It seems that none of us are born loving ourselves. It even sounds odd to talk about an infant “loving” in our most familiar sense of the word. What’s happening for him are sensations which might be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, what feels good or not, but hardly anything we would call love. How does the feeling of loving oneself emerge or develop?
Suppose, just for a moment, that this is the purpose for each one of us in our lifetime, to come to feel unconditional love for ourselves. How that happens can be a very convoluted route. We first experience love in some way from people around us. Mostly it would seem that what we learn is conditional – based on our behavior, how we look, what we say or issues that have nothing even to do with us. An infant growing up is left to interpret the signs, some of which may be subtle and some loud and obvious. We don’t come knowing who we are, so we depend on these messages from those around us. We internalize what is shown or said to us and, for the most part, come to believe this is who we are.
It’s true this may not be information that is new to you. But, in the context of growing to love ourselves, how is it that we can come to learn that we are really okay and worthy of being accepted completely as we are? Might it not be a matter of remembering a moment of wholeness – where there was no judgment, no sense of unsatisfactoriness. All that is there is a fullness, an acceptance of however we are in that moment. It’s a felt sensation that is independent of where we are, who we are with or what we are doing. It’s simply a matter of being.
Mostly we consider that how we feel about ourselves depends on what’s happening, or what has happened or the possibility of what may happen. All these considerations impinge on what we think of ourselves. Interesting that so much effort can be spent on shoring up the bulwark around our own identity, trying to make it stronger or less impervious to outside influences. It takes some remembering to get back to the whole and realize that nothing can touch or change the core of our being. It’s not possible.
So, suppose you find a comfortable seat, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths in and out. Now let yourself remember an earlier time when you experienced the sensation of loving and/or being loved. See if you can set the story aside and focus on the feeling. It needn’t be one of those BIG, LIFE CHANGING events; it might be a few moments when you felt ok inside, when there was the beginning of an inner smile happening for no particular reason. After you’ve connected with that feeling, open your eyes and move to where you can see yourself in a mirror. Look directly at the person there in front of you. Allow yourself to remember that inner smile and consider that, regardless of what may have happened since that earlier time, or what might happen in the future or even what thoughts and emotions are creeping in at this very moment, you are the same inside. That inner smile, the feeling of loving yourself, is there, simply waiting to be remembered.