Ah, self love. Everyone talks about it, but what is it actually? The best teachers and healers always say that a happy life comes down to loving yourself, but how do we actually do that? The path to self love can be confusing, and it’s not always as pretty as we think it should be, but it’s also not as hard as we often make it out to be.
Loving yourself means loving ALL the parts of yourself, and that’s where a lot of people get stuck. We’ve been conditioned to believe that we are only lovable when we are good - when we look the right way, behave the right way, think the right way, etc. So we try to “stay positive” and focus on the “good” parts of ourselves, and we think loving ourselves means being grateful for our positive qualities and staying aligned with them. Yes, it is essential to be grateful for these positive qualities - after all, they are unique gifts that we have to offer the world. However, this is just one part of us. There is also the shadow side.
Everyone has a shadow side. The shadow is the darker parts of who we are. It is the unresolved anger, the grief, the jealousy, the pettiness, the fear and doubt, the sabotager, the manipulator, the perpetrator…we’ve all been there. Even if today you are a totally enlightened and perfect person, most likely in the past you acted out your shadow parts, even if it was just as a child who was learning their way in the world. That is still a part of who you are, even if it’s not consciously active today.
Even though the shadow is a completely natural (and necessary) part of us, we often judge it as unacceptable. And so in an attempt to evolve and grow up and be better, we push that part away. However, the act of pushing away keeps us in a perpetual state of disintegration, which prevents us from really maturing and from experiencing wholeness. We can’t feel whole or healed when we cut off different parts of ourselves, and we definitely can’t find complete self love in this way.
We disown aspects of ourselves in so many ways - with holding patterns in the body that prevent feeling (or cause too much feeling, such as in the case of chronic pain), by repressing memories or emotions, or refusing to look at certain ares of our lives. The problem is that by shunning, disgracing, and disowning aspects of ourselves, we turn away from wholeness. We subconsciously experience a state of being split, and that drains our power to act, create, and make a positive impact in alignment with our highest values.
If you’re not sold on the idea of a person being made up of multiple parts, just think about how complex a human is. You play several roles in the course of any given day - a lover, a daughter/son, a worker, a friend, a student, a teacher, an athlete, an artist, a parent etc. or whatever applies to you. Not to mention you have a mind, a body, and a spirit. Several schools of psychology also agree that the internal landscape of a person includes an inner child part, an adult part, and a protector, among other aspects of the ego. Human beings are miraculously complex beings who can literally shape shift - think for a moment about all the different lives you’ve already lived in this one lifetime…!
When you allow yourself to only love what you deem to be the “positive” parts of yourself, you actually add more energy to the shadow through the subconscious shame that is generated about these other parts of you. Shame is the biggest enemy of self love because it gives us the message, “I am bad.” Plus, parts of you that you try to push away will often act out in an effort to be seen and integrated. There’s a saying that “what we resist persists,” and this is certainly true when it comes to the pathway of finding self love. The more you resist accepting yourself, the more you will be challenged to do so.
The bottom line is, you are made up of many different parts, and each part is integral to holding the whole of you together. This doesn’t mean that you need to act out the shadow aspects, but they must be acknowledged and integrated into your self love process. The key to accepting and integrating the shadow parts is to acknowledge the intent of that identity, emotion, etc. For instance, someone who manipulates and tries to control other people is usually operating with the intent of feeling safe and protected themselves. Manipulation and control are not behaviors that we want to perpetuate, but until we acknowledge the emotion of fear and need for a feeling of safety that drives that behavior, it will be challenging to let go of it. Only through loving that part of you that feels scared and unsafe will you be able to find the stability to release the negative behaviors and emotions that once ruled your experience.
When we talk about “letting go,” think for a moment, where is the place where all this stuff that we “let go” goes? The truth is, when it’s done in a healthy way, it doesn’t go anywhere - when we successfully let something go, it actually just becomes accepted and integrated into the whole of who we are. When that happens we can feel whole and healed and truly experience the meaning of self love.
Our true work on this path of growth is to expand our consciousness and capacity to contain different perspectives and aspects, so that we can honor all of them at once without feeling split. The paradox is that we must first see what is and love what is before we can create and anchor what is possible. This is the pathway to true self love and soul evolution. If it's possible for me, then it's definitely possible for you. What one person can do, any person can do. For me, I was finally able to attain this through Heart Centered Hypnotherapy, which I've incorporated into my Higher Self Therapies system. Find whatever works best for you, and then get to the work of loving yourself. You can do this - I believe in you, and I love you.
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