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Self-love - The doorway to wholeness within.

Self-love is a common term that most of us have heard of from many modern self-help/self-motivation materials and spiritual teachings. In this article, before making the point that self-love is a necessary realisation that makes it possible for us to experience the wholeness of our beings within, we need to clarify what self-love is not to remove the common pitfalls of misperceptions, misinterpretations, and misleading usage surrounding it, and then establish a true understanding regarding this important term.

Self-love is NOT a justification for excessive focus on one’s own self-image.

We all spend some degree of effort on looking after our self-image that consists of physical appearance and persona (the parts/aspects of our characters that we present to others in accordance with how we want to be perceived, which varies based on different environments, people or relationships we encounter).

This self-image of how we look, how we come across, and how we would like to be perceived by others, is the self-constructed sculpture that our Ego created and tries to maintain in order to feel safe/accepted, survive and thrive in the world.

That is an understandable, reasonable, and in fact a necessary function of the Ego in making sure our survival and adaptability in each incarnation can be maximised so that there are higher chances for the experiences our souls yearn for to be attained. Though when we mainly and heavily function under the Ego’s consciousness (as sleep wanderers - the state that most of human beings are at), self-awareness is very limited and strictly revolves around our own self-image - the Ego’s sense of self. And so, under this Ego’s consciousness, the term self-love is often misused as the way to justify one’s excessive focus on one’s appearance and inauthenticity (acting out the personas that one thinks should be seen by others in stead of being authentic to one’s self). From the Ego’s perspective, self-love is misconceived by the Ego to be ‘the Ego's love of itself’.

Self-love is NOT overindulgence in pleasures of the body and/or the mind.

Enjoying pleasures and avoiding pain/harm/suffering is a natural tendency that all lives that live in this physical world seek. There is nothing wrong with seeking and choosing pleasures over pain and discomfort. In fact, something is actually not 'right’ if one seeks pain and harm for oneself instead of pleasures! More worryingly, one would even find pleasures and relief of the mind in such self-harm/self-destructive behaviours. Such an unnatural state of being is often the result of a life-long accumulation of negativity and confusion in one’s own mind when stuck for too long in the victim mode, and becomes severely disconnected from life itself.

Seeking pleasures in a natural sense is the tendency in which the body-mind moves towards comforting and nurturing feelings in the environments where it feels safe. This is a built-in knowing that helps any life form maximise its chances of survival and growth in this physical plane of existence. Though when trying to practise self-love, one often misconceives self-love with self-indulgence in pleasures alone. When this natural pleasure-seeking tendency becomes the main and excessive focus as the way we ‘love’ and care for ourselves, it often leads to overindulgence/self-gratification and addictions to some types of pleasures of the body and/or the mind. Overindulgence and addictions not only disrupt and hold up spiritual growth and self-development, but also make us fall prey to being controlled and manipulated by others (with such examples of failing to resist our endless desires triggered by pleasure (or self-gratification) driven products/adverts, or very commonly the pains and heartbreaks that come along with the unhealthy/unloving relationships of the modern world that are based on pleasure principles such as dependency, convenience or sexual satisfaction, etc.)

Self-love is NOT the feelings of self-pity over one’s own life dramas.

We all live in our own mental projections of our life dramas as if a movie or tale of ourselves is played and replayed in our head in which we are the main characters. Within our ego’s restricted perspectives, things are seen from only our own narrow and fixated angles and often with a closed-off heart, we do not see the whole picture of how things really are, and have very little understanding of others’ feelings and perspectives. So, we often feel upset and sympathetic for ourselves when thinking over the upsetting events, the unfair treatments, or unhappy situations/outcomes in life that we had to go through. This is the Ego’s victim consciousness’. It involves wallowing in self-pity, self-protectiveness as much as self-centredness (as in this victim mode, one sees only their own needs, and focuses solely on their own well-being whilst failing to acknowledge or be considerate of others’).

Being kind to oneself is good advice often mentioned in many articles and teachings regarding the practice of self-love. But be mindful of the reason why you think you need to be kind to yourself! Is it a joyful choice that induces your complete sense of wholeness? Or is it a sympathetic choice to help support yourself in dealing with some sort of suffering or dissatisfaction in life? The second falls into the category of ‘victim consciousness’!

Seeing ourselves as victims and feeling sympathetic for ourselves is how the ego drives us to dismiss our responsibilities over our own lives and blame others or the outside circumstances for our own suffering and dissatisfaction instead.

This 'victim consciousness’ is the main factor that holds us back from ever experiencing peace and wholeness within. As when we see ourselves as vulnerable, passive, and powerless victims of life (the role that we think we are in our own life dramas), we unconsciously spend the whole time looking hard - either for ‘somebody’ out there (like a hero/a prince/an angel/a soulmate, etc.), and/or some 'things’ that we could ‘achieve’ to comfort us, satisfy our needs and wants, fill us with happiness, and (most importantly!) save us from pain, loneliness, injustice, and suffering.

Self-love is NOT a withdrawal from the world nor a substitution for connectedness and intimacy.

Many of us only come to learn about self-love when we feel so broken, disappointed, frustrated, and even hopeless when things just go wrong in our lives. Heartbreaks in relationships, loss of loved ones or what we hold dear, failures in career or life projects, rejections from what we have given our all in, etc. - those times when we lose trust and hope, and feel shattered! And so, we just decide to retreat.

We become afraid and want to hide away from more pain and disappointment. We start turning inward and working on ourselves. We start looking at different ways of self-help/self-love and digging into self-development and empowerment. But for many of us at this stage, the reason why we turn inward is not really one of integrity, but more of a withdrawal from the world and turning away from others to avoid pain! As we seem to have learnt an obvious lesson that no one out there could ever save us from the feelings of unhappiness, fears, or dissatisfaction that we feel inside and want to be freed from; and no one out there could ever live our lives for us or feel for us our pain and insecurities

We have to walk our paths alone by ourselves even when we are with others or if we have a companion! Realising that, we in a sense give up hoping that others could be of any help! Consciously or unconsciously, we declare to ourselves that we NEED NO ONE in order to be happy. Often with some subtle degree of depression and negativity in the mind, we would even think that other people seem to just add on more pain and disappointment into our lives rather than bringing us happiness, or perhaps they do make us happy from time to time, but the amount of pain and disappointment that come along with them often outweigh the good. And so, in the name of self-love and self-reflection, we turn inward and sadly close off our hearts due to our own bitterness and fears of being hurt.

Going into this state of self-retreat is actually helpful at first. This is how most of us start off working on ourselves to become more self-sufficient and resilient. This is the beginning of the introspection stage in every journey of awakening (or evolution of consciousness). At this stage, we focus solely on our self-development and individuation, while having yet to experience a fundamental truth of our intrinsic human nature: connectedness.

We cannot exist and evolve without interconnectedness - the sublime matrix of connections that link everyone and everything together in this physical universe.

So long as we are in a human form and living in human civilisation, within this physical world of relativity and duality, regardless of how spiritually awakened or attuned we are, we cannot completely eliminate and should not deny or suppress our deep down longing for connectedness with other human beings and with all that is of life, and our primal yearning for union and intimacy with another half of duality - the yin-yang/feminine-masculine counterpart of us.

Only when we hold this truth in our awareness, self-love could then be practised and experienced with integrity in accordance with our inherent human nature!


Let’s now contemplate what self-love actually is!

“Self-love is self-realisation - one’s awareness and integration with one’s true self - the essence of your being that has always been there with you and for you since birth!”

Since our first breathe - the first time we saw the 3D world of physical objects through our eyes - the first time we experienced a touch from our parent(s)…, we actually started off our journeys on this planet Earth as little explorers right at birth. We reached out a little bit further and further day by day to explore, experience and learn about the world around us. Gradually, we learnt about the limits of our experiences - the boundaries between what is allowed and not allowed, safe and unsafe, acceptable and unacceptable, etc. - to survive and adapt to the environments we are in.

When establishing these boundaries, babies gradually develop the sense of self-control and the awareness of a separate self which is ‘here’ in relation to other people or things ‘over there’. This is what we call the Ego - the sense of I/mine in relation to others/theirs. This is how we as little babies unconsciously developed the feeling of being excluded from the connectedness with other people and all there is around us. This sense of separateness along with the unaware/unloving/uncaring words and actions of the adults (who are deeply asleep and hardly able to see beyond their own needs and wants), babies grow up with an innocent presumption that they have to earn love, care, and inclusiveness from others!

And so, each of us spends all efforts throughout our lives trying very hard to look for approval and validation, to feel accepted, seen, understood, and loved by others - firstly our parents, then friends, colleagues, acquaintances, communities/societies, and then someone special (who we hope would recognise and appreciate our values and beauty - who would be ready to merge and become one with us in love). This is what we have been doing over and over again during each of our incarnations on earth.

At some point during one of our many lifetimes, we would reach the stage of evolution where we are awakened to an ultimate truth that: NOBODY out there but the ONE PERSON right here is capable of ‘giving’ you what you have been looking for all along! This only person is the one who knows everything about you - your history from when you were a little child until this very day, with every twist and turn, every memory of the people you ever met or the places you have ever been, every event that happened in your life along with your deep down feelings and thoughts; - the one who understands deeply all of your innermost hopes and dreams, all of your pain, disappointment, and despair, etc.; - who also knows all of the most secretive desires, fears, denials, what you tried to suppress or control; - who even knows all of your little lies or unspeakable guilt that you ever had and tried to hide/bury deep inside.

That person has always been there with you and for you every single time you cry, every single time you feel sad, broken, lonely, disappointed, or discouraged. In the times of peak happiness, success, or wish fulfilment, no one knows better than that person how happy you are. In the times of darkness when you are out of your depth, no one knows better than that person how difficult and painful your experiences are.

Unfortunately, under the limited perspective of the Ego and its fixated tendency in searching for outward experiences, you (and all of us!) have been searching throughout your life and many previous lifetimes for somebody out there in this world who totally accepts and appreciates you as you are without any masks or pretence, but fail to acknowledge and appreciate the presence of the very person that exists right here, right now - in you - with you - is YOU - the person who knows, cares, and understands you better than ANYONE ELSE out there!

Notice that part of you that witnesses/observes all of your life experiences and events! Notice that there is absolutely nothing you could hide from that part of you - your inner conscience - you inner knowing! Notice that you have no choice but being seen right through with baring honesty in every single moment of your life and you can never be separated or escape from that part of yourself - your own inner observer - inner knower, no matter what you do or where you go!

That part of you is the real you - authentic you - the unchanging essence of your being (which is awareness or pure consciousness).

Now, let’s take a few moments to look back to some of your life memories: the times you felt most lonely, the times you were lost in despair and darkness, the times you felt unloved/unchosen/abandoned by a specific someone, the times you lost trust and hope, the times you felt hurt, etc. And still, there (s)he is - the part of you who is the observer - right there with you and for you all these times, all along without fail! You have ALWAYS been seen, understood, cared for, and accepted by that person! Totally and unconditionally! Your Ego just didn’t acknowledge his/her loving and caring presence!

And now, knowing all this, you cannot help but start to notice that person’s presence in every moment of your waking life. Let him/her whisper to you and reassure you of what is truest to yourself! Especially at the times when you lose sight of truths and sink in negativity, sadness, and despair - the victim mode! During those times, remember to stop to find and feel the loving, caring, calming, and healing presence of that person - the real you - the essence of your true self! Listen to his/her guidance, encouragement, and reminders of what is real, what is important, and what is your purpose in life!

The realisation of one’s true self and integration between one's ego-mind and the true self bring about the experience of wholeness within. This is the stage of self-realisation in human evolution.

In this state of integration and wholeness, self-love is no longer misconceived as ‘the Ego’s love of itself’.

Self-love in its true sense is a combination of ‘the Ego’s submission to the true self’ and the ‘genuine loving kindness, compassion and appreciation one feels towards oneself when shifting to the higher perspective of the true self (or higher Self-awareness)’.

With this definition/experience of self-love as self-realisation, there is no contradiction or trading-off between one’s self-love and one’s love for others. At this stage of evolution, the Ego no longer runs the show; ‘the lover’ who loves (either oneself or others) is no longer the Ego-mind, but the true self; and ‘the kind of love’ in both cases at this stage is true love - which is genuine compassion and appreciation that one feels towards oneself and others.

This state of being (as a self-realised person) is a prerequisite for each of us as individuals to move towards ‘conscious loving relationships/partnerships’ - the most harmonious and strongest building blocks of communities/societies for human beings as a whole to move towards the next level of civilisation, and the healthiest environment/context (as families and communities) for the future generations to be born in to.



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