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The Most Important Thing To Do When It Comes To Self Love

You are in a relationship with you for the rest of your life. And just like any other relationship, love is not a “one and done”. It is not something that you achieve and then you can just go about your life, ignoring it. It is an every day commitment. An everyday practice that is as much or even more so about the little things than it is about the big things. And just like loving in a relationship should not be treated as a chore, self-love should not be treated as a chore. There are so many ways that we can commit to and practice self-love. But today, I’m going to share with you the most important thing to do in order to develop self-love. 

First, I’m going to tell you the punchline…The most important thing to do in order to develop self-love, is to see, hear, feel, understand, recognize the value of, own and integrate the aspects of yourself that you have rejected. And then to act in their best interests instead of against them. Now, I’m going to explain this.      

As children, we are completely relationally dependent.  We depend completely upon our closeness with the social group. And this relational dependence does not go away as we get older, it only somewhat decreases. If we perceive ourselves being pushed way by someone, like mom or dad or siblings or peers, as a result of some aspect about us, we will triangulate internally.  We will try to re-establish closeness with the person pushing us away by turning against whatever they have pushed us away for. For example, let’s say that mom pushed us away because of our anger, we will immediately push away our own anger.  We subconsciously disown, deny and reject it.  But we can’t do this physically, we have to do it within our own consciousness and we do so by creating a split in our consciousness. We essentially create a fragmentation in our own being. But specifically, a fragmentation where one part of us is against the other part of us. It is essentially practicing the opposite of love… Pushing away, dis-including, rejecting, separating from and acting against the best interests of that part of us. We feel the feeling of shame when this occurs.  We can then say that we are ashamed of our anger. We do not love this part of ourselves. To understand more about this, you can watch my video titled: Fragmentation, The Worldwide Disease. The understanding of fragmentation within the self; that your consciousness can separate into different aspects that we may call “selves”, provides for us the most straightforward conceptualization of self-love. To love yourself is to see, hear, feel, understand, see the value of, act in the best interest of and include all parts of your ‘self’.        

To love is to include something as a part of you. By doing so, you see, hear, feel, understand and know it. And because you have treated it as a part of you, you cannot act against it without that harming you, which is why naturally, the choice to love carries with it the implication that you act in its best interests, instead of against its best interests.   

Said another way, love is an instinctual reaction or a conscious choice to pull something closer to you and include it as part of you. So, self-love could be seen as the act of pulling all parts of yourself closer to you so as to include them as part of you. And shame is an instinctual reaction to push yourself away from yourself.  Therefore, shame could be seen as the exact opposite of self-love.

If we perceive ourselves to be pushed away enough in our childhood that we either have to push away many parts of ourselves to be loved or could not find a way to push enough of ourselves away in order to be loved, we will carry the felt-based experience of ourselves as essentially bad, broken, defective, wrong, and undesirable at our core. The emotions we feel at that moment become embedded as the feeling signature that is the foundation of our self-concept. Essentially, our core self-concept is that of Shame. We want to push away our core. We hate ourselves. The foundation of hate is hurt. We can only hate something we feel hurt by. We only hate ourselves when it feels like something about us leads to a painful consequence. Especially being pushed away by others and/or not getting a need that we desperately need, met.     

The reason that everyone has been failing with shame, and therefore most self-love techniques, is because most methodologies involving overcoming shame and developing self love are aimed at trying to get a person to see their worth and positive attributes. They are aimed at trying to convince a person who is ashamed of his or her anger for example to see that he or she is not an angry person. This strategy only creates a greater split within the person. The approach we have to take to resolve shame and therefore to develop self-love is to completely re-own and accept the parts of ourselves that we have tried to push away from ourselves.  Owning your shame is the first key to ending shame. When we have pushed away aspects of ourself, we need to bring them back in. 

People are usually terrified that when they re-own parts of themselves instead of keep pushing them away that they will become totally bad and unlovable. But have you ever noticed that it feels like you cannot overcome your problems no matter how hard you try?  You cannot overcome your problems because; you cannot overcome what is inside yourself or part of yourself. As soon as you identify with something, it IS you. And from that point forward, to try to overcome those things, is to put one part of you at war with another part of yourself.  

The solution is exaltation. The concept of exaltation is an ancient alchemy concept.  Simply put, to exalt something is to transform something into its highest spiritual aspect.  For example, the old alchemists thought that the exalted form of metal was gold. If we are to live better lives, where we are not continually made unhappy by our negative personality traits, we must take each personality trait we do not like and first recognize it within ourselves. We must then accept it by both owning it and finding a way to approve of it. And then we must find a way to amplify that personality trait into its most in alignment or exalted expression.      

Here’s an example of exaltation: Let’s say that someone is a master at mental chess.  They play mind games with people. So, the highest aspect of that trait (what we call the exalted aspect) is to play mind games with people that benefit the people. This person could become a brilliant counselor or psychologist. They could outsmart other people’s egos and help them to see things about themselves that they are totally unaware of.

OR for example, maybe someone is a bully. Bullies push people. The exalted form of being a bully could be that they push people to be their best. If they embrace their forceful energy and use it in situations where people could benefit by that force, such as when someone needs especially strong encouragement. Bullies establish dominance within a social group. The exalted version of this dominance is leadership. If this person embraces their leadership ability and takes charge when other people feel as if they need direction, they can rally people to cooperating with one another. 

Any time we love something, which is to bring it close and include it as part of us, instead of push it away, we form a connection with that thing. When that thing feels connected to us, it can no longer hurt us without hurting itself and as a result, its expressions begin to take on a form that benefits us instead of hurts us.  

Exalting your “negative personality traits” and problems is not about going to war with yourself. It is profoundly self-hating and counterproductive to want to rid yourself of those traits. It is resistant and whatever we resist, persists. So, the key is to find the highest and best use for those so-called negative traits. Fall in love with what you hate about yourself. Turn metal into gold on an internal level.  

Describe yourself.  What problems do you have? What do you dislike about yourself?  What do you feel are the negative parts of your personality? Be very honest about what traits you don’t like about yourself and even hate. Once you have your list, spend some serious time thinking about what the highest and best use of those traits could be. What is the positive exalted form of those negative traits?

Next, try to see these parts you push away from yourself as a different person or being within you. Close your eyes and ask to see the part of you that you feel bad about. Allow whatever appears to appear, and then address this inner self with compassion. For example, you may be ashamed of the fact that you are a bully. So you’re going to close your eyes and ask to see the part of you that is a bully. When you do this, you might see an image of a monster that looks like the incredible hulk. You can spend some time observing that part of you and then try to relate to that part within you.  

I will give you a tip, compassion naturally arises as a result of relating to someone’s suffering. Therefore, all you have to do in order to feel compassion for someone is to deliberately look at how you relate to their pain. So, relative to this exercise, you have to deliberately look at how you relate to the pain belonging to this hulk personality within you. How is your pain the same as it’s pain? Can you identify with its pain? Look back over the course of your life. When did you experience pain similar to what that hulk aspect is feeling? Try to remember what that felt like and what you thought. What did you really need back then when you were in that same kind of pain? 

If you are terrified of deliberately looking for how you relate to someone, even if that is a persona within you, you need to ask yourself “Why? What bad thing do I think will happen if I relate to this thing or feel close to this thing or if I am the same as this thing?” Using the example, you need to try to see into this hulk persona, feel into it, listen to it, learn about it and understand it completely. What are it’s needs and desires and why?      

The next step is to compassionately challenge the ‘push away’ thoughts that arise as a result of asking these questions.  For example, if you think a thought towards your hulk aspect like “this part is going to destroy people’s lives”, get into the mental space of philosophical debate.  If you were a lawyer whose job it is to prove that this hulk personality is not going to destroy people’s lives, what would your case be?  

If you would like, you can also involve other people in this process so they can help you make a case for the parts of you that you have pushed away.  

To take this practice even deeper, you can work directly with the part of you that you do not love. You can do this using parts work. But specifically, you do this with each and every part of you that you do not love, as well as each and every part to the opposite. The part of you that is not acting in a loving way towards another part of you. To understand how to apply this process, you can watch my video titled: Parts Work (What is Parts Work and How To Do It). The goal being to change the perspective you hold inside of you towards the parts of you that you do not love. And to reach agreement on a new way of being that is loving towards yourself.  

So that you can understand the most important thing to do in order to develop self-love, here is an example. Tuyen was the first person in her family to be born in the United States. Her family immigrated from Vietnam to Orange County, California. And it is here that she developed a lot of problems with herself. It is here that her struggle with self-love began. Just to pick one of many things that were to become a self-love issue, Tuyen was quiet and broody as a child. And this was not received well. Her peers called her a weirdo and made fun of her incessantly. She desperately wanted connection. But no one wanted to be friends with her. Over time, Tuyen learned how to act like the other kids acted. How to be talkative and bubbly and act happy. She learned to reject her broody, quiet self. The thing is, it didn’t go away. It was just something that she hid from everyone. When Tuyen was in her mid 20s, as a result of a series of painful relationships, in which she did not feel loved, she became interested in the idea of self-love. As a part of that process, she finally got that the foundation of self-love, was to practice love towards the parts of her that she disliked and hated. So, first, she decided to exalt the very things about her that she pushed away. Starting with being broody and quiet. She wrote a whole list of things that were good about it. Things like: “To be broody, you have to be mindful. I really dislike people who are not mindful, so I like that it makes me mindful”. And “broody people are deep in thought. The people who I grew up around were not deep thinkers. And that is why their lives are so void of meaning. Because of my broodiness, I can’t avoid having a life of deep meaning”. And “broodiness means someone can see and identify problems. I use this skill in my job every day. My paycheck depends on it and without it, people could get seriously hurt.” And “I was unhappy because the people around me were doing so much unconsciously painful stuff to each other and to me. My broodiness was an indication that I was affected by it. If I were to not be affected by it, I would have to be disconnected. That would make me part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

Tuyen then did parts work with the broody, quiet part of her, and the part that opposed it. What she found is that the part of her that was quiet and broody was a six-year-old version of herself. A child who embodied ALL of the things that her peers in school rejected her for. Not just broodiness. And that the part of her that was rejecting that part was the image of an Orange County housewife. This part of her didn’t even look Asian. Instead, it looked like a Caucasian woman whose identity and values were an exact mirror of the people in her peer group and what they valued. Things like status, wealth, being on top of the ladder of social hierarchy, Caucasian beauty, fun, surface talk and trends. And this part of her, looked down on, pitied, ignored and rejected her other part. The one that was broody and quiet and Asian and had different interests than everyone else did etc. 

Tuyen realized that she had internalized her own earliest haters as a method of protecting herself from their rejection and as a way of ensuring her needs for inclusion and connection and approval would be met. Through the process that she did with these two parts of herself, Tuyen was able to see that she never actually got the connection or approval she so badly wanted, because what people were connecting with and approving of, was a façade. Not really her. Due to the awareness of the damage that it was causing, her self-hating protector self-decided to re-purpose itself to the cause of putting Tuyen in places and around people whose worldview and interests were compatible to Tuyen’s core. Tuyen was able to understand the part of herself that she had not been loving towards for over 20 years and develop compassion and care towards it. She was able to admit that this part of her, is what is real about her. And she decided to act in its best interests by designing a life according to its values and needs. This meant spending less time with certain friends, prioritizing her volunteer efforts that she was passionate about, not acting happy when she was not happy and instead, setting the boundary that she will only develop close relationships with the people in her life that are able to meet her wherever she is emotionally, and be in relationship to what is real about her at any given time. And seeking out things that make her happy, no matter how unique or weird they may be. 

We all know on some level that it is important to love ourselves. But when people say that “all you have to do is love yourself,” it’s kind of like telling a child in kindergarten that he or she has to solve a college physics equation. Like that bewildered child, we have no idea where to begin. The answer is, we begin by integrating the very things we dislike about ourselves and are trying to push away.


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