Do You Love Yourself?

I’m getting ready to speak at a retreat this weekend on Rebuilding Life After Divorce. My talk is on reconnecting to our authentic self after one of the most challenging life changes one could experience. Few things make us come face to face with who we are and what we want out of life more than our primary relationships, especially ones into which we enter on our own volition vs. those we inherit by birth. When a marriage ends, it not only shatters our hopes and dreams related to building a life and a future with someone, it can also rock us to our core. Aside from the immense grief and loss, divorce often leaves us with crippling self-doubt, unworthiness, shame and other identity-shaking emotions.

silhouette of coupleDespite the pain and grief, divorce actually gives us a great opportunity to get to know ourselves, perhaps for the first time. After all, how many of us truly knew ourselves before attempting to build a life with another, especially when we were young? Unions are often forged without much consciousness beyond following a rite of passage of sorts. We’re just supposed to get married at some point when we reach adulthood and perhaps have some children. Being married also saves us from going through life alone. In any event, my intention here isn’t to pass judgment. After all, I myself was in the same school of fish swimming in the ocean of unconscious marriages. Rather, I write this post in the hopes of opening up a dialogue about bringing higher consciousness and our authentic selves to the love relationships we wish to have in our lives.

With all that said, how do we become more conscious in our relationships? How do we approach dating and mating being as authentic as we can possibly be at any given point in time? Let me offer the following three questions for you to ponder, ones I’ve asked myself over the years. I invite you to use them to have a gentle dialogue with yourself without judgment. No matter what your answers are, don’t make them—and yourself—wrong. We want to raise awareness, not condemn or punish. Ready?

1. Why do I want to be in a relationship?

This first question seems so obvious, but I’m not sure how many of us actually ask ourselves that. It’s important, though, as our intention drives what we create, and why we want a relationship summons matching experiences. Am I lonely? Do I feel incomplete without a partner? Do I fear that something’s wrong with me if I’m (still) unattached at my age? Do I feel I’m in a good place in my life and excited to build a future with the right partner? Do I want someone to learn and grow with me? There are many reasons for wanting to be in a relationship. Be honest with your “why” without judgment. Even if you don’t like the answer you get—e.g., you just want a loneliness cure—be gentle and don’t make yourself wrong or hate yourself for feeling that way. All human emotions are valid. Just be aware that hopeful anticipation and anxious longing project different vibes. If you want to change what you get, gently and mindfully learn to love yourself to elevate your vibe.

2. Am I really ready for a long-term relationship?

confusion meter

Many singles walk around thinking/feeling we ought to find a mate and settle down, and wonder why that person keeps eluding us. Oftentimes, what we don’t realize is that, deep down we don’t really know ourselves and haven’t fully embraced our vulnerabilities to be able to be that naked with another person—and I’m not talking about what goes on in the bedroom. While we may not be aware of our internal walls, others can sense them, which make us unapproachable and unavailable. Some of us may even subconsciously look for reasons to disqualify potential mates. They aren’t smart enough, successful enough, good looking enough, etc., i.e., just plain not good enough for us. Our minds don’t want us to see that we aren’t ready; it can’t be our fault. Therefore, if we’re still single, it must be because the right person hasn’t shown up, yet.

If, for whatever the reason, you aren’t ready for a long-term relationship, know that it’s perfectly ok. There’s nothing wrong with you, no matter how old you are or what stage you are in life. Stop beating yourself up, and learn to love yourself as you are—which brings me to the last question.

3. How much do I love myself?

This is the most important question of the three. To get to the heart of the matter, no one will love us more than we love ourselves. Who we draw into our lives always reflects our self-perceptions and catalyzes our growth. When we don’t love ourselves, deep down we can’t believe we’re worth being loved by another. That, in turn, sends us down the rabbit hole of seeking someone to prove to us our lovability over and over again. Of course, no one can do that, because the void lives inside us, and only we can fill it. The best partner can inspire us to be our best, but they can’t complete us. (Sorry Jerry Maguire fans!) If we feel unworthy and unimportant, we’ll either remain alone or attract mates who don’t seem to have room in their lives for us. If we don’t trust ourselves, we’ll find one partner after another who’d give us reasons to question why we’re with them, whether through infidelity or other forms of deceit or abuse. These are just some examples to give you an idea of this point.

loveWhen we’re willing to accept and love all of us, including the parts we aren’t so proud of—whether we don’t feel attractive enough, fit enough, smart enough, or good enough in any other way—the internal walls we’ve subconsciously built to protect our hearts and keep others out start falling away. To this point, I love the advice given by Dr. Gay Hendricks, prolific author of many books and co-founder of The Hendricks Institute with his wife, Dr. Kathleen Hendricks, on conscious living and loving. When asked by a young man what he should do to find his soulmate, Dr. Hendricks said essentially this:

Learn to love those parts of yourself that aren’t easy to love, and you’ll attract someone who’s trying to do the same herself. Then, the two of you can learn and grow together.

Such simply stated, beautiful and gentle advice that’s so very true. The journey we’re on in this human life is all about returning to the wholeness and pure, unconditional love with which we were born—before life experiences taught us to forget this truth and “broke” us. Growing and maturing is nothing more than finding our way back to this truth, which includes learning to accept gently our vulnerabilities and insecurities. Self-love is about embracing these objectively undesirable parts of ourselves, and honoring their place in our humanness as much as those parts of us of which we’re proud. And, it’s when we fully embrace our journey to return to wholeness and pure love that we meet up with those doing the same. That’s when the paths of two kindred souls converge and become one. The real beauty is that, when we truly love ourselves, joining hearts with another is just delicious icing on the cake.

In closing, I hope the above three questions serve you well on your journey to court—not actively seek out—love. The key is to learn to know and to love ourselves. To that point, I’d like to close with one of my favorite Rumi quotes:

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

Here’s to being, first and foremost, our own great love! Before you leave, please share your thoughts/feelings about this topic in the comment box below.

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About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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10 comments
spartapoet
spartapoet

Breaking the barries that hinders love is truly understood!  I constantly remind myself that I am 'love' and the greatest of love starts with me. There had been a time in my past where I had become lost and believed that I am unworthy of love but I found that the voice within me urged me to seek help...to find hope...to find what I had somehow lost...me.  In the end I found the door that I sought for...the light that offer me hope... was the breaking of the barriers that clouded my mind, my soul and my heart. Today, I float on love for I am a' miracle' of love. Thank you my awakening soulfl friend Alice!  How I so wish at times when I do read your blogs that I can come through them and give you a very big warm hug! I think of you and Roxana (Jones) as sisters, carriers of hope and peace!

Shital Rasal
Shital Rasal

thanks Alice......before some minute to read i was in frustrated stage..after reading your blog i feel free. thnks once again!

Scott Mabry
Scott Mabry

Truly the key is...to learn how to love ourselves. Sometimes the hardest thing to do. It is much easier to love and serve others for who they are when we accept ourselves for who we are. Thanks you for these words of wisdom.

Kumar Gauraw
Kumar Gauraw

This is an awesome topic Dr. Alice and I not only enjoyed reading your post. We all need to be reminded of things we already know. This article is going to do a great job of that reminder to everybody who goes through this.

Shelley
Shelley

Hi Alice, great post! I read a tweet just yesterday about a woman who was going to build a castle to protect her heart. How sad. She was broken-hearted,hurt, and just wanted to be loved. THe key, as you say, is that you must love yourself first. When you can do that, you can live with an open heart and learn to trust what it tells you. I love that Rumi quote. It's so perfect. Whenever I have a moment of floundering or of doubt, all I need to do is look within and find the barrier. And when I honour myself and remove it, I am stronger as I carry on along my way. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. :)

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@spartapoet Many thanks for your very heartfelt and heart-warming words, my brother! You ARE indeed a miracle of love, and you exude that more than you know. As human beings, we're prone to self-doubt and self-criticism. However, as long as we have the consciousness to know that we can return to the truth of who we are--i.e., Love--we can never be truly lost. This human experience is really a constant dance between remembering and forgetting, and the wonders we get to experience in between. I, too, am grateful to have crossed path with Roxanna Jones as well. Her love and presence is a beautiful beacon of light in this world. And so is your poetic soul, my brother. Keep shining your light.

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Shital, glad to know that my post helped you in the right time. Thank you for taking the time to read to let me know! All the best to you.

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thanks, Scott for your comment! Am currently at the divorce retreat referenced in this post, and just had a participant say over dinner that the one overall takeaway she's getting from different presenters is the importance of self-love. The message is universal.

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Many thanks for reading and commenting, Kumar. Yes, sometimes, we all need to be reminded of what we already know at some level.

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thanks, Shelley! It's always a treat to have you add your wise, heartfelt insights! Yes, that woman's story is sad indeed, and I had been there myself if unconsciously. When we're heartbroken, we do need to heal, and it's ok to retreat for some time to do that. But, as you pointed out, ultimately, to fully enjoy life, we do need to open our heart when the healing is complete. And, yes, I'm such huge fan of Rumi (and Hafiz); that's why his brilliance is a staple in my Twitter feed. :-) So much wisdom about Divine Love from this mystic and poet.

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