In a world run by spiritual energy, love is perhaps the most powerful force there is. The search for true love drives us in countless ways. This dream of a magical love inspires us to better ourselves and improve our lives. Yet, even with so many people invested in a common goal we seem to struggle with this area of life more than anything.
What makes a healthy love life so difficult? With most of marriages ending in divorce, it only makes sense for one to ask the question: what the heck is going on? There must be something holding us back from the bliss we know possible.
"Real" and "Unreal" Love
Perhaps the most fundamental problem in our quest for true or "real" love is that we've been searching for the wrong thing and in the wrong places. Gautama the Buddha shares with us the most profound teaching to date that no one seems to know: Love yourself.
How could something so simple have been missed by so many, for so long? Well, mostly, we've been taught the opposite. Think about it. Most traditions, spiritual and otherwise, have told us again and again to "love others." But nowhere, really, have we been strongly encouraged to love ourselves. The reason is that if we love ourselves we become selfish, narcissistic, and egoistic. However, the opposite could not be truer. Loving ourselves is, in fact, the source of true, "real" love.
When we love ourselves something shifts in us. No headstrong ego can be found in those who love themselves because it is that kind of ego that doesn't allow self-love in the first place. The voice of the analytical ego is never satisfied … It sounds a lot like this: I'm not good enough. I don't deserve this. Good things never happen to me.
In other words, the ego is critical (and thus non-loving) in nature. So when we try to love others first, as we were taught, we often end up straining to do so. Why? Our "love" for others is not coming from a place of abundant love from within. That is, we never learned to love the person we know most: ourselves.
But true love — the love we so desperately seek — must first be found in ourselves. Otherwise, all of our attempts to love another, even the perfect mate, will be forced, and perhaps even dishonest, on some level.
When we do not love ourselves we seek acceptance from others, we end up weakening the foundation of our other relationships by becoming needy or codependent. If true love is to exist, we have to learn to be so filled with self-love that it spills over. We are not concerned with sustaining ourselves with love from others because we have enough of our own. However, if others share their overflow with us, it becomes that much better. The same goes with sharing our love.
Here are a few tips for beginning your practice of self-love:
1. Stop condemning yourself.
Too often, we feel overwhelmed by guilt, shame and self-criticism. These emotions do nothing for us but tear us down. Change happens when love steps in. It's not easy to be in a healthy relationship when you have a belief that you're not good enough. Just understand this, that when you watch your mind condemning yourself that it does no good.
2. Recognize that you chose your body.
You're probably thinking "What?!" I know it may sound weird so some, but you chose to be born into your body. Some call it God. Call it what you will, but there is some Godlike force in you, a creator who chose you specifically for a reason. Even asking the question "Why did I choose to be born into this unique body?" will spark a seed of great empowerment in you that will help you let go of self-criticism and cultivate self-love.
When you realize you chose yourself with purpose, you will understand the true, deep respect you, God or the universe has for you. Make a list of reasons you feel you chose to be born into this body and soon enough you will start to see all you have to love about yourself.
3. Flaunt your flaws.
We are great faultfinders. If you watch your mind, it is more educated on the problem than it is the solution. Because we haven't learned to respect ourselves we have by default learned to find our flaws and feel bad about them. If we are so clever are finding our own faults, what makes you think you will ever truly see the beauty in your partner? True love is to accept all that is. Don't be selective!
Finding true love is dependent upon you shinning your light on your darkness. Stop searching for flaws and then suppressing them. If you find yourself searching for your flaws, at least flaunt them to the world! You may find out that what you think is so wrong with you is one of your greatest gifts to share with the world.