Self-love and self-care are essential to healing.
When there is trauma, there is also shame. Especially if the trauma was a result of abuse or neglect. The voice of shame then becomes part of our inner narrative. It plays a role in how we talk to ourselves, how we treat ourselves and what we expect from life. We internalize the treatment we received, and not only as a character who is wounded but also as the one who carries on the harmful narrative and treatment. We hold the abused and abuser within ourselves.
If trauma, abuse or neglect have been part of our early life experience, then chances are, we’ve learned to accept the absence of loving treatment. As adults we tend to make decisions about ourselves that are founded on that imprint. This can lead to a feeling of disdain for ourselves, a lack of healthy entitlement and making the decision that we can’t be loved. We need to heal this.
The antidote to this -- I’ll be daring and say: THE ANTIDOTE TO THIS IS SELF LOVE. We are the only ones whose love can reach the part of us who was left feeling unworthy in our history. The biggest challenge to this is deciding to make the effort and do the learning that healing it requires. Deciding to make the effort is an act of love, love for ourselves. Allowing in the love of others paves the way for loving ourselves. It can help us learn to be open to new ways of care and kindness. It can catalyze self love, but it cannot replace the unique impact of self love.
Healing is a journey to wholeness. Arriving at wholeness requires care, commitment, and devotion.
Devotion -- not to the ego, or the external things that are symbols for success but
to the essence of who you are. Healing is an act of devotion for our deepest, most hidden places. It is devotion to the parts of us that we keep in the shadows; sometimes because we feel ashamed of their vulnerability or “ugliness“ and other times because they are the most beautiful parts of us. We hide them out of fear. We are afraid of the parts of us longing to be recognized and loved. True healing requires acceptance and loving embrace of these parts of us. This is self-love.
Self-care isn’t about tending to our outer shell. It’s about loving our under-belly. Our vulnerability, our wounds and our beauty. Loving ourselves not despite these parts but because of how they are part of our uniqueness. Self-care manifests in the practical ways we do things, how we treat ourselves and allow others to treat us. It expresses in what you feed yourself; in heart, body, mind, and spirit.
How you treat yourself will set the tone of your life, relationships and state of being.
When we refuse to invest in our relationship to ourselves, we refuse to spend time with the parts of us that are starving for presence and care. We feel empty -- like there is a big hole inside. We become desperate, needy, and/or become over-givers; drowning in co-dependence, constantly care-taking in an attempt to fill ourselves up. In either case, we end up abandoning ourselves. This gets us nowhere, leads to bigger distress and more hunger. We don’t feel wholesomeness or “fed” in our relationships because we aren’t allowing ourselves the things that satiate us. This could be as simple as saying what movie you want to watch rather than always going along with the wants of others. How you treat yourself tells others how to treat you. When we give to ourselves, attend to our needs and wants, are we able to receive from others. Our relationship to ourselves is the foundation on which all of other relationships are built. What you choose to say yes or no to is key to changing this dynamic. Each of us has the power to choose, even the smallest authentic decisions make a difference.
As we cultivate self-love and put it into action, we discover what nourishes us and what diminishes us. Boundaries become an expression of love. As we become aware of what to and learn how to say no or yes, our fulfillment and higher good emerge. You need to know who you are to know your value and what will make you happy. You need to accept and care for the part of you that was wounded to be able to fully receive and integrate that goodness. Healthy boundaries are an essential part of that. This is self-love in action!
The love of one’s wholeness is a much more profound love than love that is based on the need for another. Wholeness holds the good and bad of one’s experience and identity. (Everybody has both.) You stumble upon this quality of Self-love when you are compassionately present with yourself, even when you can’t stand yourself. This love emerges in the moments when you’re not looking to be saved from how you feel, but instead caringly witnessing your experience. The experience of your wholeness and that you have what you need arises when you have the resilience to be present with and accept your feelings of pain, shame, or need, without judgement. This is compassion. When you engage in it you are being loved and loving. You feel and know it. This- presence, acceptance, non-judgement- is a warrior’s act. It doesn’t come without effort. It takes courage, commitment and an unbreakable love - devotion. The funny thing is you become that warrior as you do it, not before. It is a leap. It is a place of naked honesty and hope that is backed by potency.
I invite you to treat yourself with care, kindness, and love. Treat yourself the way you would treat a child that you absolutely love.