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.
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.
It was only after almost dying of cancer, that I realized that I 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.
Anita Moorjani is a speaker and bestselling author of Dying To Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing (forward by Wayne Dyer). Find her at www.AnitaMoorjani.com or on Facebook.
Photo by Michael LoRusso (CC license)