Today’s #thoughtfultuesday topic arose as I was falling asleep. In my lucid state, I found myself asking, What does self-love really mean? In this era of self-help, the notion of self-love is used quite casually and dare I even say, carelessly. Being a critical analyst comes to me fairly readily, especially when I find it difficult to fully grasp a concept. Throughout the adolescent and early adult stage of my existence, my pursuit of the egoic version of self-love was founded on self-punishment. I convinced myself that if I was thinner, the life I dreamed would unfold before me. After all, aren’t we sold this story that a fulfilling and barrier-free life only exists once we obtain physical perfection? It turns out this couldn’t be further from the truth in my case. I was so damn good at being thin, that I was hospitalized, on bed rest, with heart monitors attached (a few times). Guess what? I still had this twisted hunger (pun intended) to continue on this path of self-annihilation; this quest for thinness which was oddly was not about a number or a look. During this time, I was told that I had to accept the body that I was given and with time would develop self-love. Telling a waif anorexic girl to love her full-figured body when she is lost in the depths of an obsessive existence is like dropping someone in the ocean and telling them to swim to shore (even though there is no shore in sight) when they are phobic of water and don’t know how to swim.
Fast-track to today, I am in a state of physical recovery with the majority of the eating disorder existing as a tiny voice inside my head. Nonetheless, I still find this idea of self-love perplexing. A few months ago, I asked a Buddhist teacher about self-love. She explained that there isn’t a need for self-love. As humans, we are already self-obsessive and spend the majority of the time in our mind thinking about ourselves. She then stated that the best way to feel love is to give love. Although I understand her teaching, I am still not fully satisfied with this conceptualization.
Personally, I think once love becomes rooted in the physical, it is no longer true love and becomes misleading. In fact, I believe that true love only exists in a spiritual or metaphysical sense. When we try to materialize love and define it in tangible terms, love becomes egoic. As I reflect on self-love now, it seems to be something of an oxymoron; to truly love oneself means a complete absolution of the concept of self. I don’t know that I will ever feel self-love, but I can say that I am practicing self-acceptance. When aware, I strive to apply no-judgement to myself. Like all humans, I have an ever-present and incessant critical voice and I remind myself frequently that I am not my thoughts. It is interesting to observe the mind from a let-go position. In this state, I am able to not buy into or attach to my thoughts. Eckhart Tolle defines our true selves as this entity that observes the presence of our mind. Some label this as our soul, but it can be defined however one sees fit.
For this week my confidantes (and I), you are encouraged to embrace baby Buddha. Go about this week with curiosity, an open heart, and playfulness.
Remember, “You can only be young once, but you can always be immature.” -Dave Barry