How to love yourself (a guest post)

When I was a little girl, I remember being angry with one of my siblings (I can’t remember which one now there are four of us) and saying, “I hate you!” My Nana took me aside and made it clear to me that we don’t use the “H” word. It is ok to be angry, to be unhappy with someone, disappointed, to disagree, but hate is a very powerful word and destructive emotion, one not to be used as a weapon against anyone, ever!

These were not her exact words, but my adult adaptation of her teaching. I went through periods of time as a teenager and young woman when the thought, “I hate my body” was incredibly destructive. I did not direct those feelings towards others, but towards myself. It was a brutal war within.

It took many, years to soften my heart toward myself and finally understand that the lesson Nana had instilled when I was tiny, applied to me too. This is not something I’ve spoken about publicly before, but I did battle anorexia, and you know what helped me win? Love.

From the time I was 15 until I was 31, I struggled on and off with this vicious self directed hatred. Sixteen years is a long time to ingrain harmful thoughts and behaviors and it took time, patience, courage and the help of others initially to guide me back to what was really true about me, about all of us; our essence is LOVE.

Talk therapy was a starting place, but what really healed my wounds was mindfulness and lovingkindness. Noticing when I was being unkind. Paying attention to what triggered the inner story I’d created. Gradually, the story shifted. I started to believe my husband’s words “You are beautiful”… “I love you” …more than my harmful thoughts. I started to appreciate the unconditional love of my babies toward me… and finally it began to dawn on me that maybe I really was worthy of love after all.

Prayer, meditation and yoga were all integral to the return of self love I had denied myself as a teenager and recovered as a young mother. These practices taught me to stay present in my body, to listen and look at my fears of not being “good enough” and recognize that I was, had always been, still am.I began to see my radiance, my light, my inner beauty, Divinity within the wholeness of ME. I changed. I healed. I grew expansive, in a wise, skillful, soulful way. As frequent readers of this blog know, I now live in this very same body that ironically has an immune system that attacks itself in the form of multiple sclerosis.

Being physically ill has added new challenges to loving my body as it is over the past ten years of chronic illness.  This seems to be a recurring theme in my life’s journey. The tools I learned when I was young (and continue to cultivate) cradle me through this time in my life too. I love this beautiful vessel that holds my soul. I feed it well not only with nourishing foods but with healthy, kind and nurturing thoughts.

Love Beats Hate is a world wide blogging event. It is an invitation with an intention to speak up for marginalized groups. I think as women, we self-marginalize. We separate ourselves from others using food as our weapon…either eating too much or not enough because we just don’t believe WE are enough. We become our own enemies and hate festers inside of us. So I am choosing to speak up for those of us who have struggled with body image and raising a new battle cry:
“I am a shining light, and my presence in the world adds beauty to all of existence. My essence is LOVE.”
(As much as I am a pacifist at heart, this is a war worth fighting for…and the “weapon” of choice, is clearly love.)Here’s something all of us can do, whether we struggle with body image, or some other damaging belief about ourselves.
1. Write this on a slip of paper and tape it to your bathroom mirror, then at least twice a day when you go to brush your teeth you will see this truth.
“I am a shining light, and my presence in the world adds beauty to all of existence. My essence is LOVE.”
2. Say the words aloud to yourself while gazing upon your own precious face.
“I am a shining light, and my presence in the world adds beauty to all of existence. My essence is LOVE.”
3.Look into your eyes, one then the other. Take in the whole of your face and smile from your heart at your uniqueness.Because YOU are a shining light, and YOUR presence in the world adds beauty to all of existence. YOUR essence is LOVE.
In this way, each of us increases the light of love, acceptance, kindness and compassion for the whole world, one smile at a time, but we must begin by seeing the beauty within before we can fully accept and embrace others in their wholeness.
The more we cultivate love and genuine compassion for ourselves, wrinkles, freckles, scars, one eye that opens wider, slightly crooked smile, straight hair, curly, red, brown, black, blond, gray, no hair, short, tall, thin, full figured, ebony skin, mocha, golden, cream…the more our love for other people will grow.  We will learn to see beyond sexual orientation, beyond disabilities, beyond economic “status,” beyond ethnicity, religion, maybe even (and this one is hard for me, but I’m working on it) differing political views, to the essence of each living being; Divine Love.
When looking deeper, beneath the surface to that light that glows from within, that light that is yours but also mine, a luminous ribbon that binds us one human to another, how can we possibly hate him or her or ourselves, for we truly are ONE?
4. Now take that smile, the memory of who you are: “I am a shining light, and my presence in the world adds beauty to all of existence. My essence is LOVE.” And pass it on to your family, to your friends, to co-workers, strangers. Your belief that you are indeed ENOUGH, that you are BEAUTIFUL, that you are a SHINING LIGHT will open a window, a door, become a bridge for others to see the same qualities in themselves and then on and on the L V E will spread…hatred will have an opportunity to transform into love too.
(my friend, Laura Hegfield, is a beautiful Jewish woman who embraces the world full, even while battling chronic illness… find her here)
*I am on vacation with my family over the coming week; will be in touch when I return. Bless you. *

6 thoughts on “How to love yourself (a guest post)

  1. Pingback: The Fourth Linky Love Saturday | somewhere in the middle

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