By Phil Goddard
When did you last love yourself?
No, this question is not meant as an invasion into your intimate private life. When did you truly feel connected to the love you have for yourself?
Many people considering this question will see self-love as an activity, as something ‘to do.’ Some will also believe it’s something we need to ‘do more of and more often.’ Pondering the self-love question, we often think of it as something to undertake to balance out some unkind acts against ourselves, such as when we are less than complimentary to ourselves, when we ignore or play down our own needs, feel angry at ourselves for supposed failures or mistakes, or beat ourselves up and run ourselves down.
Self-love becomes yet another burdensome activity for us to fit in our to-do list, some ‘me-time’ we might reluctantly add to our schedule.
Yet there is an alternative way of seeing self-love that requires you to do absolutely nothing. (My favourite kind of realisation!)
Whenever I talk to people about self-love they often talk about activities they undertake to ‘make up for’ what they have put themselves through, or some kind of reward for what ‘life has thrown at them.’ A congratulatory self-hug for managing to get through a tiring day getting the kids back to school, or an extra special treat for eating healthy all week. Just as a lack of self-love manifests in many ways, there’s at least as many activities we are willing to embark upon to offer ourselves some ‘much needed’ affection, congratulation and approval.
But approval is not acceptance. Most acts of self-love are tokens of approval, gifts of deservedness. Yet if I approve of something (or someone) I am still making a judgment against some standard, which infers that should it not be met, I would disapprove. Approval and disapproval are two sides of the same coin.
Approval isn’t love. Approval is another judgment.
So often we run from one end of the seesaw of judgment to the other, playing a drama game within our self-image of trying to balance out times when we are hard on ourselves with times when we are less so. Reward becomes just the other side of the coin of judgment and deservedness. We may be harsh on ourselves on one side, and so reward ourselves on the other. Reward becomes part of a negotiation, often a kind of contractual, conditional remuneration.
Yet when we are in touch with love there is a natural equilibrium, an acceptance beyond judgment.
By all means, have the dark Belgium chocolates, buy yourself red roses, treat yourself to a massage, get down to the gym and feast on spinach soup for lunch. Allow yourself some quiet time, say f**k it and book that holiday, have a sit-down with a cup of tea, get a manicure and buy the not-from-concentrate juice. Wear cashmere, go walk bare-foot on the sand, take a candle-lit bath with your favourite novel, even stay in bed an extra hour and forgive yourself of all ills.
I invite you to enjoy all physical pleasures available to us in this wonderful world. Indulge your senses.
Yet if you listen to your judgments of yourself you are not in touch with what you already are – Love.
Love does not judge. Love does not condemn and hence love does not ever need to forgive or reward. Self-Love is an unconditional, absolute acceptance of all of you.
You don’t need to reward yourself as part of some negotiation of affection for yourself. Any act of self-reward to counterbalance judgment is not an act of love. Love needs no action or negotiation of judgment. Love is the absence of judgment.
That part of us – love – is ever-present, obscured only by the image we create of ourselves that tries to dictate whether we deserve something or not. Love is only ever obscured by a self image. Without self-image, there is only love.
And as for the question, ‘When did you last love yourself?’ – You have never not loved yourself, because you are love. You are it, the lover and the loved.
Self-love is not so much an activity as a recognition of who you really are.
If you’re willing to allow the self-critic to fade and feel yourself drop down into your heart, you may recognise love as the true you. That part of you is not only available atop a misty Indian mountain; it is with you always. Even in the supermarket as you fight back a scream because you left your shopping list at home.
I’d like to extent an invitation to you that one of my mentors, Robert Holden, offered to me. I invite you to allow yourself to notice the judgments without choosing to be the judge. Simply notice them pass through without adding yet another layer of judgment about them. And in simply noticing them, in allowing them without resistance, you may find some acceptance of who you are, and feel the self-love that is already you, Belgium chocolates optional.
Note from Lian: If you enjoyed this article then you’ll love The Born Happy Show I did with Phil on the same topic! Have a listen here.