It was close to this time last year that I sat crying on the phone to my mentor at the time. “There is all this talk about loving oneself. You need to develop self-love. Love yourself before you can love another, blah, blah, blah… but how the F&&%$**CK do I achieve that!? How do I gain this elusive self-love that everyone talks about, and for the love of GOD why is it so hard to achieve? I don’t even remember what advice she gave me, but I remember there were a lot of tears. I remember I jotted down the following words, which I still have on my notes stored on my cell phone, the words read, “what is my value if I am not loved by anyone? If I don’t have a job, or a good job? If I don’t have money, or a lot of money? If I am not pretty or sexy? If I have no kids or a husband to attend to? If I don’t have any great skills? If I am not loveable or likeable by societies standards?” At the time I didn’t quite realize it, but the reason I was battling to attain this self-love was because the standards I had set for feeling loved, for feeling worthy or for feeling enough were all based on external factors. My achievements, my appearance, my relationship status, these were all rooted from my ego. The funny thing I have since realized is that had I achieved a greater job, more money, a husband and a child, this would have again been insufficient.
For the longest time I believed that people who had self-love, had so because they had an impressive degree behind their name, or a really great job. They had achieved something that clearly deemed them worthy by the world. I believed that those who didn’t have a degree but had managed to stay in a committed relationship with someone who had turned them into a wife, had the evidence required of their worthiness and value. I used to believe that if I could just get someone to bend down on one knee and proclaim their desire to spend their life with me, I would finally believe that I was worthy and loveable. I had this idea that, due to the fact that I didn’t have a degree, a fancy job that paid me a lot of money, I wasn’t a virgin and I had done drugs in my past, that I was unworthy of love. I also believed that all the sins I had committed were further confirmation of my unworthiness. For the record, my sins never involved killing someone, but there was a time, once or twice where I had intentionally hurt someone out of rage and what was worse was that those were often people that I had loved or love rather.
When this mentor had first spoken to me about loving myself more, I believed that I would achieve this self-love through never sinning or rather avoiding sin at all cost. That way I would eventually and hopefully deem myself worthy of love. The problem is that I am human, and I am flawed, as is our very human condition. The difference was that when I would mess up, I would reject and condemn myself, I sat with so much guilt and shame for any wrong doings on my part and was never given reprieve. I had to live my life by certain guidelines, guidelines based mostly on societal norms and standards. I would even condemn myself for ill and impure thoughts I would have. I believed that the thought alone made me evil, horrible, unclean and unworthy. I then came across a course on mindfulness which helped me greatly. They spoke about our thoughts and how most of our thoughts aren’t in fact ours and that a thought only becomes ours if we choose to act on it. This has given me some sense of relief. The other hurdle was my impulses. Part of the criteria I had placed on myself was that I wasn’t to engage in drinking alcohol, drugs or casual sex. If the urge arose, I would shun, reject and condemn that part of myself, lock the animal in its cage was the analogy I would frequently use and make it feel shameful enough that it wouldn’t dare ever escape. This seemed to work well for me except for the fact that when we reject and shame these impulses, we cut off parts of ourselves, our shadow self, better known by psychologists and In the end we feel incomplete and desolate because that shadow self is still part of you. All parts make up the whole and the whole, believe it or not, is necessary and perfect.
It really wasn’t until I did a psilocybin mushroom ceremony last year that I began to see things differently. For one thing I now understand that when an impulse arises the worst thing to do is to reject and condemn it, in doing so we only make the urge stronger. Instead what I need to do is give that part of me love and acceptance, listen to what it has to say and then simply say to it, I love you, I hear you and thank you but today I am going to choose a different option. I also realized that had I chosen the impulse, the undesirable urge, that it wouldn’t make me any less loveable, it is simply a choice that will have consequences, and I will have to live with whatever the consequences are. The choice will also set about a chain of events that will become my future life. Neither choice is ever good or bad, some just result in pain and others don’t but the choice itself doesn’t take away from the love and perhaps that’s what they mean when they speak of God’s unconditional love that is given to us all. I have also learnt that when I identify with my ego and operate from there, then no accomplishment, partner or possession will ever be enough for me. I will forever live in a state of lack and fear, but my ego isn’t the only part of me, in fact it is the smallest part. My higher self exists too, and that self is my essence and my core. If I operate from that place, I won’t feel a need for more, I won’t feel inadequate, scared or alone because my higher self is my connection to God and to all that is, my higher self is love. I don’t need to find love because I am Love.
I have learnt that the pursuit of self-love really involves living in line with my truth, if I am being true to my values and my beliefs then I am on the right track. This varies for everyone because everyone’s values and beliefs differ. The other part of this involves me showing kindness to myself. Not abusing my body with substances it doesn’t enjoy, making sure I give it rest and not allowing just anyone access to it unless they are someone, I feel a connection with and who has shown me care and respect. Situation’s that I feel comfortable with based on what my needs are, not due to any other reason or for anyone else’s approval. I realized that like with any other relationship that requires time and attention to thrive, my relationship with myself requires that. I need time alone to be with myself and my thoughts. I need time to recharge. I need to discover who I am, all the many facets that make up the whole, I believe we spend our lifetime doing that and it is our most precious endeavour. I can’t fully connect to me if I am never alone with myself, the same way a couple would suffer if their relationship never involved time alone. Our relationship with ourselves directly translates into our relationship with others, if I cannot show myself love and compassion, how can I truly offer that you. If I cannot accept myself, how can I ever accept you. You are an extension of me. I need to forgive myself and love myself for being human, flawed and all, so that I can forgive and love you for being the same.
Lastly, I will leave you with this. The more I love me, the less I need you too.