Self-love as a concept for well-being has seen an astounding rise in recent times. It has become a quintessential prescription for us to live a richer and fuller life. At the outset, self-love seems simple and obvious. Most commonly it is construed as putting your interests before others’; nurturing your health with great food and exercise; having downtime; establishing healthy boundaries, and cutting yourself some slack.
All of this is true, but there is much more to it. It is so elusive to me because, it is natural to think that we inherently love ourselves, don’t we? We quite often act from a place of self-interest, we almost always put ourselves before others — so surely it arises due to the love of thyself, right? But when we think more deeply about it, perhaps it rises from self-protection? Maybe caution? Or self-preservation? I am not sure it comes from love — at least not the pure, unconditional, fully accepting love.
Because to love unconditionally is to honor all that we are — and all that we are not — while keeping space for all that we want to be.
Do we ever really do that? To recognize and accept the shades of our hearts, the inundations in our mind, and the peculiarities in our bodies, our multiple limitations and challenges, our aspirations, dreams, and desires — no matter how distant or obscure they may seem — unconditionally?
If we did, we would be able to laugh at ourselves — wholeheartedly.
Think of how wholeheartedly you would laugh at a two-year-old that is just beginning to speak and is erring on every word they learn or the mess they make when they just being to start using a spoon and fork. Because you embrace their effort, cut them the slack, teach them to be more while loving them completely in their less. Can we do that to ourselves? To err, and learn, but laugh it off because we didn’t know better? To make mistakes, not know and yet laugh at our unknowingness without allowing judgment? This judgment creates a wedge in our learning and growth. It is like trying to read a book in very dim light, where you are struggling to see the words. Our judgment and shame dims our light and makes it harder for us to learn freely, grow freely, and become accepting of ourselves, and consequently, others.
Our way of self-love, I want to believe is more out of self-preservation. It is a way for us to hide everything that we are not accepting within us. We get offended too easily, we hurt too easily, we shame too easily, anything can throw us off the center of our balance! I don’t intend to say tolerate when something is not right, or a certain external situation is a canker to you. All I intend is for us to look inward to see what is holding us back.
What we do, unknowingly, is to build a tower of hiding behind our successes, our appearance, our knowledge, our possessions, and accolades. The taller the tower gets, the deeper it takes a foundation into our identity. The deeper we tie this to our identity, the more we dis-empower ourselves. And the more cynical and punishing we become of ourselves and the world around us. And the one thing we should watch out for, ever so carefully, is this very hidden beast – cynicism. As Maria Popova profoundly elucidates,
Don’t just resist cynicism — fight it actively. Fight it in yourself, for this ungainly beast lays dormant in each of us, and counter it in those you love and engage with, by modeling its opposite. Unlike critical thinking, that pillar of reason and necessary counterpart to hope, it is inherently uncreative, un-constructive, and spiritually corrosive.
I don’t mean that we shouldn’t achieve or be better, I just don’t think we should rely on it extensively to draw value and meaning to our lives. Just knowing this, will liberate us to a great degree. It will help you become an ever-curious, free soul that pursues activities to expand their heart and minds, who thrives in their own way and flows through life with greater contentment.
There is a beautiful spot where you can laugh at yourself, your bloopers, your shortcomings, your trip-ups- without allowing humiliation, judgment, fear, or self-consciousness to take over. You are displaying patience with yourself and the unfolding of your life, you are opening your self up freely to learning without lessening your self-esteem. When you laugh at yourself, you establish self-worth. You are unapologetic about your existence even when there is no obvious goal insight.
“Because, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny. Just allow the blossoming to be- don’t hasten it, don’t force it, don’t criticise it”. — Maria Popova
This post was previously published on Change Becomes You.
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