One of the biggest lessons I learned from nearly dying of cancer is the importance of loving myself unconditionally. In fact, learning to love and accept myself unconditionally is what healed me and brought me back from the brink of death. During my workshops and speeches, I often tell the audience to "Love yourself like your life depends on it, because it does!"
Being at the brink of death taught me that my purpose in life is to be who I am, and express my authentic self fearlessly. But I also learned that I would never fully express myself unless I was able to accept and love myself unconditionally. The extent to which I am fearless about expressing my authentic self is in direct correlation with how much I love and accept myself.
If you're anything like me, you will feel that it's one thing to know the importance of loving ourselves in theory, but quite another thing to effectively put self-love into practice. Most of us come from cultures and societies that do not promote, or even support, self-love, and we often feel judged if we love ourselves, value ourselves, or put ourselves first.
It almost feels as though we live in an upside-down world where we are taught the opposite of what would really help us in life, and when we actually stumble upon the truth of how to live our lives joyfully, we are judged for practicing it.
Perhaps this is the reason why so many of us are struggling through life -- we are brought up to believe in the opposite of what would really help us, and when we inadvertently stumble upon the truth of how to live our lives joyfully, we are judged for practicing it.
Below, I've listed some common myths which people seem to take as truths, and which I believe hold us back from living our life fully:
Myth #1: It's selfish to love yourself: To dispel this myth, just look at its opposite: what does it look like if we don't love or value ourselves? We feel unworthy, undeserving, and unlovable, and the person we become is one who is needy with a void that we believe needs to be filled by others because we believe that it's selfish to fill it ourselves.
This is the person I used to be. I was needy -- and a people pleaser -- because I needed the validation of others in order to feel worthy. Now, I've noticed that when we love ourselves, we don't need the approval of others in order to be who we are. Instead, we are able to bring our fully-realized, joyful self out into the world -- someone who others want to be around -- instead of a self that is needy, with a hole that needs to be filled from the outside.
Myth #2: Loving myself means needing constant self-care, which could make me high maintenance: Many have expressed to me that they believe loving and honoring ourselves simply means making the time in our busy schedules to take care of ourselves -- for example, taking the time to meditate, smell the flowers, get a manicure, get our hair done, or get a massage -- basically, spend money on ourselves and give ourselves a treat. People tell me "I must already really love myself, because I do that type of stuff for myself all the time. But my life still doesn't work!"
Although I do think it's important to take the time to do those things for ourselves if it brings us pleasure, here's what self-love means to me: It means loving myself even when I fail. Even when I'm feeling down, and feel as though I have nothing left. Even when I feel that everyone on the planet is against me and doesn't understand me. I need to be able to look myself in the eyes, and say, "No matter what anyone else thinks, I will not let myself down, or forsake myself. I will stay by my own side!"
Myth #3: Loving ourselves means being in denial of our weaknesses Many believe that loving ourselves means being in denial about our seeming failures, and just talking ourselves with affirmations. However, this isn't the case. It's not just about constantly praising ourselves, talking ourselves up and telling ourselves how awesome we are. It's about loving the REAL us! It's about loving the human "us." The "us" who has feet of clay, the "us" who comes undone under criticism, the "us" who sometimes fails and disappoints those around us. It's about making a commitment to ourselves that we will stick by "us," even if no one else does! That's what loving ourselves means!
Myth #4: It's important to always stay positive, regardless of external circumstances: Although it's not a bad thing to have a positive attitude in life, I have found that as someone who reads books that advocate positive thinking, and how our thoughts create our reality, I started to become fearful of having "negative" thoughts. Whenever I had a fearful or insecure or negative thought, I would deny it, suppress it, and push it away, believing that it would contribute towards manifesting into a negative physical reality. It was only after almost dying of cancer, did I realize that I had been suppressing many of my thoughts and emotions, for fear of being negative, and putting "negative thoughts" out there. And this suppression only contributed to my illness. I then realized that it's not my thoughts that create my reality; it's my emotions towards myself. That is, the more I love myself, the better my external world. The more I love and value myself, the more I allow positive things to come into my life. The less I love myself, the less I feel worthy of allowing positive things to come into my life.
If I constantly suppress certain emotions and feelings within myself, judging them as being "negative" and forcing myself to have more positive thoughts, the message I am sending to my own self is that "my thoughts are wrong. I should not be having these thoughts!" Basically, I am denying who I am, and what I am feeling. This is not a loving thing to do to myself, and neither is it healthy to have all these feelings and emotions bottled up inside. I have since realized that it's more important to be myself than it is to be positive. And as a result, when I am positive, it is genuine and authentic.