Some folks say you cannot love another until you love yourself first. This makes me wonder…why is it we do not love ourselves first? Does loving another first teach us to love ourselves? Can we not find love for ourselves by loving another? Is this why so many marriages end in divorce because we don’t love ourselves first so we fail at loving another? What does really loving ourselves look and feel like? Does loving ourselves require the journey inward to find love there first?
Why is it we do not love ourselves first?
I propose we live in a society that teaches us to look for love in all the wrong places. When one gazes into the sweet, innocent essence of a newborn, one cannot ponder for a second that this soul may grow up to inflict harm onto others. Rather, we are touched by this innocence with hope this little being will grow into the expression of love and light, and bring their gift to the world. As parents and a society, it is our responsibility to nurture and guide our children on the path which matters most…the path of love. This means we have to be the love we have to give.
In our society, we cultivate the search for love outside ourselves: who we love, what we love to do, where we love to live, what clothes we love to wear, what car we love to drive, where we love to travel, what foods we love to eat. With all these outer distractions comes the tendency to give the outside world the power to provide love. We finally buy the car we love, and in a few months the novelty and excitement fades. Our closets are full of clothes we bought in the passion of the moment, yet over time our tastes change, we are bored with them and want a whole new look. We meet the man we feel is right for us, yet months or years later he leaves us for another woman and we grow apart. The lesson here is that nothing outside us, not even another human being, can provide the love we seek. Love is an energy which dwells inside our hearts. We have to become the love we seek so that everything we create outside us is an expression of that love. In a society where the focus is on everything we can accomplish and accumulate in the outer world, it is easy to neglect the inner world…where our true power resides.
Does loving another first teach us to love ourselves?
One of the principle teachings in Buddhism is that in being of service to others, we come to know the power of love within ourselves. I believe this is true. But in western society, survival of the fittest has long been the game in town resulting in a “me”, not a “we”, culture. While there are many professions which call us into service as doctors, nurses, teachers, counselors, therapists, healers, vets, coaches, pastors and even politicians, there is a fine line of balance needed between what we give to others and to ourselves. When we burn out in our professional service to others, it is time to contemplate the love we may not be giving ourselves and refuel. For many of us, marriage is our first experience in being of service to others. Women find themselves deep in service to their husbands and children with care taking, nurturing, listening, cooking, cleaning, entertaining, shopping and often sacrificing or balancing their own career desires. Men are in service caring emotionally and providing financially for their families. While it would seem in loving our families first we would naturally find the love for ourselves, it does not always work out this way.
All life is energy, and all energy is subject to constant motion and change. If all our energy is always going out to others, and we are not taking energy in to nurture ourselves, we create an imbalance. Every experience in life provides us with an opportunity to clarify what we want and do not want, what we love and do not love. What we want is what we love, and what we love is what we want. We can only know what we love and want by regularly giving attention to our own hearts…and be here now. If we focus our attention on what we love and want, it will always manifest in our life. Loving others first can offer us the life experience of loving ourselves through the knowing of what we want and do not want. If we do not know what we want and love within our own hearts, we may find we create our lives by default rather than from deliberate intention. Then we are forced to journey inward to find the love for ourselves first.
Can we learn to love ourselves by loving another?
Inevitably, loving another reveals our capacity to love ourselves. Where I fall short to love another is where I fall short to embrace the love for myself. How can I learn to tolerate, and forgive, another’s anger if I am angry myself? I cannot. I can only go inside and heal my own anger before I can find the love and forgiveness for another’s anger. If I fail to journey inward to find love for myself, I will become a victim of another’s anger and allow it to affect my own peace and joy. We can often betray ourselves in our efforts to love another. When we are not loving ourselves, we attract those who are also not loving themselves. Only when we are firmly planted in the vibration of love we hold in our hearts can this love for ourselves be met by the same love of another. In loving another, we are given endless moments in which to choose how to love ourselves, and thus, how we choose to love the other. How we love another is always a reflection of how well we are loving ourselves. No where to run, no where to hide.
Do marriages end in divorce because we do not love ourselves first so we fall short in loving another?
Humanity’s collective purpose in being here on this Earth at this time is to learn to love ourselves and others. Love is the highest expression of our beingness, and love is all we bring in when we arrive and all we take with us when we depart. Thus, the more joyous experiences of love we have and share become our greatest reward for living. We are not born perfect. We all have shadows from the past we need to overcome. We are all mirrors to one another for both the shadows and the light we carry inside. When we love another, and we are unaware of our own shadows and light, we are also unaware then of the others shadows and light. Our love becomes a shadow and light dance in which we see our own reflection. If we do not like what we see reflected back to us, it is showing us a part of ourselves we are not embracing with love. We have the choice to react or respond. Reaction comes from our shadows while response comes from our light. Our reactive shadow will continue to play out in the same patterns until it is embraced and healed. Our responsive light is a deliberate choice to choose love over fear of the shadow. Marriages trapped in the shadow dance end in divorce. We have to learn to love it all, the shadow and the light in ourselves and in others, if we are to successfully love ourselves and others. In loving another, we are given infinite opportunities to heal ourselves by loving ourselves. It is our sole responsibility, and not the responsibility of the other. If we continue to react, we will miss some of these golden opportunities. If we choose to respond, love will be our guide. Marriage is the journey into loving one another side by side. When we cross unhealthy boundaries with blame, anger and judgement, with losing ourselves in the other, with expecting the other to meet all our needs and complete us, we cease to love ourselves and thus the other. A happy marriage requires we each tend to our own garden.
What does really loving ourselves look and feel like?
To love ourselves is to know in our hearts that we are the sole creators of our own reality. We are powerful beyond measure. We have come into this life to sift through all our experiences from which we clarify what we want, what we love and what makes us feel good. If we are true to the love we find in our own hearts, our lives will reflect all that we love, and we will feel the joy of all our creations. If our lives are not working, we are not allowing love to create what we want. Rather, we are in shadow resistance, and settling for victimization and lack of freedom. When we love ourselves, we feel the power within us to create and attract all the goodness the Universe is waiting to give us. Loving ourselves is choosing to be the best we can be, and allowing our light to burn bright.
Yes, loving ourselves requires the journey inward to find love already in full bloom within our hearts. We are each the one who must nurture our own blossoming before we can collectively become a beautiful garden. Going inward means taking the time to nourish what feels good, and to be full and at peace with these feelings. Our feelings are our inner response to life outside us. We know we are loving ourselves when we choose to respond to all our life experiences with the vibration of love within us rather than react to life experiences with lower vibrations. Our dedication to the vibration of love will effortlessly attract all the love we seek in the world around us.
Dragonfly says your life as a nymph within your own emotional waters is both the key and the guide to your transformation into a winged heart.