5. Be grateful.
Rhonda Byrne, author of The Magic, shares with us a powerful way to change all of our relationships and our life.
Byrne encourages us to practice gratefulness and regularly count our blessings.
“When you’re grateful for the things you have, no matter how small they may be, you will see those things instantly increase,” Byrne says.
She includes twenty-eight practices for twenty-eight days of your life to help you feel gratitude more deeply. Her initial practice is a formula to count your blessings.
She encourages you to write out the following sentence for ten items you’re grateful for everyday.
“I am truly blessed to have _____________, because _____________(why?).”
You will immediately start loving yourself more when you realize all the things you’re grateful for in your life.
6. Give yourself in service to others.
When you think about kindness toward others and being love to others, you open the door to divine love.
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” ~Rabindranath Tagore
Yes, giving to others is a gift of love you can often give yourself which brings you more love.
When you’re being kind, considerate, compassionate, and giving of yourself, your soul will rejoice. You’ve reached the highest level of self-love in this state of serving others.
Find ways to do small and large tasks to assist those living in your house, neighborhood, or community. Practice conscious acts of kindness and giving.
The love you’re sharing with others in the form of service will help you feel more love and fulfillment in your life.
You’ll realize you don’t need someone else to feel complete any longer. You’re complete.
A relationship will only make you shine brighter and bring more love in your life.
Vishnu is a writer and coach who helps people overcome breakups to rebuild their lives and live with purpose. He blogs at www.vishnusvirtues.com For Vishnu's latest book, 10 Sacred Laws of Healing a Broken Heart, visit his Amazon page here.