On looking through the lens of love, and why it's selfless, not selfish.
Learning self-love was (and still is, if I’m being completely honest) such a journey for me – as I’m sure it is for many of us who have struggled in the past with trauma, low esteem or toxic relationships.
It’s not something we’re raised to believe is worth learning – it’s not something we’re taught, we’re instilled with, or that’s celebrated. Often times, it seems to either fall by the wayside and appears to be overlooked, setting us as the absolute last priority item on our focus list; or, it’s so oversaturated by capitalism that it’s become diluted and even taboo, so much so that it feels like something we have to earn or spend money on to achieve.
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I was definitely one of those people who thought that in order to put myself first (by creating healthy boundaries, prioritizing my happiness before others, etc.) I was existing in a selfish state of mind. I thought that the more generous and giving a person you were, you never needed to focus on yourself. Essentially, I was giving it an overextended Jesus-mentality. But as I grew older, I recognized that most of the people I admired, who seemed to effortlessly give so much of themselves in support of others in the healthy way, seemed naturally vibrant, energized and full of lightness and joyfulness. I started to question if I myself was giving in the most optimized way, and further questioned who I was actually dedicating most of my energy to.
Where we direct our energy is so important and so often overlooked. How can it feel so easy and become habitual for us to focus so much on other people, yet when it comes to looking in the mirror, we can hardly stand our own reflection because of the discomfort that we should be doing something more important? Oftentimes, we become ruled by the fear that we are being too selfish by investing time into ourselves.
I remember the first time someone asked me, “Okay, but do you love yourself?”
It felt like the most confronting question, because internally my instinct-response was a very loud, resounding “No.”
“How could this happen?” I wondered. “How did I end up here? Why don’t I love myself? And how do other people know if they love themselves? Where do I even start to learn?”
It was jarring. I felt overwhelmed, I felt like a failure, I felt embarrassed, full of shame and sadness, and I really just felt lost. This journey to finding love for myself seemed like it would be endless, and hard, and scary.
ALL IT WAS, WAS “HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW? HOW?”
As it turns out, I was holding on – well, clutching – to resistance for dear life. I was so instilled with fear, self-judgment and low self-confidence that I didn’t recognize how deeply these patterns were engrained in me. I was so resistant to even the idea of loving myself, because I had been conditioned by others to believe that I wasn’t worthy of love that I had convinced myself of it, and as it turns out, that little ego voice within was not ready to release her grip and get out of her comfort zone – which I fondly refer to as “the shit pit.” I needed to learn to see that ego self through a compassionate lens, and I needed to separate her from myself in order to do that. But the pesky “How?” kept getting in the way.
So I started by imagining my sad, angry little inner ego shadow self, sitting alone in a dark room, wrapped up in a dirty old blanket, stitched together and consumed with her fears – the echoing of past voices reverberating off the walls, reciting negative self-speak statements to her like the only gospel she could believe. Suddenly, as clearly as I was able to envision her, I was able to begin to see her as separate to me – and the more I separated myself from her, the more I recognized all those little moments that led me to where I am now. All those voices of shame, doubt, negativity, hate-projection, misdirected anger and fear, fear, fear.
She was terrified.
She also didn’t know anything else. All she knew was that little fear gospel mantra, looping over and over, keeping her warm in that big blanket of fear.
You know that saying, “If you keep doing the same thing expecting a different result, you can’t expect to get anything new”?
It was then that I realized the only person who was going to remove that heavy blanket, let her off the self-loathing hook and invite her into the light was me.
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Day after day, little by little, I took small actions to let her know it was safe to come out of that hole – that the dark, cold, fear-filled room was actually not safe to be in; she had been tricked through conditioning. It was the recurring patterns of fear and darkness created the illusion that just because it’s been her base-level and her “normal”, this is not a safe and healthy place. Why couldn’t it be safe out here in the light, surrounded by warmth, happiness, self-acceptance and love?
With each little mirror work exercise, and every little gratitude entry, I began to lure her out of that dark room. The more I became comfortable actually looking into my own eyes, the more I began to truly see myself, the further from darkness she grew attached, and the more comfortable she became to be seen. Compassion was the starting point.
Self-love doesn’t start with a spa treatment, a facial, a shopping spree or a vacation. These are all indulgent, sideline gifts that we absolutely deserve to adorn ourselves with to further celebrate how incredible, hard-working and fabulous we are, but they are merely a band-aid solution. Our first course of action should be getting down to the root of things and sitting in a compassionate space with ourselves, building brick by brick our resilience of love.
When we truly recognize how worthy we are of love, from SELF, above all (because it doesn’t matter how fiercely, greatly, passionately or often others shower you in love – if you refuse to receive it from yourself, that door is closed off and impenetrable to anyone else), we will truly be present and grateful and in a state of reception to all those self-care spa visits, girls nights or weekends away.
I always want to support you in your expansion work, so to further your practice in growing self-love, I’ve created two additional support beams for you to use as sparks of inspiration and healing – check out the Mirror Work Ritual and A Guide on Curating your Self-Love Altar.
I love you. I want you to love you, to celebrate you, to honor you, to recognize how deeply powerful you are in your Divinity – you are perfect, no matter how imperfect you may feel, you are a perfect creation on this Earth because you are you, and no one else holds that power.
In his book, The Art of Happiness, the Dali Lama suggests that self-loathing is a Western thing, and at the risk of sounding a bit big-for-my-britches, I wonder if His Holiness is taking a male approach to the idea of self love vs. self-loathing. Because if the female characters in manga books, Anime movies, and Korean dramas are to be believed (which may be a stretch), I think women have an especially hard time with self love, no matter whether they grew up Buddhist, Christian, or any other religion for that matter.
Great article, Margaux. And by the way, since your website’s launch is still fairly fresh, I’ve pinned a lot of your images on Pinterest, to help spread the word. Best wishes!
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