It's a buzz word. It's something the hippies talk about. You know the kind. The "new age" folk who are always going on about your inner child and finding beauty within. "Love yourself," they say.
Like many things, it can start to lose its impact after hearing it a thousand times. It starts as a bright light, a warm fuzzy feeling, then fades into a meaningless glimmer. And yet... Somewhere past the paisley patterns, beyond the patchouli and incense, I can see a deeper, more significant truth to this catch phrase. A truth that is connected to one of the tenets of life that I keep coming back to again and again: Accept what is.
Yes, self-love can translate to self-care and self-improvement. But the motive often gets muddled. We start to add conditions to loving ourselves. "Once I've done A, B, and C, then I will love myself", or "once I look like that, then I will love myself," or my personal kryptonite, "once I've accomplished X, Y, and Z, then I will love who I am."
In applying these conditions, we miss the point. The hyphen in "self-love" has become a sorry and forgotten place holder for the word unconditional.
Love yourself unconditionally.
This is something I talk about doing. It's something I encourage others to do. But it's not something I practice. Not really. Like many others, the love and appreciation I have for myself is dependent on a number of things. The food I eat, the amount of exercise I do, whether I write well (or write at all), the experiences I have and how they measure up to others' experiences as dictated by social media.
I hate admitting this. It means I have been caught in the Great Web of Lies. The web woven by society's many facets, through an unending myriad of messages, convincing us that we are not good enough as we are. Convincing us that we are not worthy of love, even from ourselves. It is from our Self that this love must come if we are to learn how to love, and accept love from, others. But we cannot rely on the love of others to fulfil and validate us. We cannot control the choices of others. Their choice to love us - or not - has everything to do with them and nothing to do with us. It would be nice if we could take credit for their affections, but in doing so we misplace our self-worth. We begin to rely on their affections to affirm us of who we are. This is not the way. This is not sustainable.
So, with boxes unchecked, things undone, and body parts untoned, we must look in the mirror and begin to love. What better place to start loving than from a place of doubt? It is from this place that you must accept what is, that you must accept yourself as you are.
Love. Your. Self. There are no conditions to meet that will make you loveable. There are no feats to accomplish that will proclaim your worthiness. Right now in this moment, however broken, put-together, mixed up, figured out, out of shape or fit you are: love yourself. Unconditionally. Every stretch mark and dimple, every flaw and imperfection - it is part of who you are. It is worthy of love. You are worthy of love.
If this acceptance of 'what is', this appreciation of Self, inspires a declaration of self-care or self-improvement, fine. But let it be from a place of knowing that what you have is already enough. Everything else is just a bonus.