Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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Loving Yourself No Matter What

                                            Loving Yourself No Matter What 

As we continue in our review of Marcie Shimoff's book, "Love for No Reason. Seven Steps to Creating a Life of Unconditional Love," our next step is to understand unconditional self-love.  Back here in Chatham County the Stress Monster is having a field day with this idea. His beady eyes gleaming, his derisive smile taunting, drooling with satisfaction, he raves on. "Who do you think you are? Too stuck up for your own good.  Too high and mighty. Pride goeth before a fall." Don't let the Stress Monster take you down. I encourage you to try the Phillips strategy for defeating the Stress Monster. Hold up a mirror so he can see himself. He'll scream and disappear because he really doesn't love or even like himself.

 

Can YOU look in a mirror and love yourself unconditionally? Can you feel happiness and joy as you look into your heart? Most of us can't. Somewhere along the path of our lives we've been taught or taunted with the same ideas the Stress Monster expressed above. But yet, shouldn't we love ourselves as we love our neighbor? Shouldn't we be able to give and receive love to ourselves and others? By definition there's only one path to self love: you must love yourself because you are the only candidate. Many people are worried that self-love is selfish or narcissistic. If you are concerned about this issue, please review a recent article I wrote about the difference between self-love and narcissism. Narcissists really don't love themselves or others.

 

So what is the state of unconditional love anyway? It's a positive heart-centered feeling, radiating warmth and joy within yourself and out to the world, encompassing everything in a joyful spirit. Unconditional love is described poetically but accurately by Aphra Behn : "As love is the most noble and divine passion of the soul, so it is that to which we may justly attribute all the real satisfactions of life, and without it, man is unfinished and unhappy."  Our path to self love, then, is also a part of our journey to life satisfaction and happiness.

 

Most of us realize that we don't love ourselves unconditionally. These days most people walk around with lowered feelings of self-esteem. I teach people to identify their self doubts and judgments and realize that they are relayed within by an "Internal Critic" unfortunately taught us by parents, teachers and others who feel that criticism and guilt build character. I teach that everyone must learn to love themselves and others by casting away negative judgments. It is very true that people who judge themselves harshly also judge others in the same manner, while self love radiates empathy and compassion to others. If we truly manifest unconditional love, we can survive life challenges with equanimity and a positive spirit.

 

Some people learn to love themselves based upon the feedback they receive from others. They bask in pride when praised or when they can surround themselves with the trappings of success. But this is conditional, not unconditional, self-love. Self acceptance based upon external achievements is ephemeral as conditions of life change. The need to chase the brass ring leaves us anxious, hollow and unsatisfied.

 

An important step to unconditional self-love is learning to accept and love the unlovable in yourself, being kind to yourself in situations where you usually have been harsh. A strategy to accomplish this can be called "the best friend technique." In other words, if your best friend just made a mistake or perhaps displayed an unlovable characteristic and asks you for support, wouldn't you meet this request with loving compassion, helping your friend understand the problem and move toward resolution? Okay so let's do this for yourself. When you are down, talk to yourself as if you were your own best friend and move from self criticism to self compassion. If you continue to experience negative judgments toward yourself, you can also consult the articles on self-esteem in the Reading Room section of my website.

 

In the next article of this series we'll discuss the heart center which generates unconditional love. If you continue to be plagued by feelings of self-doubt and negative judgments which block your self-love, consider this technique. Start by generating a feeling of love in your heart for anything or anyone: your child, your pet, your friend, your flowers, a beautiful sunset, whatever, then let those warm feelings radiate from your heart throughout your body, consciously enveloping yourself in that feeling of unconditional love. Each time you are able to do that you will be banishing the Stress Monster from your life. When we walk around with loving feelings the Stress Monster will shriek and run away back into his gloom and doom.

 

As a final thought, consider these wise words: "A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror." (Ken Keyes)