Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Overcoming Barriers to Self-Love

If you’re on a path of personal development and spiritual growth, it’s near impossible to bypass the many signposts pointing in the direction of self-love. For many of us, these messages come up again and again as we grapple with the challenges of what it is to truly love oneself.

Some of the biggest obstacles we face are the negative assumptions attached to the concept of self-love. We fear that if we follow the signs we might end up in the depths of the narcissist’s pool instead of scaling the heights of the Masters. We fear being regarded by others as arrogant, vain or selfish. Instead of enthusiastically embracing the wisdom and practice of self-love, we are wary. As if we are facing the crossing of a precarious, swaying rope-bridge where we might easily trip ourselves up and be cast down.

We often dabble around the edges of self-love by taking candle-lit baths or treating ourselves to the fantastic boots we long for. We hope this is enough, but deep down we know it is not.

What is important is to free self-love from limiting beliefs, and to set it in its most fruitful context. This means:

1. Realising that self-love is akin to self-respect and self-esteem and as such, is opposite to arrogance and vanity which are underpinned by insecurities;
2. Realising that self-love is a healthy spiritual and psychological imperative as opposed to a pathology such as narcissism;
3. Realising that attaining self-love is a safe process in the development of our consciousness – it emerges out of honest self-reflection and accountable choices;
4. Realising that self-love involves engaging with the boundlessness of our love, and therefore cannot be selfish. (Selfishness occurs in a context of scarcity.)
5. Realising that self-love is a dynamic, life-long journey, not a destination.

Self-love works best as a mindful, daily practice to nourish body, mind and soul. Like meditation, its benefits are cumulative, and we become masters at it through patient and dedicated practice.

Self-love is completely embedded in our relationship with ourselves, and so the crux of its practice is actually in being rather than doing.

The "Big Five" of Self-Love:

  • Be available - We need to make special, one-on-one, quality time for our relationship with ourselves, as we would make time to relate to our other loved ones
  • Be loving - We need to draw on the same qualities we afford to those we love – kindness, thoughtfulness, care, appreciation and a willingness to forgive
  • Be helpful - We need to pay attention and listen to ourselves with an empathetic ear. We need to be available to help – to encourage and soothe ourselves
  • Be respectful - Critical to the loving relationship with self is the way we speak. There is no place for a harsh critic, a bully or an emotional abuser in a constructive inner dialogue
  • Be grateful – Practice feeling gratitude for your being – for your precious life and unique existence; for your gains and losses; for your triumphs and lessons; for the joys and the pains that infuse us with aliveness

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