When we understand or define love in this way, it becomes clear that we cannot claim to love if we are hurtful or abusive...whether to another or to ourself. Love and abuse cannot coexist together.
Most of us, instead of nurturing our relationship with ourself, spend a lot of our time up in our head doing the opposite... creating and spinning negative self-talk. Can we truly love others if we don't love ourselves? Do you love yourself?
A lot of us don't love ourself and don't know how to love ourself. We may occasionally "treat" ourself to massages, baths, special food, etc. under the guise of "self-love", when in reality we are trying to fill a void inside our hearts. Not that these acts of self-love don't have their place, but they typically don't fill the void and don't cause us to actually learn to love ourselves.
Confronting our own lovelessness is part of the healing process. bell hooks, author of All About Love, states, "When we see love as a combination of trust, commitment, care, respect, knowledge, and responsibility, we can work on developing these qualities or, if they are already a part of who we are, we can learn to extend them to ourselves." She goes on to say, "Self-love is the foundation of our loving practice. Without it our other efforts to love fail. Giving ourselves love we provide our inner being with the opportunity to have the unconditional love we may have always longed to receive from someone else. Whenever we interact with others, the love we give and receive is always necessarily conditional. Although it is not impossible, it is very difficult and rare for us to be able to extend unconditional love to others, largely because we cannot exercise control over the behavior of someone else and we cannot predict or utterly control our responses to their actions. We can, however, exercise control over our own actions. We can give ourselves the unconditional love that is the grounding for sustained acceptance and affirmation. When we give this precious gift to ourselves, we are able to reach out to others from a place of fulfillment and not from a place of lack."
Elizabeth Gilbert engages in a daily practice that works at a deep spiritual level to nurture self and develop self-love. Every day she writes to love. She starts out by saying, "I need you" as the first sentence, and in the second sentence responds with, "I am right here." It's a way to engage with your own self...your higher self, and/or with God. She proceeds to add what she needs/wants to hear. Writing down anything and everything you want to hear, everything that you wish you could hear somebody else tell you. Being kind, loving, generous and expressing gratitude toward yourself. Highlighting your accomplishments., writing down what you love and appreciate about yourself.
Elizabeth Gilbert further describes her daily love writing practice:
"There were nights when I sat up for hours, writing words like this to myself again and again, through a scrim of tears and waves of panic. And often another (angrier) part of me would scrawl at the bottom of the page: "This is bullshit. I don't believe in you." Then I would patiently begin writing again at the top of the next page, "But I believe in YOU. And I will not leave your side. I will love you and take care of you forever…" On it would go, until I could finally fall asleep. Then again the next night…and so on.
My promise to myself is this: I will walk beside myself for as long as I live, holding my own hand, taking care of the soul with which I have been entrusted.
I will do that always, whether anybody else is in the room with me or not.
You must learn how to tell yourself that you are loved. You must tell yourself this again and again until slowly you learn to believe it. Start writing yourself love letters. It feels weird at first, but keep going. Practice. Practice more. Practice EVEN more. You'll need it someday — or you may need it right now.
Life can be hard, but without your own certain love for your own tenderest self, it is simply impossible."
Deanna Heiliger author of the blog, Me to the power of We: Because Together is Better, shares this, "Writing a love letter to yourself will help you with self-criticism and negative self-talk. We all talk to ourselves in a not-so-loving way from time to time, but it is not really a very healthy thing to do. By focusing on the attributes you love about yourself, those positive things will become more prominent, they will gravitate to the forefront of your mind. And when you love yourself, you naturally love others with less effort and with less judgment. Yes, you can also say positive affirmations about yourself, which is a very powerful exercise and habit to get into…but there is something extremely powerful in the whole writing process. Writing involves your brain, your hands, your eyes and your focus. As you write, emotions tend to surface. The more senses and emotions you can involve in your writing, the truer it becomes to you."
For Valentine's Day give yourself the gift of love. Grow your own self-love, so you can go out into the world and extend that love to others, allowing for your own and other's spiritual growth.