“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire Universe deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha
Relationships give us the opportunity to learn about ourselves though identifying with another. I’ll be the first one to admit that some of my relationships didn’t end on ideal terms. I’ve managed to stay in touch with a few partners over the years, but for the most part, they’ve fallen to the wayside.
Here’s how most of them played out: The initial phase was intoxicating, I was completely enamored with the other person, and likewise, they made me feel like the object of their attention. As a result, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy, wholeness, and love.
Eventually, the passion faded and the relationship began to decline, leading to a break-up. Now, instead of feeling joy and wholeness, it felt more like despair and emptiness.
We’re taught early on, through various forms of conditioning, that we are only valuable when an external source recognizes it, whether it’s a spouse, parent, or a boss. Dean Martin even sings, “You’re nobody ‘til somebody loves you. You’re nobody ‘til somebody cares.”
Could this paradigm possibly be accurate? After all, if an icon like Dean Martin is singing about it, there must be some kernel of truth to it, right?
I definitely felt better about myself when I was “coupled up,” but did that justify feeling devoid of love when the relationship ran its course?
It wasn’t until I cultivated love for myself that I recognized my immense value, regardless of my relationship status. This happened through a regular spiritual practice and reflective meditation. From that space, I also recognized a few fundamental truths that helped me foster self-love.
1. Extreme self-care means doing what strengthens your mind, body, and spirit.
The best way to show yourself love it to practice self-care. The exact details differ from person to person, but they all share a common thread—they nurture your inner being.
Maybe that means taking an extra hour to pamper yourself or setting aside time to focus on fitness. The expectations from friends and family will still be there, but it’s your responsibility to do what makes you feel recharged and lifted before tending to others.
2. Your most important commitment is to honor yourself and your needs.
On the journey toward personal fulfillment, you first need to make a commitment to address your needs. That doesn’t mean neglect your financial or social obligations, but it should be a reminder that your dreams and ambitions are a priority. After all, if you don’t stand up for your aspirations, who will?
It helps if you make this commitment crystal clear by saying it out loud, sharing it with a friend, or writing it down. I find it beneficial to write personal mantras and commitments on my mirror so that I’m reminded of them every time I look at my refection.
3. Your emotional well-being does not depend on any external circumstance.
At any given moment, I have the ability to choose a positive emotional state. I can’t control the way other people act toward me, but I can reframe my belief system to better align with my own self-image. For example, just because someone lashes out or says something hurtful, that doesn’t mean it’s a reflection of me.
Each of us is responsible for our own feelings, and it is our job to rescue ourselves from the pit of despair when we fall in.
4. Making peace with your past paves the way for a rewarding future.
You’d be hard pressed to meet anyone who doesn’t have a few demons in their closet. We all accumulate baggage throughout the course of our lives, but you don’t need to carry it from one place to the next. It simply weighs you down and prevents you from reaching your highest self.
Learn to make peace with your past so that you can receive the present with an open heart.
Forgiveness and acceptance go hand-in-hand with self-love. One of the ways I’ve learned to forgive past hurts is by not taking it personally.
The second principle in Don Miguel Ruiz’s acclaimed book The Four Agreements says it best: “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of other, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
5. Speak and treat yourself with kindness.
Listening to your internal dialogue can be a good way to gauge your level of self-love. Are your thoughts predominantly negative or self-condemning? If they are, your first priority should be to change the way you speak to yourself.
Adopting a set of positive affirmations can transform negative internal dialogue into a more supportive channel of communication with yourself. Some of my favorite affirmations are:
- All is well in my world and I encounter love, abundance, and appreciation in every moment.
- I accept others just as they are because I accept myself just as I am.
- I radiate compassion and love and as a result I receive an endless flow of it back.
6. Trust your intuition; it will guide the way.
You intuition is one of the best tools at your disposal, and fortunately, you can never leave home without it! Listen to what your intuition tells you about taking care of yourself. After all, you deserve your love and affection.
Self-love is a regular practice that starts with acceptance. Take the time to align with your inner self and appreciate your strength. Only then can you open up to receiving and giving love to others unconditionally.
If you can be love and accept yourself, you’ll be happy regardless of who chooses to enter or exit your life.
Smiling woman image via Shutterstock