Loving Myself? How Does That Work?

My Teacher said that the greatest commandment was to love God or, "Love your neighbor as yourself." And that's just the problem, because in practice that's what happens, i.e. we limit love to coping with our neighbor like we cope with ourselves.

Why does this seem so difficult, to love oneself? Well, first of all most of us were not supported as children or mentored by our adults in doing so. Instead of loving ourselves we were taught to make ourselves better so that we would be more deserving of love.

To even believe that it's possible to make ourselves better, we have to also accept that something is wrong with us, that God created us less than we could be. Then after choking down the belief in getting better, we witnessed that love was rationed to those who proved deserving. Some of us faced this within our families and certainly within society. Love became a reward for: behavior, efforts, results and personality.

None of this is what my Teacher was referring to in loving ourselves for love is neither a quantity nor quality that can be doled out. Love is our nature, released through our willingness to be real and open with ourselves and one another. Released, love spontaneously floods our being and everyone, restricted only when through fear we choose to shut down our natural invitation for all parts of us (others) to enter within.

To love oneself is a preciously powerful act. And in truth, we cannot love another without knowing love for ourselves. It's why relationships so consistently lose the vitality that is love. If we don't feel safe enough to give ourselves to our love, how can we be so with another?

Self-love starts with self-knowledge and understanding. Many of us have been so confused by living as who we're not (becoming better) in quest of what's not (love as a reward), that the opportunity of simply loving who we are, can seem foreign and frightening.

But this is where love begins. Think of it like this. To love myself, I need to get to know whom I would love. Maybe it's time to start dating myself. Yes, it can seem awkward. I need to start out slow, maybe with something simple like flowers or a walk in the park. Get to know who I am, what I like, what makes me happy. The first date may not be everything I dream of, but you know what, it will be the start of something wonderful and lasting.

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