Ah love. It's getting to be that time of year where Valentine's Day candies and goodies are filling the shelves of our local stores. Visions of champagne, strawberries and bubble baths fill our heads. A time where we just want to feel LOVED and APPRECIATED, often looking externally for the validation. But self love... now that is something different entirely!
What even IS self love anyway? It is caring for ourselves, treating ourselves. Spa treatments, massages, wine, getaways... sure. These are all self care and self love items to be sure. But what about the rest of it? The deeper, darker side of it? There is that to consider as well.
Ok, ok... but what IS the darker side of it all? I get it. Well... how about really taking a very deep look at ourselves, our belief systems and seeing exactly where WE are holding ourselves back. That's right. US. We do this to ourselves friends! And I know that probably just kicked the ego into high gear (and if you want to read more about the ego- try here) and you may be feeling pretty triggered right now. I don't hold myself back! Why would I do THAT? She is so wrong! etc. etc. etc. Be honest... did any of those thoughts run through your head right now? That's alright. Totally normal... but that is what I'm talking about.
Self awareness = Self Love. Yep. Knowing and loving ALL parts of ourselves. Even the stuff we don't like... THAT is self love. Integrating our shadow aspects, childhood wounds, jealous tendencies... honouring them as important parts of ourselves. Understanding that things we don't particularly like about ourselves and actually holding a mirror to them- looking at them closely and making time to understand what makes up those parts of ourselves is the deepest form of self love. When we take the time to see ourselves for who we truly are on all levels- from the deepest wounds to the most loveable traits- only then can we begin to fully love ourselves.
I used to think this was a crock of shit. That shadow work was just a trendy term thrown around to sound dark and mysterious and tortured. That the dark side of ourselves didn't matter because everyone had a dark side so who cares- what difference does looking at it make? I mean really....
Then I had a breakdown.
I had no choice but to begin to look at myself differently. I had to look at aspects of myself that I ignored that contributed to my situation. Over the course of a couple years I had to look at my shadow and confront it. I had to deal with my ego self and learn from it and also tame it. Then I had to integrate everything I had learned and begin to love every aspect of myself and you know what happened? I found me. Not only found me... but actually LOVED me. I began to understand myself on such a deep level, that even though the outside world may have looked at me as a crazy person, or with pity- I saw differently. I had a level of self belief and confidence that I had never had before in my life. I never trusted my gut more than I had after doing the dark levels of self work. I only wished I had understood this earlier and began sooner. What would it have been like to have this kind of confidence in my early to mid 20's instead of my late 30's?! How different would my life look?! Ultimately that doesn't matter... I'm thankful I got there at any age.
Does this mean I never have insecurity or doubts? Nope. Does it mean that I don't ever get triggered? Definitely not! But it does mean I have compassion when I do- and I know how to overcome things when they come up quicker than I would have before. I no longer berate myself for things to death. I changed the story I tell myself. I show my inner child love in those moments. I hold space for myself. Sometimes, I'll treat myself to a massage or energy healing session. I show myself love and compassion. I also honour where I was in order to get where I am today. The road wasn't easy- and it certainly ongoing, but the self love part... that is something that isn't going anywhere. I learned that through the dark side of self love- the parts that aren't all love, light, sunshine and rainbows I discovered true love for myself on a level that I cannot have imagined. I learned that setting boundaries - even though it may disappoint others- showed me love. I learned that my needs were just as important as anyone else's. I learned that loving myself is both one of the hardest things but most rewarding things I could accomplish. I learned the FREEDOM that comes from loving yourself unconditionally.
So the dark side of self love IS important. The awareness, the self mastery- although difficult is rewarding on a level that cannot be explained- only experienced. I wish you that knowledge and self acceptance more than anything in the world!
So next time you are jazzing up your self love and self care routines... maybe throw a little shadow work in there... you'd be surprised that gems of self awareness and understanding can come from it.