THE BLOG

Why We Need to Love Ourselves

03/03/2015 06:04 pm ET | Updated May 03, 2015
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I have met people who make poor choices, people who act out of fear, people who demonstrate the negativity they feel.

They aren't inherently bad. They've just forgotten who they are. Pieces of themselves have been harmed, shamed, or forgotten. They are no longer whole, they act from brokenness.

They carry unexpressed experiences and stories. They believe untrue fears that have been passed down from generation to generation.

To combat feeling afraid, some present as tough, defensive, and uncaring -- they wear an impenetrable suit of armor to protect themselves from further pain.

Some search outside of themselves to fill up their empty spaces. They try to heal all of their pain with stuff and people. They work hard to not look at what needs to be looked at. They stifle their emotions and pretend they don't hurt.

Some don't believe they are worthy of love, so they bully others into being with them, or they give themselves away so people won't leave them. They hope another person will heal them.

Some attempt to outrun discomfort by staying excessively busy with other people's issues. They judge others so they can feel good about themselves. They point the finger at others to take the pressure off their own perceived inadequacy.

When internal pain is too difficult to look at, some shift their focus to the outside. Great attention is paid to appearance, clothes, cars, homes, gadgets. The hope is that one will feel worthy if they have worthy stuff. But over time this loses it allure, and acquiring stuff feels like a bottomless pit.

Some escape pain by seeking attention. By overachieving or believing that competing and being "better" than others will solidify their sense of self. But the competition never ends, and failure can feel like death.

And when positive attention can't be found, negative attention becomes the alternative. Fear, hatred and negativity are thrown out so people will turn their heads and look, people will fill the limitless void with concern or anger. To many, this feels better than nothing.

None of these methods can sustain. But people do the same things over and over again, thinking it will be different next time.

But nothing changes. Until the energy shifts. Until the focus is directed inside.

Shifting love and attention internally leads to self compassion and healing. It leads to questioning old fears and beliefs, unraveling false stories, and it leads to forgiveness -- of ourselves and others.

It leads to feeling grounded, as if you belong to the world for the first time. It results in a feeling of self worth and connection that can be found no other way.

And once this sense of belonging is felt, it intensifies and multiplies -- we can't help but give it away. And when it's shared, it is felt and trusted. It feels whole, it feels valuable.

When we direct love internally, it becomes limitless -- we become limitless. Instead of working from fear and other peoples stories, we work from our own sense of knowing. We work from our own truth.

Living our truth is the definition of joy. It's the success we've all been looking for. It has nothing to do with titles, careers, or wealth, it has to do with living the life we came here to live. Possibly as a vocation, but definitely as integrated humans, people who know and trust who they are.

Then we naturally bring light to the world. We are big, and people feel it. Not big in an overpowering or competitive way, but as a presence. We become gentle and accessible. Our ability to quiet our own negative self-talk creates space to really see and hear others.

We all have pain, and we are all in different stages of healing. People are not good and bad, we are many different things. We are light and dark.

We all have things we would rather not look at. But instead of looking for people or things to heal us, we have to take responsibility for our own healing.

Not all at once, but one choice at a time, one awareness at a time.

Our own self acceptance is the key we've been looking for. Self understanding is what shifts our lives.

Personal change is dependent upon our willingness to look. World change is dependent upon our ability to love what we see.

Cathy is host of Zen Parenting Radio and author of Living What You Want Your Kids to Learn. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.