When Evelyn asked me to write an article on self-love, I hesitated for a moment. For me, it feels weird for a guy to talk about self-love. But I am well aware that this is merely a view that I have about how guys should behave. But if there is a good enough reason, I am always more than willing to change my views. In this case, I feel it is worth it because some of my readers might just benefit from my experiences. As I wrote this article, it seems that I have a fair amount to say about self-love, making this is my longest post yet. The funny thing is, when I began my journey of self-discovery, I did not set out to find self-love. My holy grail was inner peace. Yet in the process, I learned about self-love as well.
How I Discovered the Need for Self-Love
Growing up I had an idealistic view of love and self-love. I believed that I needed love to have self-love. When I found my true love, my life would not only be complete, it would actually begin. Until then, I had to keep on looking. As such, I never really lived in the now, but kept looking to the future. I suppose it had something to do with the fairy tales and stories like King Arthur that were part of my childhood. Somehow, I got the idea that love was something that would magically happen and when it did, everything would fall into place. But I was to be disappointed. Life had other plans for me and reality was much different from what I imagined.
As I set about finding my true love, I became aware of the depth of my intense feelings. When I thought I had found the girl of my dreams, I fell head over heels in love with her. Unfortunately, when she did not feel the same way and rejected me, I went from great joy to great sorrow. Making matters worse, she avoided me instead of rejecting me outright to avoid hurting me. But due to a lack of a clear answer, I clung on because the alternative was too hard to bear. To fill in the blanks, my mind imagined all sorts of things, causing me to tether between hope and despair before I finally got the message. When it finally sunk in, everything fell apart.
Rejection was not easy to bear. The pain of unrequited love caused me great emotional anguish and I fell into deep depression. By this time, my attachment was so great that I had to struggle to let go of my feelings and rebuild my inner world. I did not learn my lesson the first time or the second time. I had to go through it a few more times before the pain forced me to change. At this point, I realized that I had to find a way to ease my suffering before it consumed me. This led me to begin my journey of self-discovery. My initial goal was never to love myself; I just wanted to ease my pain. But in the process of searching for inner peace, I loved to learn myself anyway.
The Art of Self-Love
Looking back today, I am amazed at the person I used to be. A close friend of mine often remarks that I have come a long way from the intense, brooding person that I once was. In truth, I am still intense, but I have learned to manage myself better. Even so, I understand why I acted and behaved the way I did. Without self-control, I could never learn self-love and eventually, I would have destroyed myself chasing after illusions. In the larger scheme of things, it was a necessary part of my evolution.
But how did I learn self-love? How did I change my old habits and beliefs that had been a part of my life for over 20 years? The answer is change did not happen overnight. For me, the process happened gradually over many years. As I struggled to stay afloat in my sea of emotions, I tackled my problems as and when they arose. Over time, I managed to resolve different aspects of my problems sufficiently to create calm and order in my life. What follows are the various things I did to achieve inner peace and self-love.
1. Taking Responsibility
The first step for me was to take responsibility for my life. Initially, it was not a conscious choice on my part; my emotional pain compelled me to act to find peace. But in the process, I learned to put aside my self-pity and acted to create inner peace. For instance, I firmly made myself let go of my unrequited love by accepting the fact that there was no hope. Again, I had no other choice because circumstances compelled me to do so. Holding on was like holding hot coals in my hands; I was only hurting myself.
By eliminating the source of my anguish, I learned to take a proactive approach to my problems. Before this, I had a tendency to brood on my problems, causing more unhappiness for myself. But my thinking soon changed as I acted to ease my pain. I slowly came to realize that if I had a problem, the best way to deal with it was to find a solution. And so to deal with my emotional pain, I sought out the wisdom of the ancients.
2. Nourishing My Mind and Changing My Perception
The true source of my problems was my beliefs and thinking. Simply put, my mind was the root cause of all my unhappiness. Without a change in my mindset, it was always an uphill struggle for self-mastery and self-love. I could not let go of my attachments or manage my emotional turmoil well. To make matters worse, I did not realize the cause of my problems until I turned to Eastern Philosophies like Zen and self-help books. But even though the answers were in front of me, it took me a long time to absorb and digest them. I had to go through many rereads and make many mistakes before the lessons became second nature to me.
In the past, I used to be needy and negative. I could not stand being alone with my problems and I was always on the phone talking to friends about their problems instead. Doing so helped me to think less about my own issues. But this was mere avoidance. When I opened up about myself, I could go on and on for hours. But now, I have no difficulty being alone. With my newfound worldview, I do not need to confide my problems to others as often as before because I always take steps to resolve them. This means that when I speak with my friends, I can truly focus on listening to them without any ulterior motives.
Today, I go with the flow instead of struggling in vain. If things do not turn out the way I wish despite my best efforts, I am able to let go with less fuss. More importantly, I have a good measure of my self-worth that is not dependent on the opinion of others. Because my love for myself comes from within, I can tap into it anytime I need it.
3. Loving Discipline
I used to have little control when I lacked self-love. When I felt depressed, I would feed it with negative thinking and actions. When my friends did not behave the way I expected them to, I would flare up in anger because of my neediness and dependence. I also acted as I pleased without thinking about the long-term consequences to others or myself. I used to think that indulging my whims and fancies were a vital part of self-love.
Today, I firmly believe that a crucial aspect of self-love is discipline and self-mastery. If we cannot manage our emotions, they will manage us. When that happens, we end up making poor choices and acting in ways that harm our interests.
Now whenever I feel down and depressed, I make sure to watch how I nourish my mind. I am alert to negative thoughts and actions. For instance, I avoid depressing stuff or listening to melancholic music when I am down. More importantly, I focus on the solutions so that I can resolve the problem at hand.
Instead of flaring up at my friends, I always consider the big picture. I place myself in their shoes to understand why they acted the way they did. If it is not readily clear to me, I ask them to clarify my doubts. In any case, placing myself in their shoes helps me to manage myself better. Lastly, I always consider the impact of my actions and choices on others and myself. If the choice is harmful, I avoid it. For instance, I switched from eating ice cream after dinner to yogurt. By having discipline that comes naturally in all that I do, self-love comes more naturally for me.
4. Never Ending Improvement
In my early days, my development remained stagnant. I was content with my routine ways of doing things and rarely made an effort to change. But in truth, I was a frog in a well. As a result, when my old ways of thinking and habits failed against the harsh realities of life, I had no choice but to replace them.
But in doing so, I have no regrets. In fact, I have never been happier and I truly believe that constant improvement is vital to self-love. Learning to handle life is an important form of self-love to me. It means that I protect myself from needless harm and troubles. Through my experiences, I know what actually works and what does not. What I enjoy is gaining insights into life from all possible sources, from historical figures, to comic characters to self-help books and philosophies. This knowledge allows me to test new ideas that I come across and to manage challenges better. And with each challenge that I overcome, my confidence and self-love grows as a result.
For me, self-love was not an easy process. It took many years and many mistakes to shift my thinking and beliefs. Only when I managed to change my old habits and mindset was I finally able to find peace and self-love. This proves two things. Firstly, it is possible to change the way we think and thus learn to love ourselves. It takes time, but we can change even the most ingrained habits if we have the will and the proper approach.
Secondly, many of the ideas and views we have come from external sources. Even if we are habitual pessimists, there is no need to be stuck with negative thinking for the rest of our lives. We can choose to focus on the solutions instead of the problem. Therefore, it makes sense for us to choose actions and beliefs that empower us. If something is not working for us, we have the power to change it to something that suits our life plan better. In this way, self-love will come more naturally for us. By learning to learn ourselves, we will become happier and more at peace with our lives.
Do you struggle with self-love? What problems do you face? What experiences have you had? What solutions do you think you could take to manage these challenges better? Do share your thoughts and comments below.
“Enjoyed reading my story of self-love? Well, there’s more! You can also read the rest of the stories written by online personal development bloggers in a Self Love Stories Report. Evelyn Lim started the ball rolling by sharing her story in the post Self Love Story: Lessons from the Heart. She had written it in response to an intuitive call to create greater Self Love Awareness. The report, compiled with the help of Lance Ekum, will be available as a free download soon!”