How to Love Yourself: Learning the Lost Art of Self-Love
It’s easy to say that you love yourself. But it’s completely another thing to actually achieve self-love. Ask yourself, “What does ‘loving yourself’ actually mean?” How do you do it? Most people think of it literally, like trying to kiss yourself on the lips… which is actually an impossible task to achieve.
So, the question remains: how do you achieve self-love? Is it something you simply have to contract, like measles? Or is it as the religious say, a gift of divine grace, which somehow is dished out to some, but not to others?
Many attempt to teach methods of meditation and spiritual discipline in the hope of contacting this power. Others will simply tell you, “You don’t have enough faith. You don’t have enough guts. You don’t have enough willpower. All you have to do is put your shoulder to the wheel and shove.” In reality, following this advice would only make you a very clever hypocrite.
To learn how to truly love yourself, you must first have an understanding of the full spectrum of love and what exactly love is, you must discover what it is you love, explore your selfishness honestly, and then learn to trust yourself to be capable of loving honestly. You must come to a deep understanding about what you love, be honest with yourself about those things, and effectively love about yourself that you love those things.
The Spectrum of Love
Love is not something that is a sort of rare commodity. Everybody has it, and depending on how you look at things, all “you” really are is what you love. Love is like water flowing through a hose, in that it manifests very differently depending on the direction you point it. Everybody has the metaphorical faucet running – there’s no turning it off. Perhaps the way in which you find the force of love operating in you is that you have a passionate enjoyment for booze. Or ice cream, or automobiles, or good-looking members of the opposite sex, or even the same sex. But there is certainly love operating, on some level, in all people.
Everybody tends to distinguish between the various kinds of love. It’s said that there are allegedly “good” kinds, such as charity, and “bad” kinds, such as animal lust. But actually, various forms of love differ in the very same way that the colors of white light divide into the spectrum when passed through a prism. We might speculate and say that the red end of the spectrum of love is libido, and the violet end of the spectrum of love is “agape,” or divine charity. And that in the middle, in various yellows, blues, and greens, are friendship, endearment, consideration, and everything in between. But, just as in the case of light through a prism, it’s all the fundamentally the same energy.
It’s also said that selfish people love themselves. That’s really a misunderstanding, because “yourself,” as a concept, is something that is very difficult to direct love at. This is why loving yourself is as difficult as kissing your own lips. Because your “self,” when you try to focus on it, to love it or to know it, is oddly elusive. If you explore what you love when you say you love yourself, you will make the startling discovery that everything you love is something other than yourself. Even if it be very ordinary things, such as ice cream or booze. In the conventional sense, booze is not you, and neither is ice cream. It certainly turns into you, in a manner of speaking, when you consume it. But then you don’t have it anymore, and so you look around for more in order to love once again.
Discovering What It Is That You Love
To experience self-love, you must understand what love you currently possess and get it moving, consistently. Once you discover where you currently choose to invest your love, you can then begin to exert some control over it. Follow and explore whatever kind of love you currently have in you. Because you cannot control love until you have something to control. In other words, you’ve got to get the car running before you can learn how to drive it. You will not become a skillful driver by sitting in a stationary car in a garage any more than you will become a skilled dancer if you never move your arms or legs.
So, the first thing, then, is to discover what, indeed, you do love – if anything. And you will find there is something. Explore those things. Come to an understanding of why you love them, clear enough that you could write them down if you chose.
Additionally, many of us have been taught that we should love our enemies, but we don’t really understand what it means to do this. We think it means to be charitable toward them in the hope that we will “convert” them. But the real reason for loving enemies, truly, is that you need enemies. They’re terribly important to you in the journey toward self-love, whether you realize it or not.
Loving Your Enemies and Opposition
When you think about “nice” people, how “nice” people ought to behave, and what “nice” people talk about when they sit around the dinner table, the most interesting topic of conversation is always their opposition, or the “nasty” people. How awful they are, what awful things they do, and so on and so forth. But when you engage in this natural rhetoric, it’s important to realize that you actually depend on the “nasty” people in order to know that you’re “nice.”
On the other side of the picture, the “nasty” people, or the opposition, engage in the same rhetoric by blasting the “nice” people. This is how they identify their position in the world – using relation, just the same as you. For this reason, opposition is extremely necessary for everyone involved. You can’t have the “nice” people without the “nasty” people in the same way you can’t have light without dark.
The instant you become aware of this in yourself, it’s both humorous and embarrassing. All at once you begin to realize how much you depend on opposition, or an entity succinct from yourself and your own group of people. You realize that your collective ego, or yourself, depends on your being on the “in,” but you can only be on the “in” with relation to something that is “out.”
This brings about a fundamental change in your understanding of the nature of your “self.” When you’re honest with yourself about what you like and what you dislike, where you’re “in” and where you’re “out,” you’ll find that your love begins to express itself more naturally and unaffectedly.
Exploring Your Own Selfishness Honestly
You cannot teach a selfish person to be unselfish, by any means. That is to say, whatever a selfish person does, whether it be giving their body to be burned or giving all that they possess to the poor, they will still do it in a selfish way of feeling. And they will be able to do this with extreme cunning and marvelous self-deception. This includes the deception of others around them. But the consequences of this type of deception, or fake love, are invariably destructive. This is because it builds up resentment on the part of the person who does the fake loving, as well as on the part of its recipients.
A great deal of damage is done in human relationships by saying that you love someone, when what you mean is that you ought to — and you don’t, really. You give the wrong impression. And then, those people begin to expect things of you that are never going to happen.
If you exercise yourself resolutely in trying to love the things and people you think you “ought to,” you will find that you get more and more tangled up. You will realize, increasingly, that the reason why you are attempting to do this is because you want to be the “right” kind of person. And obviously, you want to be the right kind of person for your own reasons.
Accepting Selfishness and Ending Deceit
When you love people, however selfishly you love them, because of the pleasant sensations they give to you or because of the things they do for you, it is still somebody else that you love. And as you honestly explore your own selfishness, many interesting transformations will begin to come about in your mind. One of the most interesting transformations of feeling directly and honestly selfish is that you will stop deceiving people – similarly, you will stop deceiving yourself.
Now, you may think this is impractical. Naturally, you may ask the question, “Well, do we just have to sit around and wait until we become inwardly converted and learn through some sort of magic? And in the meantime, do nothing about it and conduct ourselves as selfishly as we feel?” Interestingly, there is something to be said for that. The biggest obstacle that stands in the way of self-love is honesty – particularly with one’s self.
Trusting Yourself to Be Capable of Love
To trust yourself to be capable of love, to express it, or in other words to function in a social and creative way, is to take a risk. It will always be a gamble, because the truth is, you may not come through with it. In the same way, when you fall in love with somebody else, or when you form an association with somebody else and you trust them, they may not fulfill your expectations. But that risk has to be taken. The alternative to taking that risk is much worse than trusting and being deceived. Allow me to explain why.
When you say, “I will not trust other people, and I will not trust myself to love,” what options are you left with? You must resort to force. You have to employ “the big stick” to protect yourself, such as the policemen, armies, etc. But then, what makes you think you can trust them? You have to hold a club over yourself all the time and say, “No, no, my nature is wayward, animal, perverse, fallen.” What occurs when you refuse to take the gamble of trusting yourself to be capable of love is that you become like a person who can’t trust themselves to have bowel movements.
What Happens When You Can’t Trust Yourself?
Many children learn this behavior from parents at a young age. They learn that they ought to have bowel movements in rhythm to the clock, which is a completely different kind of rhythm than what is natural. People who cannot trust themselves to do this endlessly take laxatives, as a result of which their whole elimination system gets fouled up, needing more laxatives and so on and so forth. Exactly the same thing happens with people who can’t trust themselves to go to sleep, for whatever reason, and have to resort to all sorts of pills. And it’s no different with people who can’t trust themselves to love. They pursue all manners of artificial and surgical measures to produce the effect of love for saving face. Eventually, these people get progressively more incapable of loving at all, and they create turmoil, misunderstanding, and chaos in society.
Someone who cannot trust themselves to express love honestly has no hope of learning to love themselves.
Self-Love or Self-Destruction: The Choice We All Must Make
We’ve established that in order to love yourself, you inevitably have to take the risk of loving others. There will be disappointments, failures, and disasters as a result of taking these risks. But, in the long run, it will work out. And the result of not taking these risks is so much worse than any kind of sadness or wild anarchy that could ever be conceived. You can see the negative consequences of a society unable to love by simply looking around you. It pervades every aspect of our culture. Here we are, a highly disciplined human race with all kinds of rules, religions, and technology, and what are we about to do? Blow ourselves completely to pieces.
When your love becomes too tangled up, you become altogether incapable of expressing it anymore. And you can’t destroy this energy; you can’t get rid of it. When you can’t express love, and you won’t let it out, the thing forces its way out in the form of self-destruction. The alternative to self-love, in other words, is self-destruction.
Because you won’t take the risk of loving honestly, you will be compelled instead to destroy yourself. So, which would you rather have? Would you rather have a human race which isn’t always very well controlled and sometimes runs amok a little bit, but on the whole continues to exist with a good deal of honesty and delight? Or would you rather have the whole human race cleaned off the planet, reducing the whole thing to a nice, scoured rock? The choice, ultimately, is yours.