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Spirituality Essay:

Loving Yourself    ( September 2007 )

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On a scale of 1 to 10, how well do you love yourself? Is it as freely and deeply as the way you love others who are close to you?

Ideally, we've shed most of the old admonition that says we shouldn't love ourselves. Perhaps it's our American Puritan heritage, but loving ourselves has often been likened to self- promotion, vanity even . . . and many of us have had to learn that it wasn't bad . . . discovering, in fact, it's both positive and healthy.

Our Second UU Quality of a Spiritual Life includes this: increasing our ability to give and receive love to others and ourselves.

It has been said that we can only love others to the degree that we love ourselves. In essence, our ability to accept, value, appreciate, and connect to others is built on the exact same principles and practices of how well we accept, value, and care for ourselves.

Unfortunately, many of us received negative messages when we were very young - when core beliefs about ourselves were forming - and which rooted in our subconscious. Coupled with that mysterious human phenomena that seems to hold criticism more tightly than praise can make loving ourselves something we have to really work at.

I recall a study of college students who were asked to list their positive qualities . . . and then later, their negative ones. The negative lists averaged three times longer than the positive ones!

We humans have our work cut out for ourselves, don't we.

If we view loving ourselves as accepting and valuing who we are - honoring all we've learned and accomplished in our lives with the talents we were given - it becomes a more comfortable and natural spiritual practice . . . one offering immense benefits. For, like all in life, we thrive and blossom in the warmth of love, no matter the source.

How can we love ourselves better?

Foremost is a shift in our consciousness . . . opening ourselves to its importance and benefits, and really wanting to love ourselves more completely . . . for change always follows intent. Viewing ourselves as worthy of the exact same love we naturally feel for whoever we love the most in our life starts the process.

There are scores of practices and exercise we can use to help stimulate the process . . . (discover what-ever works best for you) . . . but here are just a few:

. . . give yourself special treats and gifts the way you do for others.

. . . what are the things you love in the person whom you most love; which of those are also in you?

. . . look in the mirror and say, "I love you."

. . . alternately kiss the palms of your hands while saying "I love you." (from Siri Gian's Kundalini Yoga practice)

. . . write down 100 things you like about yourself and what you like about your life.

. . . get fully in touch with what you've done with your life and how you've changed - appreciate all that "who you are" has accomplished!

. . . before going to sleep, identify two moments in the day that stood out that made you feel good about being "you."

This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
Read more Spirituality Essays
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