You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.
Yes, none other than the Buddha says we have to love ourselves. Not just love, but be affectionate. We must feel endearing to that person we so often ‘other’ because that is what is done to us daily. That mountain called self-love is one most people seem to think is bigger and farther away than Mt. Everest. What creates such a disconnect from something so basic to our health and well-being?
The other day a friend wrote me a despairing email about meeting someone for whom she felt a romantic attraction — how it brought up all of her insecurities and feelings of not being worthy. We then moved to WhatsApp and continued the conversation. She, like most people, wants to feel loved. She, like most people, still look outside of themselves for that validation. Too risky and too often a panacea, an addiction so we can dull the pain. I wanted to nail her ass to a tree and shove love and affection down her throat. Not really, but my own despair bubbles up inside when so many beloveds cannot see their way through the forest of self-hate. As a woman of color and an immigrant, messages about her lack of importance in the dominant culture tumble her fragile self-love down a rocky hill again and again.
I will share what I told her and what I do to practice love and affection toward myself. I told her love had to come from herself, that she had to love herself. And she said she couldn’t. Una mentira, I said, the crap you have been fed and you then chewed and swallowed, thinking it was nourishment when it was toxic.
Today, I said, note down everything you do to love yourself. Reaching out to me, drinking water, taking care of yourself. This was the way to swim against the current of hate. Swim towards love. Otherwise, I told her, we live in the past. We go back and keep opening our mouths out of habit, hoping this time we will get from someone else what we already have inside, the power to see our magnificence.
I consider almost every act of every day an act of love and affection for myself. Getting enough sleep, meditating, being grateful for life. That is even before I get out of bed. Then rolling over on my side so I don’t stress my back when I sit up. Putting on slippers so my feet are comfortable. Getting on my roller and relaxing my sacrum, then rolling up and down my spine to make sure any tightness is released. That is before I even climb down from my loft.
I think you get the picture of what I am saying here. Love and affection are right there, every day, every action, and more than anything, every thought. I play tennis and all too often I hear two kinds of chatter from other women. The first consists of apologies for, basically, not being perfect. Sorry I hit the ball out, sorry I walked by you a little too closely, sorry my ball toss was offline so I had to toss it again. The other chatter is talking negatively about other players or coaches. When we throw our negativity on others to see if it will stick, we are too often trying to convince ourselves we are good because they are bad. You would think lives hung in the balance. The biggest loss in these conversations happening beside tennis courts and in workplaces, cafes, and homes is that it is time lost. Time and energy that could be used to give and receive love and affection.
It is no surprise the Buddha created an 8-fold path to end suffering that included right thought, right speech, and right action. Not as in oops, sorry, I did that wrong. More as in detached, loving and non-violent thoughts, honest and useful speech, and authentic, honorable actions. To ourselves first—you, yourself, said the Buddha. That then seeds our approach to others. It does not mean we cannot be angry or disappointed. It does means blame, shame, and attacking ourselves can only result in doing so to others unnecessarily. I was training with a lovely, vibrant woman and we agreed that life was too short to sweat the small stuff. It does not mean ignoring micro-aggressions, but it does mean measuring our responses with what we want to feed, told beautifully in this Cherokee story.
And then there is the other way we attempt to address the crux of self-love. The flip side of the negativity towards ourselves and others is bending over backwards (not good for the spine or our well-being) to give love and be compassionate to others. The problem is that if one’s love for self is not clean and well fed, then that external love gets tangled up in unconsciously expecting reciprocity from others that is not asked for directly. We think that if we give what we want, then those around us would get the meta-message. That would work if we were all well-fed and saw ourselves as beloved. We know that is rarely the case. We know because we understand hunger—it is too often our motivator rather than self-love.
The question is not “How do I?” practice self-love. The question is: “Why don’t you see that you do?” “Why don’t you see that you can easily practice even more?” “Why don’t you accept that your power has never left you?”
Email me for my Health & Wellness Checklist – you will get to see what you do everyday to love yourself, you can see how to easily practice even more, and you will see your power manifested every day. #52essays2017
an unsolved question
an essential point requiring resolution or resolving an outcome