Why it’s our biggest challenge and greatest opportunity to live a life fulfilled.
A lot of people talk about it yet very few of us understand it. It’s hard to define, difficult to balance so as to not fall into conceit, and even more challenging to practice daily within ourselves. It’s the ambiguity surrounding self-love and the ‘how do you measure that?’ intangibility that causes us to be in awe of its power yet still be somewhat comfortable with it sitting in a corner somewhere rather than inviting it into our hearts and minds to wrestle with how we might adopt it as part of ourselves.
In my view self-love is the practice of thinking and acting in alignment with ones own happiness. Being, doing and saying the things that make us happy. Most of us don’t. Often we talk down to ourselves, remind ourselves of what we are not, compare ourselves to our future self or worse the perfection we perceive in others. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson, a great American philosopher and poet who said in 1841 that “envy is ignorance and imitation is suicide.” Meaning if we still envy somebody else or somebody else’s life, we are blissfully unaware of their world in its entirety (everyone is fighting their own battle in silence, even success carries a unique and heavy burden). And to imitate someone else comes at the sacrifice of your greatest gift; your individuality. Your self.
What makes us different is what makes us brilliant. Our uniqueness, our differences, our hidden-from-the-outside-world vulnerabilities that carry the essence of our individuality that could truly connect us with ourselves and the outside world, if only we embraced them and recognised their brilliance. When we idolise and put on a pedestal the path or persona of others it is to deny the very part of us that carries the most power and the greatest magic. Be you, unapologetically, and watch as the world smiles back.
“What makes us different is what makes us brilliant.”
Self-love is not conceit, it is certainly not arrogance (arrogance is often the first sign of a lack thereof), it is not waking up every morning with the urge to hug yourself, it is simply speaking to yourself, coaching yourself and treating yourself the same way you would your best friend. When you make a mistake do you repetitively beat yourself up or do you coach yourself through it and encourage yourself to try again with an improved approach? When you accomplish something, however small or however large, do you acknowledge it and allow yourself to feel proud even in the absence of the praise of others? When you think about your future self, do you do so in a way that minimises and criticises who you are today or do you celebrate who you are today while being grateful for the journey ahead?
These are tiny shifts in our thinking, however like the butterfly who flaps its wings in the right place at the right time creating a tiny motion on one side of the world to become a tornado on the other. These small movements can mean the world of difference to how we see, and feel about ourselves. It’s in changing how we see ourselves that we change our entire world.
In my exploration of self-love, what enables us to foster it and what causes us to lose it, I have found that it is often the scars of our past, or more accurately our interpretation of those scars, that cause us to forget how to be kind to ourselves. It’s the parent who didn’t love us the way we thought we needed, it’s the sibling who we always elevated and in doing so minimised ourselves, it’s the partner who treated us exactly how we feared, it’s the job opportunity we weren’t quite ready for, the break-up we never quite recovered from. It’s these events that are often the root cause and the foundation of the unconscious rationale we carry unnecessarily. This creates the perfect internal environment for self-blame, a lack of self-worth and feelings of inadequacy.
In my experience so much of the richness in life comes from the most trialling times. It’s in times of real adversity or severe rejection that lay the greatest pieces of wisdom that if only we stop to look for them, pick them up and carry them forward that we would realise we invited these experiences into our world in order to teach us the lessons we needed most in order to become the person we are capable of becoming.
“It’s in times of real adversity or severe rejection
that lay the greatest pieces of wisdom.”
Do you believe that everything happens for a reason?
I have a somewhat spiritual belief (this is where I get a bit woo-woo) that we chose every experience we have. Not necessarily at a physical or tangible level, but at a spiritual level. If we are here to grow as people and evolve as spiritual beings, then the coming of adversity is simply the universe responding to our most pressing request; the request to grow and evolve to the greatest degree in the hope of actualising our highest-self during our time here on planet Earth.
One question I continually ask of myself and the universe whenever I am going through a challenging period, or reflecting on the most severe trials of the past, is “If I chose for this to happen for a positive reason, what would that be?”
“If I chose for this to happen for a positive reason, what would that have been?”
What was this experience here to teach me? Who is the person this experience is giving me the opportunity to become? What part of myself was I most desperately trying to actualise at the time and how did this experience offer the exact lessons required to develop that part of myself?
Did I need to learn to trust myself more? Did I need to learn to move beyond self and live in the service of others? Paradoxically did I need to learn to take better care of myself? Did I need to learn to love more wisely? Did I need to learn the true value of integrity? Did I need move from one chapter to the next? Did I need to refresh my personal values to updated principles that were a truer reflection of who I have become today? And ultimately, did I need to achieve higher levels of self-love?
All pain is the result of incomplete or inaccurate thinking. A social paradigm we’re brought up believing is that ‘the truth hurts’. Bullshit. The real truth never hurts. If it hurts it’s because you haven’t found the highest truth yet. You’ve bought into a story you created or absorbed from others and have been running that story ever since. You haven’t got to the true essence of what the experience was here to teach you. If everything happens for a reason, what was the real reason you have chosen everything you have experienced up until now including the person you are today?
Imagine you were talking to your best friend who had been through something similar, what questions would you ask and words would you offer in order to help them move beyond the past and step into the future that awaits them?
These are the questions and the words you need to offer yourself.
I believe you are exactly where you need to be. I believe you are the perfect version of you right now – if this wasn’t the perfect version of you then you would already be someone else. I believe the path that has brought you to exactly where you stand today was laid out perfectly. It is your job to identify why.
In a world that encourages us to find self-validation in the external, in a world that thinks love is something that is experienced only when someone else gives it to you, in a world that is constantly reminding us that someone else has the answers and to trust authority before we trust our self, the greatest gift we can receive is the gift that only we can give ourselves, the realisation and appreciation that the most powerful guidance comes from ones self.
Most people spend their lives waiting. Waiting for a hero to arrive. Waiting for that single breakthrough moment that will instantly change everything. They spend their life with an emptiness, waiting for something to arrive that fills the void and it never comes. They die not knowing that the key they sought all along was something they could have found in themselves, had they just taken time to look within.
The most trustworthy guide to steer one in the direction of ones grandest future is the guidance that comes from you; your intuition.
My life is lead by my heart and my intuition. If I’m reading something and my stomach turns, I ask myself, “Why did that cause a reaction in me? What is it about this that is inconsistent with who I am and what I believe?” Similarly if I am reading something and I feel my soul come alive from reading a paragraph, I ask myself, “What was it about this message that resonated with me so deeply? What is this here to teach me about myself and my path?” I believe that intuition is the most powerful language in the universe. It is the voice that doesn’t speak. Through being connected to self and being aware of what resonates with your very being, you have tapped into the most powerful guiding system you have; your soul. Don’t dampen that voice. Enable it, give volume to it by allowing it to live in an environment where it is honoured, where it is loved.
“I believe that intuition is the most powerful language in the universe.”
In 1841 Emerson also said, “ …because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
Experience is the greatest of teachers. Often the pain we feel from the present or from the past is simply the universe screaming at us the lessons we are yet to embrace. In learning to accurately interpret the events of the past and practice self-love and kindness, we enable our lives to be guided by our selves and it is through this endeavour that I believe we grow into our true selves. Our best selves.
What if the hero you were seeking this whole time was you?
I want to thank my Team at The Entourage for inspiring this exploration. It is through the one-on-one conversations with you every day in our little EDC in Sydney, Australia that helps me form and articulate my views around issues as profound and evasive as self-love. Keep buying me tea and asking the hard questions and I’ll keep doing my best to answer them. Kh, JL and the whole Team, I love you guys.