If you’ve been reading my recent blog posts you may have noticed that I’ve been focusing a lot on self-love. It’s a subject that is near and dear to my heart because it’s central to my work in helping people create lives they truly love. As I often say, in order to create lives we love, we must let love lead. How could it be otherwise?
And the love that can lead each of us to fulfillment is our own love – a love that arises from the core of our being. This love recognizes our worthiness and magnificence and wants nothing more than to share it with the world in our own unique and joyful way.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
I thought so, too. I’ve been doing this work for a while now, and I thought I understood the importance of self-love a long time ago. Yet I see now that it was more of an intellectual understanding than an actual knowing. As my life and work have evolved, the realization that self-love is central to the quality of our lived experience – and to the fulfillment of our potential – has deepened and expanded so much, it’s as if I’m having a fresh “Aha!” moment all over again. (And I love “Aha!” moments.)
I’m reminded of something a well-known physicist once said about a then-recent discovery in quantum physics. He said that if, upon learning of the discovery, your mind wasn’t completely blown away, you couldn’t possibly have grasped its implications. That’s how I feel now about understanding self-love, not as a concept but as a truth: it’s mind-blowing and life-altering.
And as luck and synchronicity would have it, I stumbled upon an awe-inspiring validation of this truth just as I was pulling together my thoughts for last Saturday’s workshop on the art and power of self-love, in an inspiring book I recently read. The title of the book is Dying to Be Me, and it is written by a woman named Anita Moorjani. Anita lived for four years with lymphoma that got progressively worse regardless of the myriad treatments she tried. By the time she was rushed to the hospital in a coma, she had multiple tumors the size of lemons from her neck all the way down to her abdomen; her body had been unable for some time to take in nourishment from food and so was eating away at itself, leaving her barely more than a skeleton; she could not walk or even breathe on her own. At the hospital it was determined that her organs were shutting down and she had only hours to live.
I’ll cut to the good part: she lived well beyond those few hours (six years and counting). But she did have what is referred to as a near death experience (NDE) so astonishing that, not only did it forever change her understanding of who we are and why we’re here in this physical realm, it completely healed her of all cancer…in days. It was a true miracle by the conventional standards of medical care.
During her NDE she was in a realm of consciousness that opened her to the greatest clarity and understanding of universal truths she had ever known; as she tells it, words can barely approximate the enormity of the experience. Yet what she writes is eloquent, electrifying, inspiring, joyful and comforting all at once. Obviously I’m not going to detail her experience here, although I hope you’ll read her book. But I am going to share with you one of her most startling revelations: it was self-love that healed her of cancer. Here is an excerpt from the book where she first offers this mind-blowing truth:
“It’s all very well for me to talk about healing after I’ve experienced it, or for me to tell you to just trust and let go, letting the flow of life take over; but when you’re going through a really low period, it’s difficult to do – or even know where to begin. However, I think the answer is simpler than it seems, and it’s one of the best-kept secrets of our time: the importance of self-love. You may frown or cringe at the thought, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to cultivate a deep love affair with yourself.
I don’t recall ever being encouraged to cherish myself – in fact, it would never even have occurred to me to do so. It’s commonly thought of as being selfish. But my NDE allowed me to realize that this was the key to my healing.”(my emphasis) – p. 138
Further in the book she talks about how essential it is to nurture our own souls, to take care of our needs and not put ourselves last all the time. It’s about learning to listen deeply to the wisdom within and treat ourselves with the utmost kindness and respect. And I love her bold assertion, quoted above, that we need to have a deep love affair with ourselves. I couldn’t agree more.
For me Anita has articulated an essential truth. After years of working with clients who come to me for support in creating lives they truly love – and after years of living with that same intention myself – I’ve recognized that creating a life we love is only possible when we genuinely love ourselves, first and always.
Without a generative, life-giving core of self-love, anything we do – whether it’s writing an impressive resume or perfecting our golf swing or taking care of an elderly parent or crafting an inviting profile for Match.com – will have what is essentially a hidden agenda. In the absence of genuine self-love, our actions are fundamentally driven by an unconscious need for proof – proof of our lovability, proof of our very worthiness. Whether we’re trying to improve ourselves to meet an external standard of perfection, or working to prove that our talents and skills have earned us the right for some kind of reward, or actively seeking approval from others, we’re looking outside of ourselves for something that already exists within us: our innate worth.
When we hold an intention for genuine self-love, we turn inward and open ourselves to see and feel and know our worthiness. And as we get to know ourselves as inherently worthy and, dare I say, magnificent, our lives begin to change. We begin living from the inside-out rather than the outside-in; we recognize the tremendous value of our unique talents and longings, not only to ourselves but to others; and we become more grounded, trusting and authentically generous since we’re giving from a sense of fullness rather than one of lack.
That is the paradox of genuine self-love. In its absence we become selfish and needy; in its presence we are loving and generous. It’s the ultimate win-win.
And the good news is, self-love is an intention we can declare and cultivate. So let’s do it. I hope you remember the Eyes of Love journal I talked about in my 11-5-11 blog post, and the vital importance of soothing yourself I wrote about last month. If you haven’t explored them yet, now would be the perfect time. Learning to disempower our usual voices of self-doubt and self-criticism is essential to cultivating self-love, and it takes some practice – but the good news is, in this case the practice is fun because feeling good is what it’s all about!
Here’s something else you can explore as a means of aligning with your intention for self-love. Set aside some quiet time – it needn’t be a lot, but at least 15 minutes – and sit down with your journal or notebook and a pen. Take some deep, gentle breaths and invite yourself to become fully present in your body, in this moment. Then pick up your pen and write each of the following statements, very slowly. Pause after each one and take note of how you feel about it. Here they are:
I listen to myself.
I respect myself.
I trust myself.
I appreciate myself.
I honor myself.
I celebrate myself.
I cherish myself.
I have compassion for myself.
I am kind to myself.
I speak my truth.
Notice which statements you feel connected with and which you do not. See if one or two have a particular charge for you, in the sense that they seem foreign, false or even offensive. That’s where your juice is. Write down the word again (e.g., cherish,, respect, compassion, etc.)
Take a few more deep breaths and give your pen to the Wise Self within you. Ask, “How can I cultivate this particular aspect of self-love in my life?” Then just start writing, without censoring, and be willing to be surprised. Choose at least one thing you came up with that you’re willing to commit to, right now.
Congratulations! You’ve just set a new intention that fortifies your intention for self-love. Get ready for your life to change. Because here is a little-known truth that Anita affirms so eloquently in her book: the kinder you are to yourself, the kinder the world is to you. Really.
I’ll say it again.
The kinder you are to yourself, the kinder the world is to you.
Try it and see what happens.
Be willing to explore this, full-out. Dare to commit to deepening your own experience of genuine self-love. It has the power to ignite your life in unimaginable ways.
Just ask Anita.