I wish I could say I loved this book. Instead as I was cascading down its easy-to-read content, I was thinking most of the time that ‘this is a pretty superficial text’. I must admit the best thing about the book were the list of affirmations that would accompany some chapters and the honesty displayed by the author. But I cringed when some ideas were supported by sentences such as ‘through my work with thousands of people‘, repeated ad-nauseam to gain the reader’s trust. Without disrespecting the author, I would have liked to see more practical advice on the socio-emotional components of self-love or some practical strategies that go beyond mere descriptions. It’s a pity, because the author clearly lived through some tough life experiences but to me these were not sufficiently illustrated for the benefit of a reader who truly is searching for some answers to the questions: ‘How can I accept myself more? What does self-love truly mean? How can I suffer less?‘ Nonetheless, I would say that I agree with the overall message of the book and there were some good portions where I found myself nodding to some of the ideas presented, like the quote below:
(…) we undoubtedly struggle; sometimes we struggle deeply and it’s painful. But with the struggle and the pain always come the beauty, peace and magic of living our most liberated and joyful life. The struggle and pain actually become worth it because we finally respect ourselves for the courage and strength we found to live an authentic life. We get to experience the powerful loving truth and natural intelligence that are inherent to our deepest nature. In essence, we get to be free, and one could say that our soul gets to fly.p.32
The benefit of reading this book, is that it made me reflect on some of the things I’ve experientially learned about self-love. It’s sad that we don’t get taught more explicitly by our parents, in schools and in our local community what it means to truly love yourself and thereby love others; most of us just make-it-up-as-we-go-along, and this is why self-love is a deeply personal experience most of the time. In addition and in what continues to be a patriarchal world, we see more discussions in the media about power, politics, money, war and violence than about proper self-care, self-soothing strategies, anxiety-diminishing practices, anger-management techniques, how to repair and resolve relationships, healing and recuperation from trauma or PTSD. Emotions make people more uncomfortable than a bloodshed or a drone-attack.
Emotions are considered ‘depressing’ and are usually relegated to the realm of health and wellbeing which is often ridiculed as being ‘too soft’ or ‘feminine’. This narrative simply has to change. As a person who works in this ‘soft field’, I’m happy to say the work one can do here is the most meaningful form of work available, and I’m also happy to see how this field – which encompasses everything from humanistic sciences, psychology and psychotherapy, to astrology, tarot reading and channeling – persists. It does so because as people we need emotional knowledge to help us feel whole and healthy human beings again. I’d like to share below some of my reflections on the thorny subjects of self-love and suffering in life:
- Self-love is about setting boundaries
What does it mean to set boundaries in personal relationships? It’s as simple as saying ‘No’ but it is more difficult to put into practice than you’d think. Speaking from my own standpoint as a woman, I learned that as women we are taught from a young age how to people-please and be gentile and sweet, rather than allowing ourselves to be who we are. So saying ‘Yes’ even when we’d like to say ‘No’ is avoided at all costs because we see that people react strangely to us when we do the opposite; being shunned from our social groups or triggered into the fear of rejection or abandonment. Moreover, the fear of violence gets us often to compromise our self-worth and self-respect by accepting a lot of bullshit in life. This issue is even more complex if you grew up in a traditional family and culture, where women are considered to be ‘naturally subservient’ to men. So setting boundaries, especially as a woman and saying ‘No’ requires courage. It can be difficult as well for men to say ‘no’, especially if they want to be part of a group. For men, being seen as ‘manly’ is important, so often sensitive men end up adopting toxic behaviors to be considered manly enough and to belong to a group. It is important to state that ‘not feeling’ is self-hatred; it is a dissociation from the Self and not a staggering act of courage and prowess which deserves medals and awards. Saying ‘No’, ‘walking away’ is hard, and deciding to remain sensitive and vulnerable are acts of courage and empowerment.
Often setting boundaries hurts because we must say ‘No’ to the people we love. This causes us great pain and suffering. So while I agree with Bauer that indeed you don’t need to suffer, sometimes the act of loving yourself enough to finally say ‘No’ to a narcissistic parent or an abusive partner, will inevitably bring you into this space of suffering. We usually leave such awful situations to preserve what remains from our emotional health; so these moments are reasons to give yourself a hug and not moments to drown in self-loathing and guilt (although that can initially happen). Suffering in this case reminds you that you are still alive and kicking and have feelings, and you left the abuse because you believe in better, in life and in love.
In time the suffering will subside and will leave space in the soul for deep wisdom and inner strength, but the suffering still occurs since a relationship we were emotionally plugged into, suddenly crashed and burned. My point is that setting boundaries takes guts and suffering is often inevitable in this process, so please don’t feel ashamed for the fact that you are hurting. Once we accept that suffering is part of the human condition and part of our learning and self-love homework here on Earth, it makes for a less painful ride. Accept this fact, but certainly resist dwelling in it. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Self-love is about daily self-care
Another reason why self-love is difficult to sustain is that it is work, because it requires our daily energy and focus. From my experience, ways in which you can love and respect yourself daily are doing those things that are good for you even if they might be ‘fun’ or ‘amazing’; these action are: drinking water, eating nutritious and fresh food, getting enough sleep (or being kind with yourself when you can’t get enough rest – like after a study-binge, important deadline or when raising a baby), establishing boundaries between work and rest, doing something that makes you happy (whether this is doing work that makes you happy, taking care of your family or a pet you love, or noticing the beauty in the small everyday details that make life well… livable). The recipe for a healthy and loving daily self-care practice is individual and unique to your situation, so it can vary. Mine includes petting my cat, reading, praying and using tarot. I encourage you to create your own but keep in mind that there are times in life, especially periods of change and transition when this routine will be interrupted or turned on its head by circumstances.
There will be moments when the loss of a loved person, a job, a place of living, a project you loved etc. will cause you pain and you will need to heal and recuperate – self-love in that context is adapting to a new routine, and shifting gears to include releasing emotions, cleansing, more rest and keeping the company of only trusted and close friends as part of your day, for example. My point is that periods of suffering and pain should be factored into an eventful and meaningful life; it is not a sign a failure that you are suffering or have lost something or someone; it is a sign that you are an organism that feels and that your soul is experiencing many different things on its path to understanding what it means to be alive and how to process karma.
3. Self-love is about paying attention to your intuition
Your intuition is your super-power. It is a priceless tool that helps you navigate a world of unspoken signs. It can help you make important decisions, tells you whether you should act or rest, helps you wait for it or launch it, gets you to understand people’s hidden intentions and helps you pay attention to small details which can ultimately save your life. Your intuition (when noticed and listened to) can make your life easier, safer and a bit magical. Once you start paying attention to signs and synchronicities and you start noticing your inner guiding voice, it can become a little bit addictive 🙂 Think of a time when you felt like you should grab your umbrella even if the weather was fine and the forecast predicted no showers that day. And suddenly in the middle of the day an unexpected storm starts drenching everyone else around you and you randomly brought that umbrella along – that was a sign you paid attention to your intuition and acted on it. Or say you are at a party and an attractive and polite person keeps complimenting you but they feel insistent. All of a sudden as if confirming your gut feeling, this person gives you a look that scares you. Deciding to follow your intuition and going home with someone else after the party, could save you from imminent danger.
I think that your intuition should complement your logical mind. Other times, it takes a front seat, when things don’t add up logically-speaking: like hearing a person say some things and feeling in your gut that they mean something else, for example. Our intuition is very useful during big transitions in life: such as when you have a child or when you lose a person. In such periods of transition, which also happen to be highly emotional, using your inner capacity to feel and allow a feeling to guide you is as precious as figuring out practical coping strategies. And if you don’t trust my advice regarding the benefits of having an intuitive mind-set, just ask a fellow Water sign (Pisces/Scorpio/Cancer) how they live their lives, because intuition is their default modus operandi. Also if you want to learn more, I made a video on my You Tube channel about this topic:
In a previous post on this blog, I acknowledged that I did not understand what self-love was. Now some months later, I can see that acknowledging my ignorance in this area of life was enough to start me on a beautiful journey of understanding on a deeper level what self-love truly means. I found out that I knew what self-love was on some level, but I was too much in my head to realize this. It took 2020 and the special social conditions of the current pandemic, to finally have the breathing space to integrate all the lessons life has taught me this far and allow myself to feel this self-love.
In a similar vein, I hope this post helped and inspired you in some way, and if you made it this far into the article I’d like to thank you for reading it. Please feel free to share your experiences of self-love in the comments below.
With universal love,