I thought I would start off with an acknowledgment:
It’s been impossible for me to write about self-love. Because I am sad, and because I am at peace. Two seemingly opposite ends of the spectrum, but in the past couple of weeks they have cozied up together nicely. What they share is ambivalence for what I, and most of us, have come to understand as “self-love,” which actually has nothing to do with true love, and everything to do with a positive mental image.
Maybe a couple months ago I was looking at myself in the mirror. I was smiling and thinking about how far I had come in my “self love” journey. I thought “I cannot believe I ever starved myself, I look good healthy. Healthy is sexy.” This stream of (un)consciousness eventually lead to murky waters. My thoughts became more and more insidious. I abruptly stopped, pulled away from the mirror and plopped down on my bed, defeated. It occurred to me that no matter what kind of thoughts I was thinking, positive or negative, my body was still here sitting on this bed. Breathing and pumping blood. Unchanged and wholly unconcerned with the preoccupations of my mind.
It seemed as though contained in self love, its opposite, self hate, was inevitably lurking around the river bend. Like all concepts with an opposite, one could not exist without the other.
The thing about this sadness wrapped in peace, is that it exists beyond the binaries of self love and self hate. Just like my body, it is unconcerned with the preoccupations of my mind because they are not of my mind. They are of being.
"I haven’t reached enlightenment. I am not suddenly impervious to doubt or shame, nor were all those years of oscillating between loving and hating myself a waste of time. It gave me an emotional awareness that I needed to move into acceptance. It illuminated a deep desire to truly love myself, although I didn’t know exactly how."
If you’re getting caught up on the word sadness, let me quickly clarify. I mean sadness not as in unhappy, but as in acceptance. A quiet state of being that has momentarily given up on external pleasures and “happiness,” because they aren’t relevant to the current stage of my spiritual growth. It is not a sadness that “feels good,” but no one could tell you that it is wrong either. It just is. When paired with peace, it’s the only way I can think to describe this moment in my life: a deep and uncomfortable transformation that you surrender to, and then become more yourself within.
I hope I am not putting on a front. I haven’t reached enlightenment. I am not suddenly impervious to doubt or shame, nor were all those years of oscillating between loving and hating myself a waste of time. It gave me an emotional awareness that I needed to move into acceptance. It illuminated a deep desire to truly love myself, although I didn’t know exactly how. The almost psychotic back and forth embodied by the moment in the mirror and my refusal to give up within that tension, showed me that I was willing to fight for peace. I just didn’t know peace is not something you have to fight for. While this back and forth is not a step you can skip, it might be easier for those that live in proximity to cultural standards of worth and value, like me. Or it may not. Sometimes, when the delusion is a pleasant one that you benefit from, you don’t want to wake up.
The first thing I thought of when asked to write about self love was: true love is not self love; it is the kind of love that melts away the self. Only when you define yourself as something outside of your essential being, do you need to find a way to love yourself. By ‘the self,’ I mean the external facts about your life situation: your job, your relationship, your body, your past, your narrative, even your pain. All of these things we confuse with who we are and can be measured in value by someone or something else, whether positively or negatively. The “self,” can be lost, hurt, or changed. Your inner being and the love that you are, cannot.
Even within the phrase, “self-love,” lies the core of the insanity of the concept. How can you love yourself, when you yourself are love? It is not an action you have to “do” to yourself, it is your state of being, your essential nature, and it is effortless. This is the kind of love that transcends all binaries. Here exists that kind of power that cannot be taken away from you, and that needs to substitute or validation.
You do not need to learn to love yourself. That is a never ending task, whose promise of “happiness,” always exists in the future or after buying something or altering yourself. Instead, realise that you are love itself. Now. Here. Wherever you’re reading this and however you are showing up. Feel the stillness that comes with that deep knowing. Feel the space that opens up inside you. This is consciousness. This is the eternal from where you came and where you will return. Here and now, we can transcend those ideas that we measured ourselves against our whole lives. We can shed our idea of who we are and just be who we are. We can stop fighting for peace, stop learning to love, and simply allow the peace and love that we are to flow from us, guide us, as is our purpose on this beautiful earth. A purpose that somewhere along the way we lost sight of, that we’re now beginning to remember.