The Path to Self-Love Starts with Journeying Inward
One woman's story—from a path filled with losses and sorrows to emotional strength and freedom.
To build something new, you must first tear down the old. Similar to the world of construction, this is true of any kind, including inner work. Moving from the belief that “I am not enough,” “I am unlovable,” “I hate myself” to a conviction of “I am enough,” “I am worthy of love,” and “I love myself” is not for the faint of heart. In likeness to many of you, my journey has been and continues to be, a long, arduous path filled with gains and losses, ups and downs, joys, and sorrows. My journey has brought me upfront and in the arena with my pain, anger, doubt, and sadness. And it has been a journey, deconstructing old beliefs, only to build something far greater than what I could have previously imagined.
Repeat after me, “I love myself.” Repeat it, “I love myself.” Do you believe that statement? Do those words feel like they fit? Pay attention to your inner dialogue; what does it say? Are you aware of how you speak to yourself when you’re not paying attention? Statements like this were not something I would have said or believed just a couple of months ago. The first time I began practicing affirmations such as “I love myself,” they felt like foreign territory. It felt like a shirt that didn’t fit. The statement made me physically uncomfortable. My palms would sweat when I would say the affirmation aloud. If I practiced in front of a mirror, I couldn’t look myself in the eye. My heart would race because these three small words, “I love myself,” felt like a lie. It was a statement that was unknown and uncharted by my every day internal dialogue.
I soon realized the thoughts that occupied valuable space in my mind were not in alignment with affirmations, such as “I love myself.”
The predominant, repetitive thoughts I unconsciously allowed to take up residence in my mind were anger, regret, and self-judgment. Thoughts along this energetic line felt comfortable to me, felt cozy and like home. I didn’t know any of this at the time. However, what I quickly became aware of, is when your attention is on your ego, how strong it can be.
Like many of you, I experienced trauma in my life as a child. Mine came in the form of a bipolar and prescription addicted mother combined with a depressed, alcoholic, abusive father. Raised to live a life based upon my external circumstances, I reacted to what was happening around me, not what was happening within me. So, I went to school, did my homework, got a job, got married, and had children. I did all this while never questioning a deeper meaning to my experiences, emotions, relationships, or my life. I achieved what others expected of me, what would classify me as the ‘good’ girl, without putting much thought into what I wanted to create. In my childhood home, I watched those around me become victims of their choices and self-created circumstances. I became outraged that I didn’t have the childhood that I thought I deserved. I was angry that I didn’t feel loved or valued in my home or in the world. I was mad that alcohol, drugs and mental disorders had robbed me of my parents and a loving family. I was furious at the world and myself. Through the growing thought and emotion of anger, I had unknowingly cut off communication between my small Self (Ego) and my bigger Self (Soul).
Like my parents, I became a victim of my conditions and circumstances without understanding I had a choice in every moment. There was a choice to stay the same, staying small and victimized. And there was another choice available to me—to go within, to feel and to respond.
At the time, my anger felt justified and paved the way for many more negative beliefs about myself, my worthiness, and lovability, which greatly impacted the relationships with my parents, friends, husband, and children, all in different, but damaging ways.
In 2013, fate guided me to attend a community group meditation. This one-hour meditation laid the foundation for the conscious journey back to my self and led me to a local metaphysical school. On my first day of class, I quickly realized this education was like no school I had ever attended before. I was studying the mind. I witnessed others move in the world. I saw them create on big levels, and several others fail in big ways. I watched as they would see failure as learning and forgive themselves, how they would own their mistakes, and accept themselves more fully through the process. Witnessing all of this was an essential step in my soul evolution. For the first time, I had reflections of individuals guiding me towards opening myself to grace, forgiveness, acceptance, and, ultimately, a greater connection between myself and the Creator.
I started thinking about where thoughts come from, how I thought, what I thought, and how to experience more presence and stillness. I began asking questions like, “where did I come from, and why?” I had an introduction to concepts of concentration, visualization, dream interpretation, and meditation. The weekly classes were built upon each previous class bringing awareness and attention to the present moment. This occurred week after week, going deeper and deeper within. I learned how to listen to my self, observe my thoughts, learn which thoughts to listen to, and acknowledged which thoughts needed change. I didn’t know this at the time, but I continually moved my attention inward, directed towards emotional healing and self-awareness. I learned how to use and improve self-discipline and self-centeredness. I learned how to accept myself as an extension of the divine Creator. I learned what self-love was and looked like for me. Previously, I only understood self-love to be acts, such as taking a bath or a nap when I was tired. I heard this advice many times from others—“take a bath”—and although it felt pleasant and relaxing, I still got out of the bathtub feeling the same amount of self-judgment I had felt before I got in the bath in the first place!
As my attention moved deeper inward, I recognized that the love I was beginning to experience within was always present. And my perspective changed. I noticed that I spoke to myself in a softer voice. I chose the thoughts and messages I was bringing into my field, whether it be with people, radio, or television.
As the spiritual teacher Rumi says, I began to see that ‘what I was seeking was also seeking me.’ With this type of universal trust, that I was seeking was also seeking me. I craved opportunities to recognize and receive love from others and my self. I began to see the love I had craved was always available, omnipresent, waiting on me to allow love to enter into my heart. This is a daily practice that gets me closer to my true essence of divine love and belonging every day.
I experienced immediate results through the practice of concentration. The average person is unaware of the majority of thoughts that move through their minds. When I began, I noticed that my thoughts ran me, and I would typically follow all thoughts that would enter my mind, which often led down an often-unproductive mental path. It wasn’t until I understood concentration, stillness, and presence that I acknowledged the painful self-talk and self-judgment. The stillness of mind gave me an entry point to understand and see how my mind operated. As long as I was unaware of my thoughts, I remained a victim of them. However, practicing presence through a concentration in everyday activities revealed an inner world that I didn’t have prior access to, and now I see as pivotal to consciousness.
After practicing concentration, I knew I had a continuous stream of thoughts occurring around the clock. I observed those thoughts, and I observed my physical, emotional and mental reactions to them. I noticed patterns of self-doubt and condemnation, and I recognized that it didn’t feel good. I also became aware that I wanted to create and experience something different. By slowing down my thoughts enough to observe them, I began to notice that more thoughts of doubt would arise at work, while fear and unlovability tightly enmeshed within my relationships and motherhood. It all became clear that shame, anger, and victimhood, clouded my childhood memories, including the good ones.
As soon as I could see my thoughts, then I had a choice to make. I had to choose between staying the same or creating change, growth, and expansion. I slowly replaced the old, outdated thoughts based on a seven-year old’s limited life experience, with the updated perspective and experiences of an adult. I learned that thoughts are things that manifest, and I was beginning to see the energetic impact that my thoughts had created in my body, relationships, and life. I added a meditation practice to my evolving concentration practice.
These investments in my self were beginning to pay off with a newfound perspective of lovability and worthiness.
I began to make rituals out of acts of self-love. There are many ways to express self-love, and it is not limited to the following list; however, these are suggestions that worked for me. I divided the “self-love actions” into three categories of Physical, Mental, and Emotional support. Still, I genuinely believe that ‘thought is the cause,’ which would lead you to think that all of these affect thought, which in turn, will affect your belief and embodiment of your own lovability.
The journey to my true self has been tough, but it has also been well worth it. The reward is peace of mind, it is in the emotional strength I carry, and it is in the freedom I experience in mind and body. I encourage anyone interested in genuinely knowing themselves, practice presence by slowing down, considering therapy, and trying a few positive affirmations because thoughts are things that manifest in your life. What do you want to create?
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