“If you are not yet able to love yourself, you will not be able to love your enemy. But when you are able to love yourself, you can love anyone. When you do this, you will see that your so called enemy is not more or less than a human being who is suffering.”
This last month has been one of the toughest in my journey this year. (I know this is a long blog entry, but please read all the way through to the end. My hope is you will find it rewarding.) I’d say I’m at the bottom and nowhere to go but up, but because I perceive things in a circular manner, it has to be explained differently then it is felt. If you look at expansion in concentric circles moving from inner to outer, there is a crossing of the lines that occur. Each time you cross a concentric circle line into the next outer ring, expansion is occurring and you experience what feels like falling down the ladder to the bottom again, but in reality you are pushing outward into expansion. I shifted the very next day after my previous post, but I have been experiencing so much vulnerability that I haven’t been able to feel comfortable exposing myself to the public until I was centered again. I have so many new awareness’ that have been brought to my attention that it is really unbelievable.
7 months ago, I began asking a question. This is before I started blogging and started even the “What would someone who loves themselves do?” question. I wanted to know what the definition of self-love was. I didn’t know. I really honestly, didn’t know. So I began researching it myself. As I asked around, I found many different answers. Some said it was about forgiveness, others said it was a practice and I had one gal ask “Who in my life reflected it to me?”. I could only think of one person and she had a way about her that I could only label as “grace”. Non of these things I read or found helped. I just didn’t get it. And here I am 7 months later and the answer has come to me crystal clear. I FINALLY get it. And oh boy, what a change this will make in the rest of my life. I think I accelerated my journey BECAUSE of the “What would someone who loves themselves do?” question. If I hadn’t jumped into this, I don’t think there would have been the same unfolding that has surfaced for me. I am very grateful for this process. The rewards are great. I will come back to what happened in a moment.
For the last few months, I have been working the outer rings of where my comfortability for change exists. Where I can recognize stepping out into vulnerability and doing what intuitive voices I hear. I have seen the changes and I have been happy with the steps, because as I have stated before, it has brought a level of trust to me that I haven’t experienced before. THIS month however is different, I entered what I believe is the middle now. It’s quite intense. This is where my personal relationships that are more intimate with my family and such exist. I can see the layers of the onion peeling away. I also see this level of expansion as just one of many platforms. I want to believe it will come to an end, but we all know that is NOT going to happen. So, my best description would be that as I have hit the bottom, the only place to go is up. And up is where the relief will be found. Up is where the habits will change and up is where the all the courage and practices must take place. Although, up is only a perceived reality, it really is the expansion process.
Both books that I am currently reading, The Circle of Fire by Don Miguel Ruiz and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown (and the course that Brene Brown is teaching) have given me by far the best understanding what self-love is by showing me what self love IS NOT. In seeing the NOT part, I am finally understand the what it IS part.
The ‘what’ self-love is NOT is beautifully spoken by Don Miguel Ruiz in The Circle of Fire. He says, “How do you feel about yourself? Do you love, respect and honor yourself? If the answer is no, that explains all the broken hearts you have had. When you don’t love, respect, and honor yourself, then you allow other people to treat you without love, respect, and honor.” He also shared the difference between self-love and selfishness, “Selfishness says, if you love me, you have to put up with all my emotional garbage, you have to put up with my anger, my judgments, and never leave me. To tell others you love them, and then to abuse them, is not love; it is selfishness. How can I love you and abuse you at the same time? For me to keep you, even if I’m abusing you, is selfishness, not love.”
AND here lies ONE of the axes that dropped for me. I’ll get to the other in a minute. Not only did I not know this information as a result of lack of self-love, but I recognized in this dialogue that I spend a lot of time feeling the “need to punish those closest around me” because I am too afraid to address the pain that I may have about the situation. So I blame, shame and judge. I had no idea that THIS was the reflection of my self-love barometer. It isn’t good. It is really a wide eye rude awakening to see that my life really has been about self hate. Even with attempts of improving, without learning the definition of self-love, I would remain in this state for the rest of my life. How lucky am I to have stumbled upon such a life changing experience?
With that, now, let’s address what self-love IS. Don Miguel Ruiz continues on, “But once you learn to treat yourself with love, respect and honor, there is no way that you will accept anything less from others. If someone wants to play an important role in your life as your friend, lover, husband or wife, then you already know what kind of person you want. It is obvious if that person is not what you want and you have the awareness right from the beginning. Why? Because you are true to your integrity, and you no longer lie to yourself. Integrity is the totality of yourself, it is what you really are, not what you believe about yourself. You are honest with yourself, and you notice when someone shows you disrespect. You can set healthy boundaries and remain true to yourself.”
Brene Brown has shown me just how hard-wired we are for love and belonging. She says, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all women, men, and children. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. when those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick. The absence of love and belonging will always lead to suffering.”
And here is where the other ax this week that was dropped. 2 in one week…yup, that pretty much summed up the totality of all my tears.
Brene Browns definitions of Love and Belonging is something that I have needed to know my entire life! “Love– We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection. Love is NOT something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow; a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed , and rare.”
“Belonging – is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
This week, awareness to my shame (as well as the depth of it), and my fears and the definition of perfectionism (Understanding that it is about what other people think and there opinions vs internal drive and striving to be your best) are all being defined in this month. Understanding my level of approval seeking and all of its glory. It all became very very clear to me what must be done to claim my joy, to claim my self-love, to claim my honor and loyalty towards myself. What a ladder to climb. Seriously, kicking my ass out the door. The level of vulnerabilities and courage also take on its on dynamic when it comes to outer and inner appearances. When other people are involved, there are witnesses to our stepping into courage and we still feel the effects of approval seeking on some insidious level. When we are alone with a small child, yelling at them, it is precisely THAT moment where we have to dig deep and find our courage (inside with no witness to give any kind of approval seeking) to do what’s right! To do what feels hard and scary because we have no one to answer to but ourselves. This level of shame is deep and enmeshed with society, families and our own lack of knowledge.
So where does this leave me? Where is my stepping stone in this?
What I am discovering what self-love to be. It is a practice. It is forgiveness. It is commitment to honoring myself with respect and creating healthy boundaries. Being present with what I am feeling and not pointing my feelings to others to make me feel better so I avoid myself. Learning to be honest with myself. Learning forgiveness. Believe it or not, I am finally at a place where I can look at forgiveness differently. I had no idea that I could ever embrace forgiveness, but I believe I have finally gotten there. Letting go. Letting myself find freedom. Allowing myself to have freedom. Healing and letting go of the shame by learning the appropriate ways to expose it. I am embracing courage, vulnerability and connection.
If I were to have a courage mantra, when I ask “What would someone who loves themselves” say, I hear Blossom where I am. It sums up so much of what I just shared, where I am going and how to apply my new practices. It’s kind of like start where you are, but it’s opening and allowing myself to be brave enough in that moment which encourages me to blossom. The quote, “There comes a time when remaining tight in a bud is more painful than blossoming” is so true. Pain is courage frozen. Pain is suffering paralyzed. Pain is what we avoid, but it can teach us how to gauge out of it, if we let it. When we allow ourselves to open to the possibilities that are in the moment, we will then blossom into courage. Blossom into vulnerability. Blossom into authenticity. Inch by inch. Moment by moment, sometimes. Our fear freezes us and when we can’t move through it, we don’t grow. We remain tight in a bud. The only way to not be tight in the bud is to blossom. So let’s all practice this concept of blossoming. Flowers are BEAUTIFUL. And being beautiful is BE-YOU- tiful. Being you. Yourself is beautiful. Being fully present is always beautiful. After all isn’t that what we want from others? To be themselves with us, not who we want them to be? Because that is what we are asking of ourselves. To be ourselves and to be accepted as such.
From Brene Brown’s Book, she writes, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
“Choosing Authenticity means: Cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves t be vulnerable. Exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle. And nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough.”
“Authenticity demands Wholehearted living and loving-even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and the fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it. Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy and gratitude into our lives.
These are the gifts I am walking away with after 6 months of asking “What would someone who loves themselves do?”
I am scared, but I am understanding now what shame is and how it really is the protection we all live behind, I believe I will grow and become more and more authentic as I practice this daily.
Breathe. Be Brave. Be Me.