Tina Turner might have been speaking about the confusion love creates when falling for another, but love baffles even more people when they think about showing love to themselves. Admit it… can you even say to yourself that you love “you”?
I had an epiphany not too long ago. It seems silly to think that after almost twenty-eight years of providing mental health services that this notion only just recently arrived in my brain. I’ve spent countless hours talking to people about their chronic depression or anxiety, their ongoing and repeated bad (and sometimes abusive) relationships, their horrible self-esteem, their exhausting obsessive thoughts, their crippling body-image issues or concerns with over- or binge-eating, their immobilizing lack of assertiveness, their shattering hurt feelings, their relentless old habits, and so on. Whatever “broke” their spirit and souls, I was committed to helping them reclaim their lives. Throughout all of this work, if asked, I couldn’t even count the number of times I spoke to someone about self-love, itself.
My recent “ah ha” moment stopped me dead in my tracks. It dawned on me that every single concern or challenge a person struggles with throughout their experience of the human condition is related to a lack of self-love. And I mean EVERY single concern. Give that some thought…. What does everyone want most? To be loved and accepted. What do we lack the most within ourselves? Yep!… Love and acceptance.
After realizing this, I also realized that each emotional struggle or wound that exists stems directly from the fact that a person doesn’t love themselves. For over ten years, my mission has been to teach others about Soul Health, with the main concept pointing to our willingness to align the ten branches of the human condition with our souls in order to experience what I call “radiant living”. But can we really align our lives without self-love? Can we really sustain change and foster growth and evolution without accepting ourselves? The answer is a definitive “no”.
Research, in many ways, indicates that self-love enhances our overall health. Not only do studies show that self-acceptance improves satisfaction with life, they also show that self-compassion provides the motivation we need in order to change our lifestyle and maintain healthy behaviors such as getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and even success with smoking cessation. Other research indicates that self-compassion and acceptance reduces stress and can prevent procrastination because it helps us recognize the downside of an unhealthy behavior before we engage in something we might regret.
A study in the journal of Psychological Science confirmed that self-love can also help us to deal with adversity, showing that divorced individuals who spoke compassionately toward themselves were more able to recover from the separation than those who spoke with self-criticism. Reading this research and pondering my work with clients helped me refocus on the importance of self-love as a person evolves. But an even bigger awareness shifted my approach to both working with clients and working my way through my own concerns within the human condition. Humor me for a moment….
Why do we repeat old patterns? Because we haven’t evolved beyond them. Why haven’t we evolved beyond them? Because we haven’t learned to—or are willing to love ourselves enough to do so. So, if you wonder why your life is in a vicious and unhealthy cycle, perhaps it is time to work on self-love.
For those who believe in reincarnation—the rebirth of a soul in a new body for the purpose of evolution—the concept of self-love also answers why our soul comes back for another round. You might want to consider your unfinished business or karma as a sign that your soul is missing out on a little (or a lot) of self-compassion. If we repeat old patterns because of a lack of self-love, it makes sense that on a bigger scale, we also repeat lives because we haven’t figured out that love has something to do with it… self-love, that is.
For you Beatles fans out there, I’m sorry to say that they forgot a verse to their song, “All You Need is Love”. The remake will have to include the key to the Universe—that self-love is the answer to all of life’s challenges. If you want to evolve beyond your old stuff, then get to work on loving yourself at least a little bit more today.