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Choosing to Love- YOU
By: Jean Harper

People often say that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder,' and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves. ~Salma Hayek

Growing up in the South pooled with my family upbringing thwarted my concept of self-love.   A lack of self-love and self-worth plagued my sister all of her life and it is my belief that this lack of self-love was directly responsible for everything that went wrong in her life.  For most of my life I thought loving yourself meant that you were conceited and selfish.  It is only recently that I have begun to understand what loving the self really means and the significance of this in living a full and happy life.

Dr. Nancy O'Reilly, Clinical Psychologist,  explains- "When a woman is able to put these pieces together (self-love, positive self-worth, and good body image) there is a wholeness, a peace, a balance and understanding of the special and unique qualities each person has.  If we love others we must first learn to love ourselves without conditions and without constraint. Unconditional love is often used to describe what we might call the perfect love.  Love begins at our birth and our parents teach about how to love ourselves and others. Some of us are not as lucky as others to have been born into loving caring families and may suffer for not feeling lovable. The good news is the human spirit is resilient and each of us can and do find those special people that help us to learn to love and allow ourselves to be loved.  Hope and faith have helped many to find the path to peace and wholeness and "feeling self-love". 

Having a glowing vision of the future helps you tackle the core beliefs about yourself—such as doubts about your own worthiness for success—that have held you back until now. So as you peel back the curtains around your core self, you become ready to tap the source of all change and success—self-love, and forgiveness for past failures.

Self-love doesn't happen by luck or the grace of God. You have to create it. Love is your birthright. As French philosopher, Teilhard de Chardin said, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience."  We are powerful beings capable of creating joy and success or pain and suffering in our lives. We are not destined to be victims. We have the power to choose, and this power is both the greatest responsibility we have and the greatest opportunity.

Self-love involves recognizing that you are constantly evolving and growing to become a more powerful and more loving being. Feelings are important signals, and even the so-called negative feelings of anger and fear serve the important purpose of alerting us to the obstacles in our life.

When things go wrong or goals don't materialize, it is easy to blame our past, our parents, life in general or God. We are even encouraged to do this by friends and family who are well-meaning. We also devote a great deal of energy to settling for what is, without recognizing what we can become.  Feelings of powerlessness leads to illness and problems such as overeating- I saw this, first hand, with my sister and recently it became clear to me when I looked in the mirror and saw my own reflection. 

Forgiveness was my first step for self-love and I know it is a completely inside job.  We must forgive ourselves for the painful experiences we have previously chosen in our lives. Only by seeing how in the past we have allowed problems to control us, and forgiving ourselves, can we really change and be free to go forward in life feeling more powerful, able to create the success and happiness we want.  My mistakes have been my biggest gifts however it is only now that I have come to realize this.



I asked Sandra Ford Walston about her view of self-love as it relates to her teachings of "Courageous Living" and she responded this way:  The experience of self-love reveals itself around my level of courage. I constantly monitor my spirit and ask, “Is my reservoir of courage brimming over or is it low?” Generally there is a correlation: if my reservoir of courage is low, then usually my self-love waning. I know that courage is a state of mind, and I must diligently stay centered in courage consciousness. Throughout the day I constantly remind myself that courage means “heart and spirit.” So I ask, “Is my self-love being magnified to its utmost vibration?” For example, how often do I swallow my voice in a day or week rather than practice “where courage meets grace?” My self-love is confirmed when I choose to have a courageous conversation (rather than denial). Another benefit for applying my courage is to substantiate that my Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) steadily increases, and that is the ultimate self-love vibration.

What are unconditional self-acceptance and self-love?  One dictionary defines self-love as "the instinct or tendency to seek one's own well-being or to further one's own interest."  Another definition I found offered  "an exceptional interest in and admiration for yourself" and offered synonyms such as conceitedness or narcissism- no wonder most people are confused.

To accept and love yourself unconditionally is to place no condition on yourself as to how to behave or what to be in order to receive self-acceptance and self-love.  It was easy for me to understand when I set the stage to feel warmth, caring and concern for myself just like I do for others in my life.

When I experienced being the recipient of unconditional self-acceptance and self-love from myself I began to feel free to be myself and the feelings of value and worth came rushing forward.  In the past I felt constrained to act in ways that were inconsistent with the beliefs and feelings of others- in real terms I spent most of my life trying to please everyone except myself.  In this position I was dependent on others to make me feel good about myself leaving me to feel misunderstood , not approved of or defensive-  this was way too much work!

Following the rules, accepting limits and meeting expectations are often necessary for survival in this world but I now know that these things are not necessary conditions to be self-accepted and self-loved. It is politically healthy to scope out the rules of the games so as to "survive'' in the workplace, school, family, community and relationships but such survival does not always guarantee acceptance and love.

I know this may sound trite but if you hear good things about yourself over and over, you can't help but have some of it sink in.  I listen to affirmations every evening and each morning and I believe it really works.  I started writing out strong, loving things to say to myself, even if I don't fully believe them. Some examples are:

  • "I utterly and completely deserve love and kindness,"
  • "I am a very loveable person,"
  • "I am kind, compassionate, intelligent, and wise."
It is easy to let old, critical voices and messages that we heard play over and over in our minds, without stopping them.  Often I barely recognize that they are there or I don't listen to them because I have heard them so often but I now know that they continue to impact how I feel and think about myself. Listening to the positive affirmations are literally changing my life, right before my eyes.

I found these great quotes to share:

Do you want to meet the love of your life?  Look in the mirror. ~Byron Katie

It's not your job to like me - it's mine. ~Byron Katie

Living life without self-courtship has a high cost. We risk losing our sensuality, our senses, precious moments with those we love, our smile, and our joy. When we romance ourselves, it prepares a fertile garden for a profusion of love to bloom in all areas of our lives. We regain passion and now becomes a moment not to be missed! ~Corrie Woods

You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection. ~Buddha

Self-love is about caring for yourself in a way that you care for others....with kindness, respect, with gentleness, with forgiveness and having self-worth.  It is impossible to have self-love without self-worth.  It is also very difficult for many women especially to have positive body images without the other two (self-love and self-worth). I am still working on the positive body image.

Now, go look at yourself in the mirror and say- "I love you"!



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