I was brought up in a home with a mother and a father, two sisters, four brothers and two cats. We lived in a white house in the suburbs of a big-growing, way-south town in the United States of the 1950s and 60s. My early years were molded by the tenets of Catholicism, Mid-western ethics and the post-WWII, Baby-Boom ideals of personal industry, bright hope and tomorrow-will-always-be-better surety. Things were orderly, black-and-white and very clear. Respect, hard work and minding my manners were the core values that were taught and held dear. I was also taught to love my parents, my siblings, my neighbors, my God and my country. This was all wonderful and clear. But it's taken me almost 60 years to realize there was one thing I was never taught.
I was never taught to love myself. In fact, I was taught the opposite. I was taught that loving myself was selfish and "wrong." I was taught that others always came first and that self-sacrifice -- being loving and kind to everyone else -- was the way to happiness, wholeness and the way to the very salvation of my soul. This proviso of my youth, these "marching orders" of my spirit, have been the most damning, hurting and lost-soul-producing design for living I could ever have been handed. Because there is one huge hole in this doing-life-well model: How can I love others, how can I sacrifice myself to others, if I have no clue who this self is? How can I love and cherish, honor and care for others if there is no central "me" from which to do all these acts of love and kindness?
Being loving and kind to others without a firm and ferocious love for myself is complete nonsense. It is not logical to think that I can give to others with conscious and loving intent without my first having a "me place" to give from. I spent the first 58 years of my life trying with everything I had to be "good" and loving with others. And now that I look back, I have to sadly say that most of this was an unknowing "play act" on my part. I was actually looking for myself in all this kindness and loving without even realizing it. I was giving to others from a place of "no place" within me -- always needing confirmation that what I had given was valued. Because if it was valued, I would somehow be "real."
Today, the first person in line for my love is me. I can now say this with clear eyes and a joyous heart. I am special and worthy, I am free-choosing and awake. I honor the wonder of my soul and the seeking power of my mind. I cherish the child within me, the girl, the woman and the striding elder. With this competence of heart -- that I am wonderful, beautiful, joy-shot and good -- I can give to others with a potency and freedom I have never known before. I can stand with all of me wide open in love and kindness. I don't have that huge hole inside me where I belong. I am able to move out from a place of self-love to be truly aware of others, to give with easy generosity and no-returns-needed grace.
This loving of ourselves can be a scary choice to make, because it goes against much of what we are taught. But without it, we are not full-feeling and whole. We naturally become exhausted and needy, because we keep giving from a well that we are not replenishing from within. There is no healthy and regenerative core place from which to fully love others and this life we are gifted with. As I come to love myself more each day, as I grow more fully into the wonder of an open and giving life, I also realize a deeper relationship with the loving power that imbues my spirit. I am the echo and mirror of this power -- so in loving myself, I also love all that is.
I would truly like to know what your thoughts on self-love are. What are the challenges you encounter in seeking to love yourself fully? What benefits and new insights have you gained from cherishing you own soul? And perhaps, most important of all -- where do you feel you are not allowed to love the mighty and beautiful soul that is you?
To learn about her new book, "Soul on the Run," go to: www.SoulOnTheRun.com