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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Self-Love Stories

Jan 31, 2020 09:30AM ● By Janet Raftis, Rev. Richard Burdick, David Alexander, Ifini Sheppard, Rev. Cindy Fuller, Debbie Walker-Lass, Gen Kelsang Mondrub, Jade Crosby, Tammy Billups, Jill Volpe, Priya Lakhi
Since this is Valentine’s month, we thought it might be meaningful to consider the nature of self-love. What is it? Is it important? How can we cultivate it? We asked a few members of the Atlanta community to share their insights about the topic, and they were very generous in their responses!

Self-love Crept In

Loving myself wasn’t always something that I experienced. A lot of my life was filled with more self-loathing than self-appreciation. The love part happened as a natural extension of my healing and growth process and from a tenacity within me to overcome trauma and pain from my past.

Self-love crept up on me as I worked through my past. It was so subtle that I probably wasn’t even aware of it at first. The gentleness is also its expansiveness. Now that I am more aware of myself, I listen more to what is within me—and not just for making big decisions—but in the moment-to-moment experiences of life. I honor what is coming up in me and whether or not the sensation is a “Yes” or a “No.”

Self-love has shown me how to speak up for myself, even when it’s uncomfortable. It’s taught me that I matter and that my movements here on this planet and within the context of the Universe as a whole matter. Self-love has shown me how to be accountable to myself in the most compassionate way, so not only am I able to set intentions for my life, I’m also able to go after them, and, when it’s for my best and highest good, fulfill them.

The idea of loving myself used to feel outside of me, like some sort of wand that I needed to wave over myself in order take all of the pain and problems away. But self-love hasn’t done that. It does take me on a ride through the pain, and it shows me that I am resilient. It shows me that, if I continue to tune in and care for myself, this too shall pass. It guides me, time and again, back to myself, and it shows me, each and every time, that I have value. It has allowed me to know myself as the whole and complete person that I am.

~ Janet Raftis, master energy healer

The Energy of Love

In the Unity movement, we believe in the oneness of all creation. There is no person, situation or living thing on the planet that is not a part of a multi-layered and multi-expressed singularity. This singularity is often called “God,” but I prefer the name “Love.” Though this love is known by many labels and experienced in many forms, we believe it is the life-giving and sustaining energy that we all share. The breath you just took in and released is an expression of love, and one that you give yourself as many as 30,000 times a day. It is necessary for your individual existence—so one might label it as an act of self-love.

Everyone on the planet is engaged in that same act of self-love. Through this universal yet simple and often unconscious act, energy is being exchanged within the singularity of life. Thoughts and acts of kindness, generosity and compassion—whether directed inwardly or outwardly—are carried on the breath and deposited into the one field. It is a universally shared bank account of love called collective consciousness. Therefore, every expression of love becomes an act of self-love, and every moment of self-care is benefiting the whole of creation.

When kindness is offered, kindness is received. When compassion is expressed to another, there is an increase of compassion available to the one expressing it. Through implementation of this spiritual law, we believe that if we want more love in our lives, it is our job to consciously offer more love to others and ourselves—perhaps as much as 30,000 times a day.
By consciously living as the energy of love itself, each breath we take is depositing ourselves into a great cosmological bank account, where each of us can make regular withdrawals because each of us is making regular deposits!

~ Rev. Richard Burdick, spiritual leader, Unity North Atlanta

Love Others as You First Love Yourself

The master teacher Jesus told his disciples that there were only two great commandments or rules they would love by: to love God, the creative intelligence of the universe, with all of our heart, mind and body and to love our neighbor (each other) as we first love ourselves. These were what he considered to be the keys to the kingdom.

My spiritual path has taught me that our consciousness creates our experience. When I look at the world of effects today, I think to myself, we must be doing something wrong! To me, this does not look like a world that works for all!

But both the problem and the solution are found in those simple words from Jesus. We are loving each other as we first love ourselves—and that is the problem. We don’t really love ourselves, and if we don’t love ourselves, we can’t possibly begin to treat others well and we certainly can’t love the world.

Here is the good news: you hold the key to changing all that. You are the only person responsible for the quality of relationships in your life. Now you may want to counter with a list of toxic behaviors from other people. However, when your level of self-love rises, toxic people and toxic relationships will disappear from your life. Not because they have changed, and not because you have changed them. Rather, self-love changes you. The highest forms of self-love will no longer tolerate or allow toxic behavior in our midst. Practicing self-love, it turns out, is the most effective way to heal the planet.

So, where do we begin?

Step 1: Start by opening yourself up to the vibration of love that is at the heart of the universe. Ask yourself, “Am I open and receptive to the unconditional love of the universe?”

Step 2: Take a radically honest self-assessment of where you are in your life. Everything from eating habits, relationships, money, career and levels of self-satisfaction. Be vulnerable and honest; love yourself enough to tell the truth.

Step 3: Acceptance. Whatever emerged out of Step 2, accept it. Don’t seek to change it, hide it or deny it. Just love it and accept it the way it is.

Step 4: From this place of acceptance, you can begin to build a bridge to where you want to go. This bridge is built on affirmations. Affirm with positive, present-tense language what you want in all areas of your life.

Repeat these steps daily and frequently and you will change the frequency of your entire life—a life worth loving.

~ David Alexander, D.D., spiritual leader, Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta

Time for Self

Because self-love means putting yourself first and dealing with your own wants and needs ahead of anyone else’s, self-love is a challenge for those that don’t want to be selfish. This becomes an issue due to the fact that usually relationships and the business of life takes you away from your own personal wants and needs. The question then becomes, “How do you balance self-love with service to family, friends and the community?”

I like to designate a couple of days a week when I can devote myself to me—solely for loving! It is a day to do whatever I need to do to make myself happy and satisfied. It could be as simple as lying in bed and not having to get up until I feel like it or going to a spa and getting pampered by a professional. I also take moments in each day to self-love by taking care of myself mentally with positive affirmations and educational videos, physically with yoga, walking and eating healthy, and spiritually with meditation, prayer and aromatherapy.

I self-love the most by maintaining a positive attitude and surrounding myself with progressive, conscious people doing good works. We all become one and self-love ourselves and each other. It becomes a way of life—to self-love and to give love. It’s a delightful balance that benefits all.

~ Ifini Sheppard, writer, photographer and poet

Self-discovery is Self-love

From a metaphysical perspective, in order to truly love anything, we must own the ability to love ourselves. To cultivate self-love, we must first cultivate self-knowing. When you clearly see who you are as a unique and powerful child of God, you will live in the energy of pure love. To begin the journey, ask a few guiding questions:   

1. What helps me relax?
Knowing what helps you relax allows you to comfort the inner being no matter what is happening around you. When you know how to comfort yourself, you are no longer subject to the unfulfilling search for validation from the love of another.

2. What excites me?
Knowing what excites you allows you to “turn on” the motivation. Your passions hold the key that leads to the deeper truth of you. Allowing them to express allows you to grow.

3. What were the dreams I had for my life when I was eight years old?
When you were a child, your awareness of self and the world flowed more freely than it does as an adult. You could see yourself doing and being things that you would now say are not possible. Yet, the energies held within those dreams are still seeking fulfillment—they are the calling of your soul. Acknowledgement and action allow the adult to express the desires of the soul.

You will love yourself for it.

~ Rev. Cindy Fuller, spiritual leader, InnerQuest Metaphysical Christian Church

How to Love Ourselves

Look at unconditional love: a tree, a grandchild, the ocean
The tree is strong, life-giving, bends in storms, rises toward the sun
The grandchild, innocent yet knowing, imbued with knowledge the world makes us forget she is gold.
The ocean, powerful, pulled by the moon, lit by stars, full of shifting sand.
All are full of stories you love. Breathe them in, let them wash over you.
Now, face your own sand. Pick up your little shovel, your sifter, your bucket.
Look for your innocence, knowledge, strength, your sun, your moon, your power.
Bend when you need to; there is no hurry here.
You are also lit by stars, use them to find your way.
Keep sifting. Mine for gold, it is what will be left when ego has filled the bottom of the bucket.
This is how we learn to love ourselves.
Slowly, slowly.

~ Debbie Walker-Lass, writer and certified health and wellness coach

Realizing Your True Self and The Healing Power of Self-Love

In the more than 20 years that I’ve been teaching Buddhist meditation and practice, the topic of self-love has often been a cause of great confusion and misunderstanding.
Some believe that self-love can be achieved through a makeover—by getting new clothes, a better job or a new partner. Some think it’s a state of feeling good about yourself based on external accomplishments and praise. Others feel like it’s impossible to love others unless you love yourself.
Inevitably, these ways of thinking leave us feeling hollow and disillusioned. When our self-love is dependent on outside forces, we feel like a balloon in the wind, being blown here and there without our control. Never fulfilled. Never at peace.

The Real Object of Self-Love

From the Buddhist perspective, the self is not a fixed thing—it is a mere thought or concept created by our mind. One defining characteristic of the self is that it is constantly changing. When we were a child, we identified with the self, first as a child, then as a teen, then as an adult and so forth. Sometimes we identify as the one who is a parent or a spouse, the self that goes to school or has a career.
Ultimately, Buddha taught that the true self is our good heart—our compassionate nature.
We all possess this true self. Most of the time, however, it is obscured by negative states of mind such as anger, uncontrolled wants and desires, jealousy, pride and more. It’s like a nugget of pure gold that is caked in dirt.
Our good heart is our pure nature or Buddha nature. In practical terms, it is a peaceful feeling or clear mind already with us—underneath any agitation, anxiety, fear or depression. If we take a few moments every day to settle our mind and enjoy this calm, we will learn to tap into it at all times.
This good heart is boundless and is the true object of authentic self-love.

The Benefits of Authentic Self-love

When we identify fully with our good heart as our true self, a deep process of spiritual healing takes place and an inner confidence naturally arises.
This new inner confidence is not dependent on external achievements or others’ approval. It is based on a deep faith in our own good qualities and our potential for deep inner peace and lasting happiness.
When we acknowledge and become aware of our good heart, we exist in accordance with reality. When we feel connected to others, our normal sense of isolation dissolves. In this way we can abide in great joy, feeling fulfilled and living a meaningful spiritual life.
In Buddhism, the ultimate destination is enlightenment, the inner light of wisdom, free from all limitations and the ability to help everyone. In this way, self-love and loving everyone become one and the same. In the end, loving others is the best way to love yourself!
~ Gen Kelsang Mondrub, resident teacher, Kadampa Meditation Center, Georgia

Self-love & Coffee

Coffee is a very sophisticated process.
The same can be said for self-love.
Self-love is one of life’s finest luxuries. As is coffee.

You grow, as does the coffee bean, needing intense light. If that intensity is lacking, it could have a negative effect on the taste. There is a light within you that you must rouse in order to have a positive effect on your life. Just as the coffee bean comes from within the coffee cherry fruit, true self-love comes from within you.

As you grow, let go of the need to please others.
For the coffee bean grows, not knowing the satisfaction it gives millions of people every day.
Self-love is letting yourself be.
Self-love is accepting and nurturing your light.
It will bring true satisfaction to you and others around you!

By being kind to yourself and acknowledging your humanity, consistently, you will gain in self-love. The sophisticated process will all be worth it.

Now, go treat yourself to a good cup of coffee.

~ Jade Crosby, singer, podcast host

Self-Love is a Superpower

Full disclosure: I was the queen of self-loathing and shame. It was passed down through generations of females on my mother’s side. And it felt normal. However, the self-loathing ultimately showed up in my body through endless physical ailments, and I never truly felt happy or fulfilled. Self-loathing, even when unconscious, breeds unworthiness and is a saboteur that prevents us from knowing how amazing and lovable we are at our core.

Shifting your automated negative self-talk patterns to feeling and expressing kindness and love to yourself is the first step to allowing well-being, joy and happiness in your life. Loving yourself is the magic medicine for your body, mind and soul.

So how do you begin to give yourself love when it wasn’t a learned or modeled behavior when you were young? Self-love can feel very uncomfortable, depending on the extent of your inner emotional protection, and the more uncomfortable something feels, the more likely it is to be avoided. You might already suspect that you harbor some resistance to loving yourself, perhaps through undesired habits or behaviors that seem to linger year after year.

What are the inner dynamics of why you might have resistance to self-love or why you sabotage yourself with inner obstacles? Early influences in your life, such as parents, became your inner self-talk through how they spoke to you and to themselves. Their voices became the distorted beliefs and unreasonable standards you place upon yourself via your inner critic. The positive impact of giving yourself love, or the negative impact of criticizing yourself, provide very different results.

Make an intention to build your observer muscle. Next time you catch your inner critic in action, take a deep breath and reframe the way you speak to yourself. Find a positive role model, perhaps a grandparent, a friend’s mother or a celebrity, and let their loving voice become how you communicate to yourself. Imagine how they would affectionately build you up and give you unconditional love.

Your inner child, the one with the wounds and distorted beliefs, needs your love, approval, acceptance and healthy parenting so she or he can truly heal and feel lovable. Implementing a daily ritual of sending love to any part of yourself that needs it will open up a brave new world.
Self-love is a superpower and is at the core of creating a healthier, richer and more fulfilling life. You are worth the investment to create inner self-talk habits that are filled with compassion for all you’ve been through and lay the groundwork to reveal more of the incredible light that is you.

~Tammy Billups, certified interface therapist, author and founder of Sundance Healing Center

How Do You Self-Love? It Matters!

From infancy on, we learn several ways of soothing our negative emotional states, some are negative, some are neutral, and some are positive. Whichever ways we choose to care for ourselves will have a major impact on how well we are able to deal with stress, overwhelm and frustrations in life. Negative strategies can have serious repercussions on our health, our well-being and even our relationships. Adopting positive strategies can help make life flow much easier.

Common “unloving” or harmful strategies include:

Eating: Eating to reduce stress or sadness can often lead to obesity and a host of other health concerns. It’s a very common means of making oneself feel better. Before eating, try asking yourself, “How else can I fill myself up?” 

Shopping: The high many get from spending money can be very short-lived, yet unnecessary spending can create financial challenges. Things bought are often only satisfying until you find the next great thing. Adding financial stress on top of other concerns isn’t going to help. Before purchasing, try asking yourself, “How will this item bring value to my life?”

Drugs or alcohol: Drugs can interfere with your ability to work and deal with life in general. It also affects your health and, probably, your finances. If you’re using alcohol or drugs as a tool for coping, seek professional guidance to help you adopt more positive coping strategies.

These ways of dealing with stress fail to solve the underlying issues and can cause additional problems in the future. This is hardly a complete list so think about whether or not your coping skills meet your needs in healthy, positive ways.

Common neutral strategies include watching T.V., reading, cleaning, exercise, spending time with others or any other distraction. While distractions fail to provide a solution, they aren’t likely to cause harm. Some even have benefits, but you’re still left with the source of your stress.

Positive strategies to self-love include focusing on solutions, discussing your challenges with someone and journaling. These methods can help bring about clarity, perspective and creative solutions.

You also can ask yourself, “What do I want to bring more of into my life?” Then think of five positive ways to do so. Finally, make a commitment to yourself to take action on something from your list every day.

When you take steps to bring more of what you really need into your life in healthy positive ways, you are expressing the highest level of self-love and care. And when you show that kind of respect to yourself, others will do the same.

~ Jill Volpe, MBA, CLC, BCC, board-certified life coach

Love Must be Earned? We Think Not.

A few years ago, I figured out I was living a life where love felt like it had to be earned. In most of my relationships, I found myself trying hard to win the other person over—as if their love would prove my self-worth.

That’s because most of us are conditioned from birth to believe that love must come from someone or something else. When our parents give us more love and attention after we bring home a good report card, we draw those parallels. Without even realizing it, we buy into one of the biggest lies on the planet: Love must be earned.

Once I had this ah-ha moment, I started a 90-day experiment with self-love. A few days in, when I asked myself the question, “What do I need to feel loved,” I couldn’t come up with an answer. For real. I was lost. I was so disconnected with myself that I had no idea what would make me happy. Now, I could name all the things that didn’t make me happy and all the things about myself that I didn’t like in no time. It was much harder to name all the things I loved about me.
I wondered why self-love felt so hard. I realized that as a woman, and especially as a woman of color, I have not always felt safe to feel, speak and act from my own values and beliefs. My voice has not always been heard and respected. It’s probably why it was so easy for me to just do all the things that society and my upbringing told me I “should” do. I had never spent any time trying to navigate my unique map of happiness.

I had to go deeper into the scary vault of emotions to fully embrace my mission. I asked: “Who am I? What makes me happy? What do I need to feel loved? What do I want? What is the truth that is within me waiting to come out?”

I didn’t know the answers to these deceivingly simple questions, so I sat with the questions. I looked for moments that took my breath away. I searched for experiences that brought me joy. I sat in full acceptance of my life and allowed myself to feel all of it—good and bad—without trying to control it. This “data collection” brought me closer to what I wanted. It allowed me to get clearer on who and what made me happy. Instead of reacting to chaos, I was creating freedom.

This took practice—lots of it. But I was disciplined and determined to master the self-love game. And it was worth it. The way out of our cage is through accepting who we truly are along with all our human experience. That doesn’t mean that we should put up with harmful or toxic behavior—ours or anyone else’s.

Slowly, but surely, the loop in my head became: “Anything I want is available to me. I am enough.” Boom! I was in complete self-acceptance. I wasn’t just doing it; I became it. I was in active self-love!

Now, I use a different phrase for “self-love.” I call it “grateful self-acceptance.” Within this place, I no longer wish I was a certain way. Instead of battling certain qualities within me, I compassionately embrace the lessons all around me. With gratitude I ask, “What is this experience or person here to teach me?”

Grateful self-acceptance allows me to have immense gratitude for the incredible gifts that every moment bestows upon me. It’s the deep trust that the universe always has my back. And ultimately, it’s the journey that made me who I am today.

~ Priya Lakhi, JD, founder, Awaken Ananda

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