Early morning just before 6, on a cold Saturday morning. The world outside is quiet and my soul feels at rest. A cup of black coffee and some chill music in the background help me set up the mood and tune into my favorite morning ritual – releasing my thoughts on these virtual pages. Food for my soul.
There’s one word that preoccupies my mind a lot these days. Self-love. A word we hear on every corner and about which we all love to speak so confidently.
But I wonder, how many have ever truly felt what self-love is?
Do we love to convince ourselves how it’s about the new hairstyle, manicure, a new pair of boots, dinner at a fancy restaurant, or a holiday at a tropical place, only to cover up how there’s much more hidden below the surface?
How do you love yourself in a culture that’s based on the complete opposite?
I don’t think there’s really an answer to that question, at least not a simple one.
We can try to make it simple by saying ‘just do whatever feels right to you’ but that’s not much of a practical solution.
What I do know is that every time I take one step in the direction of self-love, the world gives me an opportunity to take three steps back. It’s as if life tests my determination and willingness to truly love myself and gives me an opportunity to strengthen my connection with those deepest parts of me, to whom self-love comes naturally.
I guess that’s normal and the way it should be. Because if we were to only ever experience one situation where we can practice self-love, it wouldn’t be the real thing. Just like being an expert in any sort of thing, you can only become one once you’ve overcome many different challenges and developed a set of skills that will enable you to find a way to deal with whatever circumstances you find yourself in.
We are so heavily burdened with ‘shoulds’ that they became our main compass in life. We bought into the story that we have to navigate our lives from those ‘shoulds’. ‘I should stay at this job.’ ‘I should like spending my days this way.’ ‘I should marry this person.’ ‘I should have these beliefs.’ ‘I should do as my parents told me to.’ ‘I should have this amount of money and accomplishments by this age.’ And so on.
It’s a programming that runs so deep that even when you start to release many of those beliefs, there are layers and layers of it, so much that you come to realize, you don’t even know who you are. It might be that you never even knew. Or maybe only as a kid, before the world got too loud.
And the more of those layers you uncover, the more masks you take off your face, you realize that the realest thing about you is this hurt and pain you carry. This confusion, maybe even loneliness or emptiness.
But that’s okay. Actually, that’s a good sign. Because you hit the ground, and from here, you can start to plant the seeds of beliefs and reality you wish to be a part of. A reality that was always meant to be yours, that you always carried within you, somewhere deep inside.
One thing comes to my mind, and that’s how to be certain about life is the very opposite of self-love. Because certainty doesn’t exist and if you embrace the illusion that it does, if you cling to that which we labeled as ‘certain’, you will create a wall between yourself and your potential. A wall that unables you to build yourself into the person you want to be and were meant to be. Because all opportunities and possibilities lie in the land of uncertainty. In the unknown, we all fear so much.
What I discovered on my journey is that what I resented for so long – this confusion that’s one of my main companions in life, a feeling that some of these norms in our culture are not ‘right’ – that same confusion was and is one of my strongest virtues. Because those doubts allow me to question my reality. To re-evaluate, experience, feel, and then choose for myself.
I allowed the world to tell me I’m the one who is lost because I’m not so dead certain about how life ‘should’ be lived.
But I’d rather be lost in all of my confusion than in this illusion of certainty.
Because in all of this confusion, I have myself more than most do. If it’s only a small part that I have – this knowing that I know so little about myself and life – it’s much much more than what I had when I let the tide of this culture carry me blindly.
So maybe to love yourself in this world means to allow yourself to make mistakes, to take a couple of steps backward, or many. To lose yourself countless times. As much as necessary.
But also, to continually move forwards, no matter the pace. To start over every morning from scratch, and if you lose yourself by 10 am, then start over again after a lunch break, afternoon, or evening. Every Monday, or Wednesday. Every 1st or 17th of the month. To start anew with every second person we meet, and every seventh time we look ourselves in the mirror.
Maybe the only true certainties in life are universal and can be applied to all living beings, not only humans and our society.
A certainty of change. A certainty of the arrival of spring and summer after the long winter. A certainty of the morning after night. Certainty of quietness after the storm. Certainty of peace after a challenging time. Certainty of death, and a new life being born.
And a certainty of you being able to finally choose yourself, after 30, 40, or 90 years.