How can anyone love me is an honest observation of what many people have hidden in their psyche. We all put up a good front, we want people to think we are normal, but what lies lurking beneath the surface is another story, and it may not be as pretty as we want the world to think it is.
When Ed first met Deb he felt hopelessly unlovable: "How can anyone love me?" Possibly because his mother died five days after he was born, possibly because he grew up with hating, yelling and arguments as the norm. He was constantly fearful of getting punished or smacked. If a neighbor in his Bronx apartment building or someone on the block said he did something bad Ed was punished even without his stepmother asking if it was true. She would even mark the milk bottle so she knew how much milk he had drunk. When he was about six he became aware of family happiness at a cousin's house, where they were playing around a Christmas tree. So, no surprise that Ed suffered from feeling unlovable. Yet here was this woman saying she cared?
We have just celebrated our 25th anniversary. Most people tend to marry someone who is either just like themselves or who is just the opposite, which is what we did. In England they would say we are as different as chalk and cheese. This difference can be great -- a welcome balance to our own neuroses -- or it can be maddening. We have not gotten through the last 25 years without many moments of exasperation, times when we are often saying the same thing in a different way, such as: "The ceiling is flat." "No, the ceiling is white!"
Loving ourselves can appear so difficult; it seems much easier to love someone else. But if we don't start with ourselves then we can't truly care about anyone else. Rather, we love them so they will love us, which is the love we are not giving to ourselves. We bask in feeling loved, yet beneath it lies our hidden doubts, shame and insecurities. We need this other person to love us, for without it we are left unlovable again.
To love ourselves is seeing and accepting the more hidden side of ourselves. Most of us have issues with past hurts, traumas and conflicts. Meditation enables us to see the deception, jealousy, grief, envy, trauma and other issues that dwell in our heads. It gives us a spaciousness where we can step back to be more honest. It also gives us the chance to make friends with our demons. Do we let our issues rule us, or can we see them for what they are and release the hold they have?
Don't get us wrong. Loving ourselves isn't an airy-fairy thing, it's very grounded and real. We are accepting ourselves just as we are, including the shadow issues, so that we feel comfortable in our own skin; we are no longer embarrassed by ourselves. There is no need to defend the ego, which keeps us thinking we are unworthy. We can even surrender the desire to be right in an argument. We can also say no to what is unacceptable or causes suffering, without thinking we have to please everyone. Loving ourselves means we are free of the limitations imposed by others.
There is a subtle basic sadness in us all -- the sadness of separation from our true selves. Loving ourselves is a journey of accepting this sadness more and more deeply until it becomes transformed into joy as we realize we are not alone here, we are all interconnected. This means we are all held in love, and we are all lovable! This love arises from within, spontaneously and completely.
Ed used to sing this at elementary school. We think it is very relevant!
I love myself
I think I'm grand,
I go to the movies
And hold my hand.
I put my arm
Around my waist,
And when I get fresh
I slap my face!
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See our award-winning book: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Jack Kornfield, Jane Fonda, Father Thomas Keating, Marianne Williamson, Ram Dass and many others.
Our three meditation CDs: Metta--Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi-Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra-Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: www.EdandDebShapiro.com.
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