My own best friend
To accept all parts of ourselves is to become whole.
At this point in my life, not to love myself would feel like the most unnatural thing in the world. And so, it surprises me, as someone wholeheartedly learning to embody self-love, that some people still cringe at the use of the term, and that they feel more comfortable in the rejection of self that they're in the habit of expressing. I am continually experiencing the benefits of my efforts to accept and celebrate all aspects of myself - my body, my personality, my thoughts, my behaviours, and all my past selves, and because of this, I have an even stronger desire to share this with others. I am feeling that self-love is the foundation of everything we are and can become, and that it is also the foundation on which love, compassion, and forgiveness for others is built. Self-love is necessary for health, for empowerment, for sovereignty, for inspired action, for friendship, and for romantic love. That something so foundational, so powerful, has been so challenging for many to develop, I believe is substantially due to societal programming. From there, negative self-concept is inadvertently passed down over generations, as seeds for self-love cannot be sown in arid ground.
If the term 'self-love' feels dissonant to you, I propose using a different term, and therefore, using one that is more resonant for you. How about, self-acceptance or self-friendship? In talking about friendship, and in observing the dynamics between people with whom I am in contact, I had a sudden realisation that my feelings towards relationships with others had lost some emotional charge. I am more comfortable in allowing friendships and relationships to ebb and flow, or to develop or dissolve as they need to. A friendship is not a job; both parties should enjoy equal benefit and pleasure from the relationship. For me, respect, honesty, authenticity, mutual interests, and similar ways of thinking and behaving are keys to enjoying friendships. Many of us who are empaths have been oriented to over-giving, 'rescuing' and people-pleasing - all done with genuine intention, however these are not true friendship. The essence of love is taking all aspects of another person as part of ourselves, so that what benefits one, benefits the other. When we have heartfelt affection for others, we can experience true bonding as the foundation of friendship. Friends come to feel like family to us.
I know there are people who like me and love me, and want to be my friends, and that is all I need. It is not important to me that everyone likes me and includes me and wants to be my friend. I allow divine guidance to ensure I am loved and supported. I take responsibility for becoming a person who embodies and attracts love and friendship. I understand that my relationships reflect to me what I believe about myself and feel towards myself. As I grow in self-love, as I strive to be my own best friend, others who resonate with my frequency are drawn to me. As I learn to love and accept myself, I need less validation from others. When I explain what self-love means to me, the words that come are ''making friends with all aspects of myself''. Often, making friends with something involves growing in familiarity with it. Sometimes we run or hide from the self, we are in denial of it, or we are even repelled or repulsed by it. To love the self is to spend undistracted time with it and to nurture it. My aim is to spend time with each aspect of myself - to become familiar with it, to become comfortable with it, to accept it, to feel friendly and affectionate towards it, to take it as part of myself and come to love it, and finally, to celebrate it as part of my uniqueness and my story. Unconditional love then becomes available to me; it is within my power to give it to myself.
I approach self-development by formulating intentions for concrete action, as I believe repeated actions that are intentional and inspired lead to tangible results. I have spent quality time with every aspect of my body as it is now - both clothed and unclothed, with my undyed hair, and with my hairy legs and arms and underarms, and made friends with them. By this, I mean that I rarely feel negative thoughts towards any aspects of my body when I look at them - instead, I feel compassion and affection. This shift in embodiment is daily reflected to me from others, as it has resulted in my being more expressive and more visible. When we embody self-love, we dress, move and speak with more confidence, and others notice and respond differently to us. We become magnetic, as others sense that we are more whole and less needy, and that they are nourished rather than drained by being in our company. Quality time with your body can include pampering, movement, dance, swimming, earthing, photography, experimenting with your appearance, self-massage, and self-pleasure - all ways to enjoy the body through our senses, to experience the body as the gift that it is, and to become intimate with it. Ensure you reflect on why spending quality time with your body might feel uncomfortable for you. Start with small steps to ensure you nurture yourself through any processes that are out of your comfort zone. Explore only those that you feel are aligned with your journey in each moment.
It is sad that we, as humans, can reject aspects of our own ways of being and behaving, as if our preferences and authentic selves are lacking or shameful. The beauty of humanity is in our differences, and our vulnerability is what bonds us. When we operate from behind masks, our behaviours become confusing for others - they may not know who we are or what to expect from us, and so may not respond to us in the ways we might wish. We all have vast and varied knowledge and life experience, at every age, and we need to own our worthiness in belonging and contributing - in being part of the group and the conversation. We deserve a seat at the table by virtue of being our beautiful, multifaceted selves. We all have something to say and the right to be heard, however it is our responsibility to claim that right - others will only respond to us in accordance with our sense of worthiness within ourselves. Radical self-responsibility can be confronting, however it is suggested with love, as it really works. Self-responsibility is a self-loving act, and we can practice it in small ways. I approach all of my expansion work/play with self-care - at my own pace and in alignment with my preferred ways of being and doing. Practice speaking your truth in multiple settings, even if it feels uncomfortable. Practice sharing your creativity. Over time, this will feel more natural. In hindsight, we will realise how much progress we have made in experiencing greater connection, empowerment, expression, and visibility - we will feel expanded.
Lastly, we can strengthen self-love by making friends with our past selves - during this lifetime - ourselves at every age. To do this, we need to acknowledge that at every stage of life our decisions might have been impacted by our knowledge, understanding, environmental influences, and self-worth - we were always doing our best. We might regret our past decisions or actions or imagine ways in which our lives might have been different. The past cannot be changed, but we can change our perceptions of it and our emotions towards it. We know we have expanded far beyond all of our past selves, but we can draw our past selves towards us, hold them, love them, and heal them so that we no longer reject them. We can have compassion for them and even celebrate them. In the last few years, I have cultivated an intentionally minimalist lifestyle, which included digitalising my memories, and condensing printed photos to one box. A few days ago, I had a sudden inspiration to buy a photo album, and I selected the photos that most represented my life and assembled them in the album. During the process, I realised the 'why' of what I was doing - by spending quality time with my past selves and their feelings, understandings, dreams and desires, by cultivating compassion for them, I could build friendships with them and expand my self-love as a result.
Why delay the innerstanding that our potency as humans in the world, our joy and self-expression, and our belonging and connection, depend on our embodying self-acceptance and self-love and becoming our own best friends? For many, much time has been spent in the rejection of self. With our compassion and love for ourselves and our learning throughout the journey, we are now at liberty to choose new, self-nurturing, expansive intentions and actions - actions towards radical self-responsibility and radical self-acceptance. I will dare to say, ''radical self-love''. Healing and wholeness are available to us now, in this and every moment, through self-love, which is deep, profound, and truly within the power of each of us, as humans, to experience.
* Photos are from my solo road trip through Northern New South Wales, an expansive, empowering, self-loving experience that I recently chose for myself.
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