Chapter 6: Practice Loving Yourself

 love yourself

The bridge with the magnificent view, where William first began to open himself to his feelings, had become one of William and Charmaine’s favorite places to talk. He always sensed the presence of something bigger than life when he looked out over the city below.

“I feel,” he said, “like I’m seeing a real difference as I learn to apply the Clues to my everyday life. Remember my telling you about George, the fellow who always smiles and says hello when I pass him on the way home from work?”

“Sure I do.” Charmaine nodded with interest.

“Well, yesterday I stopped and talked to him again. He’s interesting and has a great sense of humor – a genuinely nice guy. He introduced me to his family and friends. They all seemed so happy. George and his wife Irene just had a new baby named Jacob, after his grandfather.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, the little guy looks just like his dad, especially the ears but I think he has his mother’s eyes – just the sweetest, most precious little thing I’ve ever seen! I felt good just being near that little guy.”

“Babies have that effect on us, don’t they,” said Charmaine.

“They’re having a party to welcome him to the world and they want me to come. They even plan to have a softball game at the park after the party! Man, I haven’t played softball in years. I told George about you and he smiled and said you should come too.”

“Why, thanks for thinking of me, William! I think I will. Nice to see you getting out and about...”

“I’ve been reaching out to some of the people at work, too. And,” he said with a sparkle in his eye, “I met a really interesting woman named Emily. She’s a friend of Irene’s.”

“You’re becoming quite the social butterfly!”

“What an unlikely picture that paints! But you know, I sometimes get frustrated with myself for being unable to apply what I’m learning from the Clues all the time. If I could just be more present – or more aware – or more open to my suffering, I’d reap the benefits of this ancient wisdom more consistently. I keep catching myself coming from my ego, you know, thinking with my ‘little mind’. Any suggestions?”

“My first suggestion,” Charmaine said, “is be fair and gentle with yourself. You can’t expect to apply the wisdom from the Clues all the time. You’ll be amazed how, with practice, it eventually becomes second nature to you. And yes, I do have a few other suggestions. But right now let’s just watch the sun go down. Don’t those colors just take your breath away!”

The flaming reds, subtle pinks and dusty lavenders looked like an airbrushed painting on the edge of the western sky. It was a moment, a moment of now for both of them. Everything was still. A lone bird sang one last note... a light breeze brushed softly by on its way to evening in the city.

Charmaine had felt William’s frustration and understood it well. At times she felt impatient with herself, too.

“I think it’s time to talk about the fourth Clue,” she said, turning to her young friend.

“What is it?”“It’s about loving yourself.”

“Loving yourself! It’s conceited to love yourself. The people I know like that are arrogant, self-centered jerks. I don’t want to be like them!”

“That’s one of the forms it can take when the ego feels the need for love. at kind of self-centeredness actually reflects fear and insecurity. The ego thinks it’s quite special and separate from others. But loving yourself in the way I’m talking about is what happens when the ego allows in and accepts the soul’s Divine love. Then loving yourself is a very different thing.”

“Oh.”

“The soul loves the ego unconditionally, William, even with all its warts and wrinkles, with all of its strengths and weaknesses. Our ego’s love for itself, on the other hand, is quite conditional and judgmental.”

“I can relate to that,” William said emphatically. “Oh, man, just the thought of how I tend to beat myself up makes me feel uncomfortable.”

“You have difficulty forgiving yourself?”

“It’s not my strong suit,” William said regretfully. “Actually, I give myself a pretty hard time when I foul up. I wish I could be more... even.”

“You mean perfect,” asked Charmaine, smiling gently.

“Well, yeah...like some people I know.”

“They probably wish the same thing.”

“I just get so down when things don’t work out. It makes me wonder if I’m not good enough. I feel especially discouraged when I don’t get much respect from my boss.”

“That would feel discouraging,” Charmaine said, nodding sympathetically.

“I have moments when I don’t like myself very much. I suspect if others knew me better they wouldn’t like me either.”

William shook his head as if to clear it.

“I’m feeling lousy again, just thinking about it. You know what? I have an almost overpowering urge to eat a carton of ice cream right now. How do I short-circuit – ‘soul-robbing activities’ like that?”

“Remember,” she answered, “all those fearful insecure thoughts are exactly what’s making you feel lousy again.”

“I know... they come from my ego... my ‘little mind’. I guess if I could embrace the idea of having fondness for my ego rather than demonizing it, my life would be less painful. If I have a little more compassion for my ego, I’ll have more patience for it and be able to chuckle at its struggles. It’d be like watching little Jacob stumble and fall when he tries to stand or walk as he gets a little older. In the same way, I’d begin to see my mistakes with more patience and tenderness. I might begin to see my mistakes as simply experiences of learning to be in the world instead of feeling like I have to be perfect all the time.”

“Let’s start with you trying to be perfect,” said Charmaine. “Consider the possibility that you are perfect.”

“Oh, right!”“Consider it, William,” Charmaine repeated firmly. “Perfect, as you are. Could your ‘little mind’ be denying the Divine power that lies within you by rejecting the idea that you are indeed perfect in that place where your soul resides?”

“Huh?”

“And anyway, define ‘perfect’! Perfect is different things to different people - a moving target. But we are all perfect at the soul level where we connect to the Divine. To deny that Divine presence is to lack self-love. And without self-love, we’re unable to love others or receive their love in return.”

William signed an emphatic ‘time-out’ with his hands.

“Are we talking religion, here,” he asked, “because I’m not sure if I believe in Divine with a capital D.”

“We’re talking spirituality here,” she answered, “because we’re all spiritual beings, no matter how you define it. Let me explain it an- other way, then. Many people cling to the need to be perfect - at least to constantly strive to be. But our soul, the part of us that is already perfect, loves the part of us that is not yet perfect - our ego.

“Remember, you love the ones you love because of who they are, not because they’re perfect. Treat yourself the same way. Let your heart be open to listening and understanding yourself. Be open to everyone’s absolute right to be different and unique.”

“We all have the right to be different and unique?”

“Well, of course,” Charmaine chuckled. “William, you have as much value as anybody that has ever been born. We all do! It’d be a little arrogant to think you were special and unique by being the only one worth less.”

William marveled at the simplicity of Charmaine’s suggestion.

“So, just do my best to have an open heart? at seems like an easy way to start loving myself. But, some people seem able to do the right thing naturally,” he added wistfully.

“I know it may often look like that, William. But comparing yourself to others is rarely in the service of loving yourself. When you do compare yourself with others you’ll always find those that are better or worse than you are. Your ego’s tendency to compare is more in the service of beating yourself into hopelessness.”

“Why do we beat ourselves up so much?”

“All this lack of compassion, patience and love for ourselves comes from the picture our egos innocently...”

 “...but misguidedly...” William interjected.

“...but misguidedly paint of perfection for ourselves – which, of course, is impossible to achieve,” Charmaine asserted. “Our ego thinks if it were ever-so perfect, it would get the love it desperately needs. But it’s always looking out in the world for that love.”

“And it doesn’t exist out there,” he said.

“Right, so... we give up on ourselves. Since we can’t forgive ourselves for being imperfect, we can’t forgive others either.”

“That makes sense. So love and respect for yourself are totally linked to loving and respecting others.”

“You got it.”

“Sounds like the age-old reason why people of the world can’t seem to get along,” said William thoughtfully.

“I’d say so,” Charmaine agreed. “People of all sizes, shapes and colors give themselves a hard time. Not having affection and respect for ourselves is a first step to punishing, abusing and ultimately rejecting ourselves. And I’ve noticed that those who don’t respect themselves have little compassion, patience, or respect for others.”

“Good point,” he said. “How could you love someone you don’t respect?”

“And with that attitude about yourself,” said Charmaine, “it’s just logical you’ll give others a hard time too.”

“It’s a vicious circle, isn’t it? You know, that word ‘respect’ seems to come up a lot. I don’t think some of the people at work give me the respect I deserve.”

Charmaine hesitated. She didn’t want to hurt William’s feelings.

“Others tend to respect us when we respect ourselves,” she said gently. “Self-respect comes from knowing who you are at a soulful level, even if you don’t call it that. It’s about having mercy and compassion for yourself. It’s accepting all your little mistakes from the past as moments of meaning and experience to grow from. It’s honoring what your feelings are there to tell you, rather than stuffing them. And perhaps most important, it’s forgiving yourself for being unconscious about what you did or didn’t do.”

“If you feel you don’t get the love and respect you deserve, William, it’s usually not them but you who doesn’t respect and love yourself.”

“Ouch,” William exclaimed. “I have it exactly backwards, don’t I? I tend to look to others for my self-worth. I’ve always thought respect was tied to what I accomplish or what I own. That’s not the way to look at it, huh?”

“Well, no it isn’t,” Charmaine agreed. “If you don’t love yourself, you keep looking outside yourself for love, respect and acceptance. at kind of love is really hard to find. It’s elusive, it comes and goes and is paper thin...”

“Then of course,” he said, “you’re also at the mercy of others – who’re also unsure about who they are!”

“The only sustaining love we can ever really experience is our soul’s Divine love.”

“Many say that it’s God’s love we should be searching for,” said William.

“Yes, and that search begins for all of us with an inward journey. Remember, William, we are all spiritual beings and we each have a soul. Our soul is our access point to the Divine. The experience of Divine love is therefore within each one of us. If we do not feel that love it is not because it is not there. It is simply because at that particular moment we are not where it is.”

“Sometimes I’ve thought I found love out in the world,” William ventured shyly.

“That’s true, William, but it only lasts until your ego wants something else. It’s always transient if you find it out in the world. And the only way you could find the love you’re searching for out in the world, even temporarily, is because you recognize it as that same love you experience deep inside your own soul. The reality is you are actually bringing it to your worldly experience. It just looks like you are finding it out there.”

“You mean like the warm, tender feeling I had when I met Emily?”

“Exactly. And that’s why one good way to find love in the world is to realize that you are actually bringing love to the world.”

“I’m confused. How can you find it by bringing it?”

“If you don’t feel respected, be more respectful. If you don’t feel like you’re getting enough affection, be more affectionate. If you don’t feel heard, listen more. You’ll experience the very thing you’re looking for by simply bringing it to your world.”

“I think I’m starting to understand why loving yourself is so necessary.”

“I know this isn’t easy. Our ego keeps thinking the reason it’s not getting the love it needs is either that it’s not good enough or the world isn’t giving it what it deserves. e problem in those moments of now is that we identify with our innocent little ego rather than with our soul.”

William lowered his head, rubbing his forehead thoughtfully. “It’s not easy for me to love myself because I’ve been shot down, ridiculed, laughed at and questioned by my family, my teachers, my bosses and my friends most of my life. I’m going to have to look at myself differently in the future...”

“You already are, my friend. You already are. And you’re doing a fine job of it too, just in case you’re not in a good position to notice that.”

“Thanks.”

“And rest assured, you’re not alone on the journey. In one way or another, we’ve all been treated the same way. And we all have work to do, to make ourselves whole and feel better along the way. I don’t think life was set up to be a picnic for any of us. We all have our suffering to face,” Charmaine assured him.

“So, how do we do that?”

“We can learn to review and reassess our previous beliefs about ourselves including what we’ve taken in from others. We must be willing to disregard those beliefs if they don’t work for us.”

“That’s a mighty tall order,” said William. “Holding on to old beliefs and strategies is a way of life for most of us in this corporate jungle. It is a deeply grooved habit.”

“It’s important to break that habit of hanging on to episodes in our lives that make us dislike ourselves. We must find compassion for those unwanted parts of ourselves, the imperfections we’re afraid to look at.”

“But how?”

“The first step to letting go of the past is to understand that those negative behaviors originally came out of a long-standing pattern. This ‘way of being’ began forming in infancy as a completely innocent strategy for love and survival. At times, it seemed to produce the results you wanted. Understanding the innocence of its origin will make it easier for you to take the second step, which is to learn to forgive yourself. That’s part of the seventh Clue.”

“Everything we’ve ever done that came from our ego’s fear and sense of scarcity actually was an innocent ...” Charmaine paused and winked at her student.

“...but misguided strategy for love and survival,” he answered easily.

“Our behavior often comes out of our ego’s reaction to not getting what it thinks it needs or wants.”

“I see myself doing that all the time,” he admitted.

“And when we look into our own heart and see how confused we are, when we see our mistakes, it’s not just our own mistakes we see. We also then tend to project those shortcomings on to the world around us.”

“So if I don’t love myself, it’ll be difficult to love others.”

“It’s worse than that. It may be impossible to truly love at any other than an ego level if you don’t love yourself at the soulful level. You see, William, the minute we reject ourselves, there is no room for love. Rejection comes from the ego’s fear, not from the soul’s love. So if we judge or reject others for their faults, we are effectively closing our hearts to ourselves.”

“What does ‘loving others’ look like?

“Loving someone else is what happens when you let them be exactly who they are.”

“I’m not sure I could do that!”

“Don’t you want others to treat you as a unique individual and let you be who you are?”

“Well, sure...”

“Love exists when the happiness and security of another is as important to you as your own happiness and security.”

“That would be easier if others wouldn’t annoy me and do things that show no compassion for me,” William exclaimed, looking a little alarmed.

“The answer to that is to always try to understand and be patient with others. Invariably, you’ll discover that someone who rubs you the wrong way has in turn been rubbed the wrong way many times.”

“Walk a mile in his shoes, huh?”

“You can also ask yourself whose voice you’ve been listening to. Be suspicious of the voice that always makes you right and sees others at fault. But also be suspicious of the voice that always makes you wrong and tends to defer to others.”

“I know those voices well,” he sighed. “Not very friendly ones at that!”

“Exactly. Try to avoid blaming others when things go wrong.”

“Who’ll I blame then?” William grinned sheepishly.

“No one,” Charmaine laughed. “Blame is fear-based and very destructive, another soul-robbing activity. It is simply our ego’s attempt to avoid letting go of being in control.”

“Our ego running the show is really the biggest problem, isn’t it?”

“But the good news is,” said Charmaine, “you are the one that can do something to turn it around.”

“How?”

“Practice opening your heart to your own closed-heartedness.”

“Come again?”

“Opening your heart to your own closed-heartedness is the experience of your soul loving your ego, holding it with mercy, tenderness, compassion and patience.”

“That sounds too good to be true.”

“Practice being a little more gentle with yourself, William. Being gentle with yourself doesn’t mean being weak or giving up who you are. It doesn’t mean you never set boundaries for yourself or lose your ability to ask for what you want. And of course, you’ll still know the difference between what feels right and what doesn’t. You’ll be amazed at the results.”

“Okay, but what would loving myself look like? I mean how would I recognize it if it happened?”

“There are lots of ways you’ll see it happening. For one, you’ll begin to understand the difference between liking yourself and loving yourself.”

“There are times when I don’t like something I’ve done. Sometimes I don’t even like who I am very much.”

“That’s at an ego level, William. Our ego is always judging. It likes or it dislikes. e soul always loves. Learning to practice loving yourself, that is, opening your heart to your soul’s love, is healing. You’ll begin to do that naturally. e soul always loves the ego. It’s the ego that has difficulty allowing soulful love into its daily experience. Here’s another example. Remember your feeling for George’s baby?”

“Sure.”

“You felt how precious he is. You respected and even felt a kind a reverence for his life, for his sweetness and innocence. Your heart couldn’t help but open, William. at is because babies’ hearts are naturally so open to the world. And the power of an open heart is that a closed heart can not stay closed in its presence. It’ll either open or it will go away until it is ready to open. Words don’t really do the feeling justice, do they?”

“No. They don’t. I was filled with a powerful sense of awe that words just can’t describe.”

“Imagine holding yourself with that same feeling of love, tenderness, respect, patience and compassion.”

“Oh! Oh wow, that would be amazing!”

“That’s what loving yourself feels like, William. It’s not ego love. It’s the ego allowing the soul’s love to come through. In fact, it’s the same love you felt for little Jacob.”

“I understand. That’s a great example.”

“That love comes from the same Divine source. In that space of open- heartedness, all we will see is our own and each other’s innocence. In an open heart there is no fear and no judgment, just respect, tenderness and compassion. It’s a very healing space. And where do you think you will find that space?” Charmaine asked with a smile.

William laughed at Charmaine’s playful little quiz.

“In a moment of now! Man, it would be wonderful if I could feel about myself the way I felt about the baby.” He sighed heavily. “I’m always so hard on myself. I tend to think if I’m not critical of myself, I’ll never get better – I’ll turn into a fat blob of do-nothing.”

They laughed at the mental image.“Charmaine, it’s amazing how a newborn could make me feel that way. I’m beginning to understand why I feel a similar feeling at the waterfall and even right here at this bridge, especially at sunset. It’s everywhere, isn’t it? If I’m not experiencing that loving feeling, it’s not because it’s not there. It’s because at that moment of now I am simply not where it is. If I miss that feeling, it’s an indicator that my ego has taken charge. Hmm. All of a sudden that feels like a powerful and practical idea.”

“It’s odd,” Charmaine mused, “how easy it is for me to have mercy and compassion for your struggle and yet sometimes have difficulty allowing that same mercy and compassion for my own struggles.”

“You have struggles? What do you struggle with, Charmaine?”  

“Oh, I have lots of struggles. Well, first of all, I struggle with some of my unhealthy habits that I just don’t seem to be ready to give up. At times I get impatient with myself for smoking a cigarette now and then. I know it’d be better for me if I didn’t. But I guess I just haven’t quite suffered enough, to change my behavior.”

“I also sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the suffering I see out in the world. It’s hard to keep my heart open to it all because it pains me deeply. At times it’s just too big for me. So I isolate myself from the world. Then I feel lonely.”

Charmaine rubbed her sore ankle.

“I’m still not willing to stop flying as fast as I can around corners on my roller blades even though it hurts my ankle. It’s been getting worse over the last few years. But I accept it as the price I pay to do something I love.”

“William,” Charmaine said, “there is something that helps me open my heart to myself.”

“What?”

“I remind myself that there is no premature wisdom in the universe. In other words, we are all right on schedule in our learning process. We won’t learn until we are ready to learn. Sometimes we have simply not suffered enough yet. We will keep making the same mistakes and continue to suffer until we are finally ready to let go of whatever we were holding onto. It could be an activity, a job, a relationship or a substance. For example, the short term oral comfort I get by sucking on a cigarette will feel worth it until it doesn’t. That’s when I will stop. Just because I think I may know what it would be wise to do, like quit smoking, does not mean I am quite ready to actually do it.”

“That’s a tough one to accept. It makes perfect sense but I really do think I should be further along than I am in my personal growth. I’m an adult, for crying out loud. And I’m way behind where I should be.”

“Remember, William, we’re all right on schedule. Learning life’s lessons takes time. That is why it is so helpful to be patient and gentle with ourselves. We’re spiritual beings doing our spiritual work while living in physical bodies in this physical world. All of us are on a journey and we’ll all make it to our destinations.”

“It’s hard to imagine I’ll ever get there. I guess it’s just like our precious little egos to think we should be more evolved than we are.”

“Here’s a little image that may be helpful for you, William. There are two caterpillars crawling along and a butterfly flies overhead. One caterpillar turns to the other and says, ‘Man, you’d never get me up in one of those!’ I believe we really are all moving, some more reluctantly than others, toward an inevitable homecoming.”

“What a great image. That’s me all right, a reluctant traveler. I guess my little ego is just being its impatient self, expecting to be further ahead than it is.”

“That’s true. And that expectation shows up everywhere in our lives. Our real work is not the work we go to every day,” Charmaine added. “Our jobs, our families, our communities and our world are simply the arenas in which we do our spiritual work.”

“Now that’s a whole different perspective,” William said, intrigued.

“So you see,” said Charmaine, “we suffer even more because we’re rarely where we think we should be on our journey. Life’s a lot easier when you give yourself permission to be exactly where you are. Remember, every moment of now is a totally fresh starting place to open your heart to yourself.”

“I see what you mean. But how can I hold my heart open when I’m suffering? That’s a big one for me.”

“Opening your heart to your own suffering is a perfect opportunity to love yourself,” she said. “Being open to fully experiencing your suffering requires a willingness, a quality of surrender. It’s in that moment of your ego’s willingness to let go of trying to stay in control, that it begins to let in the mercy, compassion and tenderness with which the soul holds the ego.”

William still looked puzzled, so Charmaine elaborated.

“The anticipation of surrender makes the ego feel vulnerable. So unless you understand the gift of suffering, that vulnerability may keep your ego closed to the soul’s love.”

“One way of practicing loving yourself,” she said, “is to practice going toward the places where you feel vulnerable.”

“Which is totally contrary to my nature,” William said with alarm. “I could get hurt!”

“That’s true. I’m talking about going toward the feelings you’re afraid to face. For example, when it’s totally appropriate to set a boundary and say ‘no’ to somebody, you might not want to face your fear of disappointing them or making them mad. So you end up agreeing to things that don’t feel right, thereby creating new suffering.”

“Bingo,” said William. “So what do you do?”

“Your willingness to go toward your feelings, to honor your own internal process, will guide you to the right choices. Your suffering, in fact, is there to tell you when you’re moving in the wrong direction.”

“A case of suffering being my friend,” said William, nodding his understanding. “Can you give me another example of what loving myself looks like?”

“Yep. Have you ever had that feeling of ‘being in the zone’, William, when things just seem to flow?”

“Occasionally.”

“It could be a moment of effortless activity when you’re totally and joyfully absorbed. It could occur during a moment at work or play when you experience the flow of your awareness, totally present to all that’s happening...”

“Such as writing, doing art, playing music or a sport?” asked William.

“Yes! In those moments of being in the zone, we tend to lose track of time. Those are the moments when the ego’s incessant thinking, judging and comparing are totally absent. Not there.”

“Cool.”

“One of the beautiful aspects of loving yourself, then, is that in the willingness to be vulnerable and fully present, you become more authentic - the one you are when your ego’s not caught up in image management.”

“What is image management?”

“Image management has to do with the amount of time and energy your ego spends managing its image for itself and others.”

“A big job!”

“I’ll say! e reason your ego does this is that it doesn’t trust that it is worthy of love just the way it is. On the other hand, when your heart’s open to yourself, you’re free of all that innocent but misguided waste of time and energy. In that space lies the possibility of intimacy with the self, to know and appreciate who you really are. It also opens the possibility of authentic relationships with others, to build intimate, loving connections with the world around you.”

“So if I open my heart to myself I’ll naturally begin to feel more compassion for others. And by opening my heart to the suffering of others, it’ll help me have loving compassion for myself, at a soulful level. And so, the circle of love is complete!”

“Absolutely. Love is circular and returns to itself,” Charmaine said. “And as your heart opens wider and wider you begin to feel a natural connection with all other people, even ones you don’t know. You’ll begin to see that each of us is like one cell in the body of humanity. At the level of the ego we’re separate and alone, different and untouchable. But at the level of the soul we’re literally one. We’re not just metaphorically all connected, we’re literally all connected. There is a soulful place inside each of us where we have that very real connection with all creatures. That’s the nature of open-heartedness. Connectedness is the very essence of Divine love. Opening your heart to yourself, loving yourself, feeds this experience of connectedness. Again, the circle is complete.”

“I like that analogy,” he said. “Just the idea makes me feel relieved. I need to remember that each moment of now is a totally fresh possibility. I don’t have to carry old baggage around.”

“Refreshing concept, isn’t it? Just try to be more accepting of yourself, of both your strengths and your weaknesses. You’ll be more comfortable with your body, your thoughts and feelings.”

“I’d sure spend a lot less time feeling afraid, resentful, angry, guilty and bored – wallowing in a mire of ego-driven gunk,” William said, shifting uncomfortably. “Makes me tired just thinking of it!”

“I think you’ll find you’ll be more willing to take risks, to try new things,” Charmaine added. “When you live in your passion you’ll love what you do and do what you love. One of the biggest mistakes we make is to do something we don’t love.”

“I love my job. I just need to find a way to love my boss,” William said, grinning.

“That’s a good place to start. Whatever work you do, always look for ways to create real value and meaning or you’ll never find the passion and energy necessary to succeed. Without passion, work becomes just one more soul- robbing activity.”

“Well,” William said, his excitement gaining momentum, “I could try some new ideas I have and maybe set bigger goals for myself. If I feel more emotionally positive, I’m sure I’ll feel physically healthier, too.”

“All those things,” Charmaine said, laughing with delight at William’s boyish excitement.

“I’m on a roll, here,” he continued spiritedly. “If I’m not so hard on myself I’m sure I’d be less critical and impatient with my boss and the other people at work.”

“You’d no longer confuse the mistakes you and others may make with your value as human beings.” Charmaine added to William’s growing list of benefits of loving himself.

“No question about it - I’m one lovable guy!”

“What’s not to love?”

“Not a thing. I’m perfect,” William said, giving Charmaine a hearty hug. “At a soulful level, of course...”

Summary

Clue #4: Practice Loving Yourself

  • Loving yourself is embracing who you really are. It is holding yourself with tenderness and mercy. It is having compassion for yourself. It is being patient with all your shortcomings and mistakes as well as with your strengths and successes. Loving yourself opens the possibility to love others. It gives us access to feeling a sense of connectedness with the earth, all the creatures and all of humanity. Loving yourself at this soulful level is not selfish or arrogant. Loving yourself is what happens when the ego allows in the soul’s Divine love.
  • Loving yourself is what happens when the ego allows in the soul’s Divine love.
  • Loving yourself allows you to love others and receive their love in return.
  • Loving yourself allows you to bring love, compassion and mercy to your world instead of trying to find love in it.
  • The power of an open heart is that a closed heart can not stay closed in its presence. It’ll either open or it will go away until it is ready to open.
  • The part of us that is already perfect - our soul - loves the part of us that is not yet perfect - our ego.
  • Loving yourself is opening your heart to your own closed-heartedness.
  • Each moment of now is a totally fresh starting place to open your heart to yourself.
  • Opening your heart to your own suffering is one of the most beautiful ways of loving yourself.
  • The love we seek out in the world can only be accessed from within.
  • Our ego innocently but misguidedly paints a picture of perfection that is impossible to achieve. Just choose love over fear in as many moments of now as you can.
  • Loving yourself is accepting all your mistakes from the past as moments of meaning and experience from which to grow.
  • If you don’t feel respected, be more respectful. If you don’t feel like you are getting enough affection, be more affectionate. If you don’t feel heard, listen more.
  • Review and reassess your previous beliefs about yourself and the world around you. Be willing to disregard them if they don’t work.
  • Be a witness to your thoughts so you can be fair to yourself. Dismantle the patterns of thinking that have kept love and true happiness away. Be suspicious of the voice that always makes you right or always makes you wrong.
  • Comparing yourself to others is rarely in service to loving yourself.
  • There is no premature wisdom in the universe. We are all right on schedule. So be gentle with yourself.

 

At Work

Never confuse your mistakes in your job with your value as a human being.

If you don’t love your work or don’t try to find ways to have real value and meaning in what you do, then you will never find the energy and passion that is necessary to succeed.

 

The Benefits of Understanding Loving Yourself

Loving yourself allows you to know and appreciate who you really are. It opens the possibility of having authentic relationships with others and intimate connections with the world around you. By loving yourself you will be more willing to take on bigger games and challenges.

 

Exercise

Opening Your Heart To Yourself

This exercise will help you get in touch with the experience of loving yourself. You will then be better able to look at yourself with tenderness and compassion.

Being sensitive to the gender issue, we’ve decided to interchange male and female pronouns in each step. If you are a woman, we invite you to read all of them as she or her. If you are a man we invite you to read them as he or him.

Step 1:

Sit quietly, close your eyes and take a few softening breaths.

Step 2:

Begin to scan back through the images and memories of an earlier time in your life. Be a loving witness to whatever arises in your mind. Go back to high school. Recall where you lived, people you spent time with, places you went. Go back further. Recall grade school. Again, recall the activities and people, and remember the places where you spent time.

Step 3:

Now recall a moment from your early childhood when your feelings were hurt. Get a clear image of the situation. In your mind’s eye, take yourself back to that moment of the hurt feelings. Notice the time of day that it occurred. Notice where you were, who was there and what was happening. Let the feelings of hurt, disappointment or fear into your awareness. Feel them as completely as you can.

Step 4:

Notice what it feels like to need to be loved, to feel safe and happy and notice what it feels like not to get those things. Let yourself feel the sadness and the loneliness and remember the scared feelings. Whatever you needed in that moment, let yourself feel what it was like not to get it.

Step 5:

Now step back in your mind’s eye and let yourself feel sadness and compassion for that little child who was being hurt in some way. Imagine going to that little child in you and taking him out of that bad situation. Take him to a place where he feels safe. Now pick him up and put your arms around him and let him feel your love, your strength and your calmness. Let yourself feel how good it feels to hold him and to love him.

Nobody knows or understands his pain like you do. You are the only one that truly understands what he feels and what he really needs. Whatever it is take care of it. If he’s hungry - feed him. If he’s cold - make him warm. If he’s lonely - play with him. If he needs to cry, invite him to cry just as long and as hard and as deeply as he can. Your job is simply to keep holding him and loving him.

Step 6:

Now notice how good it feels to you to open your heart to her. Let yourself love her.

Step 7:

Ask him how he’s doing. When he feels safe and comfortable, let him know that your love for him is absolute and unconditional. Reassure him that it never matters what he ever does or does not do, that you will always love him. Let him know that you will always come to him if he needs you. Tell him that all he has to do is to call you and you’ll come to him just as quickly as you can.

Step 8:

When all that is done and she feels safe and loved, step back, gently hold her hands and look into her eyes. Now reassure her one more time that your love is absolute and unconditional. Let her know all she has to do is to call you and you will come to her.

Step 9:

You will know the little child in you needs you when you start feeling that pain. That scary, bad, lonely or hurt feeling is the little boy in you calling you. At that moment you now begin to have a choice. You can either be that child, stuck in his hurt, loneliness and fear, or you can learn to step back, open your heart and take care of him.

Step 10:

Now find a photograph of yourself at about that age. Make several copies of it and have them around in different places in your life, at home, at work and wherever you’re alone. Look at that picture often, especially for the first few weeks. As you look at it let yourself feel the love and compassion you feel for that wonderful little child. See her innocence. Your job is to develop a loving, respectful, tender and helpful relationship with her. It is your job in life to learn how to recognize when she needs you and to learn to go to her, to love her and to be effective in taking care of her.

If you don’t have a photo of yourself at that age, find or create some object that reminds you of her. It could be a picture of a little dog, a baseball mitt, a doll, a piece of jewelry, a stuffed animal - anything that helps you get the feeling of opening your heart to that little child who will always be with you. Remember, there is nothing wrong with who that child is. It is simply that at that age she was not as effective as you can now be at taking care of her.

Principle

Learning to open your heart to yourself as a child, a teenager or as an adult is a profound and very practical way to identify with your soul rather than your ego and will allow you to open your heart to the rest of the world.