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Learning to Love Yourself

By Bonnie Starr Mandell-Rice

“How,” a client recently asked, “do I begin to love myself?” The answer is simple: make the decision to do so. Love, as with happiness and all the other things we wish to feel and experience, begins with just that: a decision. Once we have made our decision and fully committed to it, life begins to show us the way.

When we decide to love ourselves, we stop telling ourselves lies about ourselves, and begin to tell ourselves the truth about ourselves. The Truth of each of us is that we are beloved children of the Divine Creator (whatever you may choose to call Him/Her/It), made in His/Her/Its likeness and image. All that the Divine has and is, is available to us when we choose It. So often, however, we choose, consciously or unconsciously, not to believe and accept this truth, because we are operating from and running old tapes that are filled with disempowering stories and lies. When we decide to love ourselves, we have to turn off the old tape player (the inner critic) and erase the old tapes. We have to “just say ‘no, thank you,’” when the inner critic starts to crank out the same old sorry stories about us.

Even knowing the Truth about myself, there still are truths about me that do not feel “divine.” I have made mistakes, spoken words I would unspeak, done things I would undo. Thus, it feels at times as if at least some of the old tapes speak truth. Yet one day not long ago when I was upset with myself over something and I was replaying a lengthy list of my failings and shortcomings at full volume, I heard a voice say: “No more lies.” To which I (believing my accounting of my misdeeds to be factual and, therefore, true) incredulously replied: “Say what?” The Voice responded: “No more lies. You are having a human experience. Congratulations on playing the human role. You are not the role. You are not the experience. Let it go and come back to the Truth of who you really are: my beloved Self.” This Voice invited me then and invites me still to love myself as It loves me. It yearns for me to love myself as It loves me: with neither condemnation nor condition, but with total acceptance. I hear It sigh: “Yes, that is the way. Love yourself that way, that you might love Me that way, for we are One. Being One, what you condemn in you, you condemn in Me. Being One, when you love yourself, you love Me.”

Having decided to love ourselves, we still may find (as I have done) ourselves shaming or angry at ourselves over something we did or said or failed to do or say. This pattern of anger and shaming ourselves is probably not new to us. It certainly was not to me. What may be new, having made the decision to love ourselves, is that we now (after a minute or ten minutes or a day – however long it takes) catch ourselves doing this. In that moment, we become the observer. When we identify with the observer rather than with the internal drama that we are experiencing, we are one-step removed from the anger or shame. From the position of observer arises a sense of detached compassion for the parts of us that are engaged in the drama. It is the detached compassionate witnessing by the observer that heals the anger and shame. It does so by shining the light of love and acceptance on us.

This love is not vain, boastful or bragging – those things about which most of us were warned as children. It is, like all true love, simply allowing, accepting and honoring. It allows us to be who we are, authentically, in each moment. It accepts us as we are, without judgment - neither praise nor condemnation. This may seem difficult, because most of us have been told or otherwise gotten the message that we have to think or behave in certain ways in order to be loved/lovable/accepted. We internalize those messages and impose the same requirements on ourselves before we are willing to accept and love ourselves. Unlike goods we purchase, however, we are not returnable. No matter how much else we lose in our lives, we always have ourselves. So we might as well accept ourselves, love ourselves and, as with all the gifts (and our lives and we ourselves are gifts) we receive, show some gratitude and appreciation!
The choice is up to each of us: to love or not to love ourselves. What is your decision?

COPYRIGHT: @ Bonnie Starr Mandell-Rice 2008. This article may be forwarded provided that the complete article and this copyright information are included. This article will be archived at.