to love yourself

{this post is a copy of this week's newsletter to my mailing list}

We have to know ourselves to know where we end and another person begins, and we have to develop the skills to navigate the space between us. Or else we will seek wholeness through false means that honor neither us nor those we love. ― Sharon Salzberg

Hello Love,

It's February already and with it comes all the Valentine's day hoopla on the profoundly misunderstood subject of love; I wish more of us used it as a time to reflect on our own self-love rather than measuring our worth with the timeliness of confection, floral arrangements and sparkly things. I do think all of those things are wonderful but really what could be good enough for someone as unique, brilliant, precious, beautiful and as layered as you? Only a star from the night sky could possibly do.

We spend a lot of time analyzing and weighing the love we receive from others; deciding what is valuable and what is not...forgetting that this kind of love is supposed to be a secondary resource. It is not something we are entitled to, but we still take it for granted, making it something we expect or something we use as a substitute for our own self-love... we want our parents to have loved us in line with our expectations, we want our children to love us without condition forever, we want our friends to see how much we do for them or to forgive how much we don't do and we want our partners to love us so much that we don't have to do the work of really loving ourselves.

We ignore the simple truth that all these different kinds of love can only take our hearts so far and we discover that - just like a boomerang - it all comes back to us again and again. We have to keep learning the same lessons about love until we start asking better questions of it; what if we decided to cultivate self-love as the primary source of love in our lives? What if we believed - without external validation - that we were worthy of our own unconditional love? What if our internal dialogue used the voice of self-compassion instead of an angry critic or that unkind person from the past?

What if we let the love we receive from others feel like a gift and we were grateful for it all?

When I started my {unfinished} journey with self-love, I didn't get it right away; was it narcissism? was it something esoteric? or was "love yourself" some new age tagline? I wondered how I could become a member of the self-love club without all the woo woo stuff. The answer turned out to be something far more pragmatic and linear... the answer was in the CHOICES I was making every day {dammit, not again!}.

Self-love does not happen IF or WHEN; self-love happens NOW.

We can decide - from one moment to the next - if the choice we're about to make is a point for self-love or a point for something else. And if it's not always self-love - that's okay; can we please make an effort to get more points up on the board anyway? Are we moving forward or are we standing still? Are we waiting for someone else to tell us our value or is that something we should be handling ourselves? You know my answer!

I knew the benefits of self-love were kicking in for me when:

  • it became easier to set boundaries + say a firm no
  • it didn't bother me if people liked me or not
  • I found it easy to choose my goals over other distractions
  • I stopped self-compromising without apology
  • making healthy choices felt important + right + easy
  • all the love in my life deepened + what wasn't serving me or poorly intended just seemed to fade out

When women tell me that they don't feel seen, heard and acknowledged, my next questions are usually... "Do you see yourself the way you want to be seen? Do you listen to yourself? And do you acknowledge all that you do?" It can be hard to own - more often than not - that how we treat ourselves is how we teach others to treat us, but owning this is also the most powerful stance we can take for our health and our happiness.

Until you decide to make self-love your primary* source of love, your sense of self will always be at the mercy of others and that may never be enough for you; leaving you with resentment and self-pity instead of... more and more... LOVE.

Warmly, Alicia.

note: (*) to my more religious and spiritual readers, my reference to a primary source is in keeping with my belief in God and the presence of something greater in our lives; I believe that we each hold a spark of divinity within us and that our thoughts, words and actions are either moving us closer to this infinite source of love or they are moving us away from it. Whether you call this by another name or by your own name, my hope is that your life is filled with the feeling of limitless love and that you know it all starts within.

◊ If you would like to receive The Life Journal newsletter, you can sign up here ◊