What is it and how does one achieve it?
Depending on the person, self-love can mean a variety of things: For those who have been abused, It could be setting boundaries; burying denial in order to reveal the truth, seeking help instead of harboring secrets, and throwing away the cracked distorted image in the mirror of lies that holds one captive. With a bit of courage and determination, as one begins to apply these actions a gradual metamorphosis starts to occur: The crusty casing that scarred the soul commences to flake away in barely noticeable increments; one layer at a time, making way for the self- respect that was pilfered by another without knowledge or consent. The race is on. Coming down the stretch and jockeying for position, self-respect moves ahead, clearing the way for self-love. And it is a photo finish, leaving yesterday’s scars buried in the dust.
Low self -esteem is yet another culprit that robs one of the ability to acquire and practice self-love: I’m not good enough, she is prettier, he is smarter, my gums show when I smile, I’m too fat, who wants to hear what I have to say? This contrast and comparison game can be self-inflicted or learned. Unreasonable expectations filter down through parents who love us and want the best for us, through teachers who compare us to older siblings, and even by a Society that values intelligence and beauty over heart and soul. Even if these unrelenting messages were hammered into our consciousness by others, we began to believe them internalize them, and over time, exacerbate them. The best recipe for acquiring self-love due to low self-esteem is to get a new cookbook. Throw out the stale, rancid ingredients that tainted your soul and replace them with fresh new concoctions: Add that tablespoon of poise to that cup of confidence, throw in a teaspoon each of faith, pride, and courage. Fold in an abundant supply of risk. Then sit back and watch a masterpiece as it rises to the occasion.
Two other types of personalities that cannot be left out of the equation are the perfectionist and the co-dependent. The former is so busy trying to live up to his own, as well as others’ expectations that there is little time for self-love. This constant striving to never make a mistake, be the best, and succeed at all costs, is not only draining but often conceals a fear that to fail is a death knell. Perfectionists are intimidating because they usually expect perfectionism from everyone else. Contrary to appearances, perfectionist rarely see themselves as successful; like those suffering from low self- esteem, they never feel quite good enough. Perhaps the portal to self-love for these marathon contenders can be found somewhere in the middle of the race where self- acceptance and a willingness to just be human offers relief.
Like the perfectionist, the co-dependents have neither the time nor the inclination, to engage in self-love. They are dedicated to lavishing all their love and energy on friends, family, the kindred spirits of friends and family, and anyone, and everyone else they meet. Before they realize it, patching broken hearts and stitching frayed relationships morphs into a lifelong occupation that leaves them exhausted and resentful. The only hope for this exhausted seamstress, or tailor, is to shred the crumpled pattern, toss away the needle and thread and seek out that empty fitting room labeled me.
Most of us fall into one, two, or all these categories. And while none of these remedies, are easy, or come with a guarantee, self-love is the byproduct of practice, practice, practice.