Why must we be reminded to love ourselves?
It would seem that love is an intrinsic state but what is actually true is as human animals we are wired to fear. Rather, we are wired to respond to threats with the instinctual compulsion to fight, flight, freeze or faint. In his book Waking the Tiger, Peter Levine talks about how animals reset their nervous systems after a threat has been imposed and then subsided by literally shaking it out.
But, humans are more than just animals. They are also sentient creatures with a meaning-making-mind.
Meaning making is also a mechanism of reorganizing threat and regulating the nervous system.
And it doesn’t always work.
The meanings made are almost always informed by prior events that create a schema in the mind. That is to say, the mind plays go-fish and pairs up new stimuli with old experiences. Then the body stores this pairing within the cells—this is known as cellular memory.
What we remember most is criticism, shame, mockery, abiding and pandering. This is true because most negative communications present as some form of threat therefore reinforcing the biological imperative to survive. Part of survival is belonging. Our drive to belong informs, if not instructs, a majority of decisions and behaviors.
With this as a basic foundation of existence it is no wonder that we must be reminded to love ourselves. Loving oneself means to both accept instinct and move beyond impulse to a place of experiential understanding of oneness. There is an irony in that all knowing is filtered through our senses. So, in practical terms, enlivening the senses is an act of love.
Remembering to do this is not a singular action. It is cyclical and requires reinforcement through repetition.
So, given the human predilection to belong paired with the threat-managing-meaning-making-mind how does one truly love themselves?
It is an interesting question that, as many queries often do, leads to more questions. The first being, what is the self that the self is supposed to love?
Rather than visit the Victorian halls of early twentieth century psychology to arrive at a definition, I offer this instead: The loving of self is God recognizing itself. It is the all of everything acknowledging its nothing. It is the philosophical quandary of dualism existing within the boundaries of infinity.
In other words, the first step in loving the self is acknowledging there is a self to love.
This then gives rise to the second question that was born from the first, “What is love?”
It is so many things and for simplification sake it is these three things: the lack of fear or antithesis of fear; it is acceptance and gratitude; it is divine purity.
So imagine for a moment that loving oneself is recognition of one’s existence through the lens of fearlessness, acceptance, gratitude and divine purity. This perspective transforms living from a place of mere survival to a place of infinite possibility.
Loving oneself is transcendent. It is both an independent act and an interdependent assertion.
Self-love is the force that negotiates internal and external realities. This negotiation creates balance in the body-mind. Therefore, self-love is an independent act because it cannot be disrupted. It can only be informed by internal states and external stimuli.
Further, self-love is interdependent because, much like the helix structure of DNA, it mirrors and is complimentary to a counterpart. Self-love does not happen in a vacuum nor does existence. Self-love is a learned behavior and not an innate characteristic.
Again, basic needs will always trump transcendence as long as existence is experienced within and through physical form. So, in order to love the self or practice self-love one must be willing to learn.
To learn you must be receptive, perceptive and hungry.
Receptivity—a state of conscious allowing—nurtures the whole of human-beings. In order for a person to be receptive they must first remember that they are not separate from anyone or anything. Receptivity is inclusive. In simple terms, it is fearlessly and curiously saying yes to life’s unfolding.
When a person is receptive they dare to dream big dreams; tell the truth; be flexible; and not for one moment shrink in the face of opposition but rather transform opposition into opportunity.
Receptivity shapes perceptibility. They work in tandem.
When my parents died, I felt as I died with them. When I got fired from my thirteen-dollar-an-hour agency job I thought I would be poor forever. When the love of my life gave up fighting for the relationship I felt as if all hope was lost. And I am still here because of one fundamental belief, “The God of heaven and earth; the creator of the universe and the universe itself is in favor of me.”
In short, each of the devastating events in my life coalesced to form my unwavering belief that death is a part of life; a part of growth. My perception shifted my ability to love myself. I understood with conviction that struggle is but a tool of refinement.
I have struggled and toiled with shame, self-worth and feeling like an inadequate member of society. It was the love inside of me that overcame my struggles because I learned to love them too.
Once you find what aligns your soul; that which inspires your dreams will be so fervently sought after that all else pales in comparison. This is the hunger of learning to love yourself. It is the root of desire.
The person you want to be, the things you want to do and the events you want to experience will become manifest as a direct result of your hunger. Your want and will-to-being will create an alchemical process resulting in clarity, purpose and joy.
Loving yourself simply means embracing the creative capacity to live the life you desire and are called to. There is no dream too big and no imagining too grand for if there were it would exist beyond your perception. To Love yourself is to embrace with certainty that you are not subject to external opinion because you preside over your life from a place of interpersonal dominion.
The applications of questions such as How, What or Where are simply guide posts on your unique and magnificent journey. Embrace your body for it is the temple in which your soul resides. Remember who you truly are—I am that; I am.
You are love. You are.
If you would like to move beyond the placating phrase, “Love yourself” into the authentic experience of doing so; join the movement on Facebook at Love Yourself for Real This Time.
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Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons