I decided to share a love story with you this month, in honor of Valentine’s Day. I hope you will – pun intended – take it to heart. Here goes.
One night years ago, during a period of deep uncertainty in my life, I found myself lying wide awake, tossing and turning and agonizing over a mistake I’d made that I was sure would cost me dearly. I honestly cannot remember what it was, but I remember how I felt:
Tortured. Worthless. Despairing. Hopeless.
It wasn’t a good night.
Tossed repeatedly on the raging currents of my self-judgment and fearful predictions of a barren future, I finally exhausted myself. The terrorizing thoughts subsided for the briefest of moments. And in that small, still space, a different kind of thought emerged. It was a simple question, asked in a very quiet voice:
So, can you love yourself even now?
The question blanketed me in a cocoon of Grace. I was suddenly calm, and the simple yet challenging question awakened me to a deeper truth I had understood only superficially until that moment: love does not have to be earned. Love cannot be earned, nor can it be taken away. There is no mistake bigger than Love. Love is unconditional. Love simply is.
My answer was immediate and sure: Yes. Yes, I was willing to love myself even with my flaws and blindspots and mistakes. It was the only answer that made sense. To say No to my own love would have required far more effort and would have yielded nothing more than continued pain.
That moment marked a turning point for me. I was able to move forward from the mistake, vowing to love myself each step of the way. I developed an expanded level of awareness of the countless, insidious ways – and the countless, blatantly obvious ways – we diminish ourselves through self-judgment, and I’ve taught myself and others how to cultivate a genuine self-love that is respectful, expansive and generous.
I’m still learning, of course. I suspect this is the kind of learning that could deepen and expand over a lifetime, or many lifetimes. There’s no such thing as “enough” or “done” when it comes to Love. Love is in infinite supply, available at all times. Love is, essentially, who we are.
I know it doesn’t always seem that way. We could point to countless examples of harshness and abuse, evidenced in outer circumstances as well as inner dialogues, such as the one that plagued me that lonely night. Yet those experiences do not reflect the absence of Love. They reflect our unawareness of the Love that we are.
That is why self-judgment can never, ever get us where we want to go, if what we want is peace and fulfillment. It is in judging ourselves as not enough in some way that we turn away from Love, and it is in turning away from Love that we make choices that do not serve us. If we judge the choices, we perpetuate the cycle and move further and further away from an experience of the Love that we are. That is why, when we’re feeling badly about ourselves or the choices we’ve made, we must learn to refrain from further judgment. We must find a way to open to love, just as we are. That is the only sane path forward.
In her book, Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing, bestselling author Anita Moorjani states eloquently, with respect to the relationship between self-love and health, “Our biology responds to our awareness.” I believe the whole of our lives responds to our awareness, so the more aware we are of our innate goodness, the more we live in alignment with our deepest truth. Every relationship and every experience is infused with, and uplifted by, our loving presence.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s more than a wee bit challenging to sustain that level of awareness and presence, day in and day out. I wish I could tell you that, since that turning-point-moment-of-Grace, I have been deeply fulfilled at all times and have not made any more mistakes. (Of course, if I told you that, you wouldn’t believe me, wise one that you are.) But what I can tell you is this:
Opening to your own love will always move you in the direction you want to go.
Just be willing. Ask simple questions such as, “How can I love myself through this?” or “What would loving myself look like right now?” Assume that it’s possible. Hold a clear intention to experience the deepest level of self-love you’ve ever known. Explore and experiment. Look for new ways to listen to yourself, to respect yourself, to soothe yourself and to support yourself. Refuse to kick yourself when you’re down. Give yourself time and space for going deeply within, to the very center of your being. Honor your longings, your talents and your innumerable sterling qualities.
And if you’re in a playful mood, find a Valentine’s Day card that makes you think, “I wish someone felt this way about me” – and mail it to yourself.