How To Develop Self-Love
Question from a reader:
I‘ve come to realize that the way we think about loving ourselves is COMPLETELY ASS BACKWARD.
“How can I develop or recognize self-love? How do you define self-love and what are the ways to practice self-love?”
Maybe it’s because of religion, maybe it’s because we live in a society founded on religion, but we often have this notion that we are born unworthy and we have to learn how to love ourselves. I call bullshit!
If God is love, and the entire Universe is God, and you are also God, then that means that you are love, because you can never not be what you are. It’s what you are made of. You were born that way and you are still that way. The only thing is, you have forgotten it. And in that forgetfulness, you have been programmed with beliefs that are based in the idea that you are not love.
So to quote Rumi:
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.
Self-love means accepting yourself as you are and letting go of the beliefs and belief systems that tell you that you are not loved. When you let go of those beliefs, more of your true self shines through. You become more able to embody love in your every day life. There will be no need to practice.
Self love begins with self-reflection and the process of deep shadow work. For all of us, this includes confronting some form of trauma that has been inflicted on us throughout our lives, through our families, and within our societies. That process is nuanced, and it’s going to involve the same process of shadow work for everyone, but the context will be different for everyone.
Pretty much everyone has experienced some form of generational trauma that’s been handed down to us by our parents in the form of “you’re not good enough” (the father wound), or “your unlovable” (the mother wound).
If you’re a man, you’ll have to heal the societal trauma related to patriarchy that has told you that it’s not ok to feel. If you’re a woman, you’ll have to heal the societal trauma of being looked at as a sexual object. If you’re Black, you’ll have to heal the societal trauma of racism, persecution, and living in Black skin. If you’re LGBTQ, you’ll have to heal the societal trauma of persecution for your identity. If you’re a Black, gay or trans woman, you’ll have triple the trauma. And all of this on top of any other inter-personal traumas like sexual assault or abuse, narcissistic abuse, physical abuse, codependency, poverty, etc.
These are the barriers to love that exist within ourselves and within our society that Rumi spoke of.
How do we heal our own trauma when the very society we live in traumatizes us?
We are society. So we start with ourselves. And when enough of us has at least acknowledged our traumas in ourselves, we can begin to acknowledge the ways that those traumas have shaped our society and the systems within it which perpetuate that trauma. And then we can work to dismantle those systems, while we work on healing ourselves.
Identifying negative beliefs is the easy part, and you do that through self-awareness and becoming mindful of your thoughts and emotions. Negative self-talk is an indicator. Extreme negative emotional reactions are another: jealousy, anger, fear, anxiety. All of these point toward an underlying negative belief about the self, typically rooted in trauma.
Identifying harmful beliefs in society is another piece. Which systems and institutions perpetuate sexism, racism, misogyny, anti-LGBTQ? Which systems and institutions perpetuate poverty? Which systems and institutions perpetuate power imbalances? And most importantly, which actions and beliefs in your every day life support or otherwise prop-up those systems and institutions? What actions can you take to be more mindful about how your actions ripple out into the world around you?
This is the deep shadow work required to reprogram ourselves–away from fear-based beliefs about ourselves, and away from fear-based belief systems, and away from fear-based systems created by fear-based beliefs.
When we heal ourselves, we heal the world.
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