There are many facets to the Diamond that is love; there is romantic love, the love for a parent or child, the love of friends and your dear family pet, the love of nature, the love of french food and wine, the love of your career or vocation, the love for self, for God and for life. There is the feeling of being in love; the attachment that may be to another, there is conditional and unconditional love, and there is the sensation of expansion and light when the heart opens. And, underlying all this love, I believe the fundamental essence of love is is simply the choice to love, and that the choice to love yourself is where true love begins, because it is only when we truly love who we are, that we hold the capacity for embracing and sharing true love in our world.
What does it mean to love the self?
Answering this question came to me through a process and over time, as a result of all falling out of love with myself and then learning to love again.
The story begins in love. A child is born. Then, life happened, and over time the interaction of this child's life experiences with interpretations and beliefs formed about these experiences, initiated the child's story about who they are and how the world is. But, the truth is, the perception of the child is not the truth, it is a story life has led the child to believe about who she is and how her world is. It cannot be the truth, for the very simple reason that if you were to look through the eyes of every living being and see how they see themselves, other people and the world, you would see through a multi-million faceted diamond, and even this would not reveal the truth.
My story begins as a tale of a 4-year old child who was very shy. She was bullied at school. In her young mind, the story she told was of a cruel and nasty girl who would hurt her, because she was shy. She did not like the experience and so she tried to avoid being around this girl.
When the young girl turned 6 years of age, she moved to a new school. It happened that she was the only girl in a class full of 6 year old boys. They didn’t want to interact with her. And so the young girl told herself that: ‘six year old boys don’t like girls’ and she adapted by playing with the younger girls in her break times.
At 7, she was moved to a school with older students, and was also put in a class full of of boys. The boys were cruel. They chased her, spat at her and mostly ignored her. There were no younger girls to play with in this school and so she wandered the school ground alone, suppressing her sadness to survive.
At 8, she was moved to an all girls school. Here the girls had known each other several years and had formed their social groups. To each group she approached, she was told: ‘go find another group, we don’t want you’ . To this the girl responded to herself: ‘Nobody likes me’ and she accepted the situation, it was her normality, and she got on with enjoying her education. In time she started to make friends with the quieter girls, the nicer girls, while frequently bullied by the others, to which she suppressed and hide her sadness to survive.
At 11, this young girl began to develop into a young women, her self-confidence was growing, she was feeling good about being a good student and she was generally happy in herself. She moved on to secondary school, where she was one of a few day girls in a boarding school. Although shy, she decided she would put aside her shyness and get to know the others, and look out for the boarders who may be home-sick. When she noticed one of the boarding students being bullied. She knew the pain of bullying and didn’t want someone else to be so sad so she decided to become her friend. Then the bully and all the girls in the whole year turned in her. To this the young girl fought with all her might to suppress her sadness, and was creative in finding ways to avoid situations where she might be bullied or rejected. And she had one friend; one girl with the strength to resist the crowd. She tried to cope with the situation.
But, by the end of that year, it was just too much and she became depressed. The story in the young girls developing mind became tinged with clouds of darkness. She began to see her world through the eyes and the voices of the harsh judgments the bullies had flooded her with, she made them her own.
By the end of that year she turned inward to ask: ‘what is so wrong with me’. She could not find an answer and so she began to scrutinize,and looking for things to change so that she would become liked and accepted. She bullied herself with judgment about her fat legs, developing breasts and her silly giggles. And she responded to these dark thoughts by silencing herself, retreating into loneliness, losing weight, and judging herself with the harshness of 70 bullies.
This marks the turning point in the story, the time she this girl stopped loving herself. As a result, the quality of her life began to diminish, impacting on her social life, education, happiness, psychological well-being and mental health.
For a few years she drifted in darkness, carried only by her hope and dreams that one day she would leave school and build her dreams. At 19, she did just this, but, so after many years of depression, her mind continued to tell only stories of darkness, even when she was living the opportunity to build her dreams, and doing what she loved.
Learning to Love the Self
HOPE carried her. The beauty of hope is that you only need a flicker of a candle flame to mark an impression in darkness. Her hope was in a dream of a creative career doing what she loved. It may have been years ahead, but she had vision and direction; hope for change and a brighter future. A person who makes the choice to pursue a dream of hope still has a little love in them.
In therapy she took the next step towards learning to love herself, when she took time to understand her story. What she came to understand was that there was nothing wrong with her, that she was not a reject, a nothing, or a person what was not lovable or likeable, but that these were the stories that belonged to the other girls, to the bullies; it was their judgment, not her. So she returned their stories to the rightful owners and identified her own story; the story of a child who was shy and needed to learn how to build her self-esteem. But, as a result of the years gone by, she also needed to heal depression and damage she had done to herself.
One of the greatest tools in learning to develop self-love was mindful awareness. When she learnt that she could stand back from herself and observe her thoughts and body sensations as a silent observer, she was able to see the stories in her mind; the stories of judgment, criticism, rejection, sadness and fear, and the stories of hope that she had always kept alive. And from this place of observation, she was empowered to take command of her mind and decide which stories she would continue to listen to, and which she would return to sender or simply dissolve in the developing light of her love. Through mindfulness she became empowered to make the conscious choice to learn to start loving herself, by choosing loving thoughts and actions.
KNOW WHAT MATTERS TO YOU AND HONOUR THIS
In her early 20’s, attention was brought to her values; to what matters most. She identified that what mattered to her was living with a sense of meaning and purpose, to be able to heal herself, live in a positive environment that supported her well-being, enjoy good friends and one day, to fall in love and live in the sunshine to life her darkness into feeling better. She dreamt of becoming an inspiring writing and someone who helps others heal through therapy work. When she looked at her values, and she looked at her life, she realized there were many changes to make. It was in committing to make these changes, and slowly experiencing them become her story, that her self-esteem began to develop, because she was honouring her truth, and she was becoming successful in the maker of her dreams.
Through identification of her values, she was also invited to consider her self-worth. She began to decide what was acceptable in her mind and in her world and who and what was not. She decided to start saying: 'I have value and worth' but when she looked for supporting evidence, she could not find it.
Make Time to Heal
She continued to pursue her dreams and her meaningful purpose and she realized that she was growing the strength of her mind, but, deep inside, she was not fully integrating her knowledge into wisdom. She was haunted by the pain of her past and the years she had lost, and she did not always treat herself with love. Recognising this deeper truth, the young woman decided that she needed to deeply heal herself, to free herself from her suffering her traumas and all her suppressed pain. She embarked on a course of therapy, asking for help in reaching places that she was not able to heal by herself, and she learnt that asking for help is a choice of love, an act of courage and faith in the belief in herself and another to support a return to love.
Do What Makes You Happy
This young woman had a dream to make life better, to make a difference, and to turn her suffering into something of meaning and value that would help others in an empowering way. But she was so fixated on her need to prove herself, to be accepted, to affirm her value, and to be successful, that she gave no time to anything else that made her happy. She learnt that she believed she was not allowed to be happy, until she was successful. She was lost in her own illusion. When she gave herself permission to do things in the name of her happiness, a new light emerged from within and filled her with radiance. As a result the stories in her mind grew into stories of gratitude, appreciation, happiness, and joy and she learnt that choosing happiness, is is a choice of love.
One of the most empowering teachings was in the art of acceptance. To learn to accept what has been, what is, what may be, who she is, the emotions she had suppressed so long, and the way her world is, is a process that took time. It is indeed an art, and it required practice. The young women understood the wisdom of acceptance and she tried to embrace it. Sometimes she was successful and sometimes she failed, and in this, she also learnt to apply acceptance in her limitation, her humanity and to surrender her perfection and high expectation. As she grew in acceptance, something remarkable happened that marked a significant point in her transformation; it was as if a soft strong light developed within her, the flicker of the candle flame had ignited the energy of love growing in her heart, and she felt this light grow, and in this she felt a new connection with herself and understood that she was finally making a return to love.
It was is, by the very nature embracing acceptance, that she was carried along flowing river, naturally, into forgiveness. She was able to forgive the bullies and apply forgiveness to other aspects of her life, and she did this because she wanted to let go and move into peace. She choose forgiveness because she choose to love herself and set herself free.
Believe In Yourself
As her light and love grew brighter and she experienced her dreams developing, and her dedication to love grow stronger, she realized that the stories of failure and judgement still echoed in her mind. To this she responded by applying more love, and she did this by deciding that she would believe in herself and the power that enabled her to make the choice to believe in herself, was love. Because she choose to love, she choose to believe, because to doubt was not a choice of love.She did not know what the outcome would be; she was placing herself in a vulnerable situation, but she could choose to walk the path with light or in the shadows, and she was done walking in the shadows.
Share Your love
With growing love; through understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, the choice to love, appreciation, gratitude, compassion, the connection made with her own power, with her love, also granted her the capacity to begin to truly love others and in this, she began to find a connection she had been missing, and a depth of meaning and purpose that had evolved from a concept of mind, to become the light of her heart.
We can only truly open our hearts when we truly come from love and this takes time to grow. Learning to love yourself allows you to develop your greatest power and share your greatest gift.
If you are interested in working through an empowering process of learning to develop your self-esteem, please get in touch to schedule a time to call and explore how I can facilitate your process and journey.
Learn more at: www.antoniabehan.com