photo by Freekpik
If you’ve been on a path of personal development you’ve probably been hearing for a long time that the answer to all your problems is more self-love. “You just need to love yourself” or “Give yourself the love he/she never gave you” is the advice you get from friends, family, and professionals in the field of self-help.
You do all the stuff they tell you to do like positive affirmations, gratitude journaling, meditating, yoga, or carving out plenty of “me” time. All of this may have actually gotten you significantly closer to experiencing self-love. You may even be able to confidently say you have a healthy amount of it and any more might get you labeled as a narcissist so better to leave at least a little room for humility.
So why then does it feel like it’s still not enough? If you love yourself and genuinely believe you are a lovable person with plenty of value to add to the lives of others, why are you still single? Or why doesn’t your partner act more lovingly towards you? Why haven’t you reached the level of success you’ve been dreaming about in your career? Why aren’t people noticing what a wonderful, lovable, talented, person you are? To put it simply, why are you still not getting what you want and feel you deserve?
My friend, this is a frustration I am all too familiar with. There was a time in my life that I thought if one more person tells me I need to love myself more I’m going to puke in their face or call them out on their bullshit. I remember thinking why has everyone been lying to me about all this self-love crap for so long? Why can’t we just admit that self-love isn’t enough?
Call me a skeptic if you will but I just couldn’t take all of this self-love stuff at face value. Nope, I needed to put on my detective hat and launch a full on investigation to prove to the world that more self-love is not the answer. So, before you get frustrated again that your “I love myself” affirmation isn’t working, here are 4 things to consider that no one told you about self-love.
1. THE PROBLEM IS DEEPER THAN YOU THINK
On the surface you may have achieved self-love. Congratulations! Most people are still struggling to attain this level. So what does self-love at this level look like? Most days you feel like you are a great catch, you like your personality traits including your quirks and differences, you’re proud of most of your achievements, you’re fairly content with life as it is, and you don’t take too many things personally. Sure, you might hit some bumps in the road, but you typically have a good attitude about picking yourself up and carrying on. You try to see the positive in everything or at the very least are able to see the opportunity for growth in challenging situations.
Despite all of this, you’re not getting what you want and this makes you feel that there must still be something wrong with you or what you’re doing. If you read that sentence back to yourself one more time you might notice that those words actually contain a great deal of doubt about your self-love, which would mean that the self-love you think you have, isn’t all that rock-solid.
This is a tough thing to admit, especially if it’s taken you so long to achieve this state. Who wants to be dragged back into self-loathing when they’ve managed to pull themselves out of it? I guess only people who refuse to settle for less than what they truly want.
If you want to address the crack in your foundation, the first thing to accept is that the root of your problem is a little deeper. Quite likely, it is something so internalized that it’s been covered up by emotions that are much easier to deal with. For example, anger is usually a cover emotion for lower frequency emotions such as powerlessness. It’s a survival mechanism that keeps you from sliding into deep despair.
So that you can really understand this I will give you an example from my personal investigation, because quite frankly, I am one of those people who refuses to settle. When I followed my train of thought, using a process that has been taught to me by my mentor, I discovered that many of my insecurities stemmed from the experience I had as a child of being an immigrant. I realized that before I was old enough to rationalize my situation I had already associated being from a different culture with being “less than.” While it is likely that many of the characteristics that I do love about myself also stem from this experience, the dark side of it is that my subconscious has been carrying a feeling of inferiority for so long that I no longer see it’s connection to my surface sense of self-love.
Once I hit this root I was able to realize, through adult eyes, that being an immigrant clearly does not equate to inferiority. It is so obviously not true that I actually burst into laughter at the ridiculousness of what has been holding me back. It was exactly this moment of invalidating my deeply buried belief, that I was able to release the weight I didn’t even know I was carrying.
Achieving self-love is a process and it is work. On one side of it you have the positive focus work which is incredibly valuable, and on the other side you have the shadow work such as what I’ve described. Both are necessary roads to go down if you want to obtain true self-love. If you haven’t been doing the shadow work, this is the reason your self-love still doesn’t feel like enough.
2. YOUR BEHAVIOR HASN’T CAUGHT UP TO THE SELF-LOVE YOU FEEL
We are creatures of habit and whatever new behavior we learn eventually becomes automatic so that your brain can free up space to learn new things. This means that over the course of your life, you’ve picked up certain behavioral patterns or fallen into particular dynamics as a result of the lack of love you felt. As I mentioned, these patterns have become automatic so you are likely unaware of how they might be perpetuating your doubt. On the other hand, you may already be aware of these patterns but still have not managed to replace them with better ones.
This is easy to see when we put it into the context of relationships. For example, you might get upset that your partner, friends or family don’t seem to prioritize you. If you genuinely feel like you are worthy for people to want to put you first or to spend time with you, take a moment to examine your behavior. Do you prioritize you or do you drop everything you are doing the moment someone asks you to hang out? When they don’t have time for you do you fall into a pattern of proving you are worthy to get their attention? Do you make excuses for them and say they are just busy when you know they don’t really have anything going on? Where is your sense of self-worth the moment your loved ones don’t prioritize you? To gain more awareness on these patterns I suggest you read my article titled Is Your Selflessness a Disguise.
You might already be aware that you’re not behaving like someone who has self-love would behave, and yet you do it over and over again like a performing monkey. I could probably write novels about this one as I continuously found myself investing into people who were quite obviously not investing into me. It’s as if it was more interesting to me to prove my worth and to shout, kick and scream to get attention from those who couldn’t be bothered, rather than to focus on the people who were handing it out to me like a flyer guy handing out pamphlets on the street. Why am I unable to stop myself when I know better?!
There are two reasons for this. The first is reflexes. Rather than operating out of your higher self, you’re doing what you’ve been training yourself to do. To unlearn this behavior is going to take time, discipline, and consistency. We all know that changing habits doesn’t happen overnight. Entire books have been written on the subject. And what you have in front of you is a quintessential case of your awareness being ahead of your habits.
The second reason is that you haven’t wanted the change badly enough. You haven’t reached your threshold of what you are willing to put up with or there is a part of you that still isn’t completely convinced that you’re barking up the wrong tree, or else you simply don’t want to confront the truth. You are quite literally that person walking down the street and falling into the hole the first time because you didn’t see it. Then the next time you walk down that street you see the hole but you still fall into it. The third time you walk down that street, you see the hole, you walk around it. The fourth time you just take a different street. Sometimes you just need to learn the same damn lesson over and over again until it sticks.
Whether you are acting on reflexes or haven’t reached your limit, it’s a good idea to get clear on what type of behavior a person with self-love exhibits, so that you know what you’re aiming for. What would a person with self-love not put up with? Where would that person draw the line? Draft up an outline of how the version of you that has self-love acts, thinks, and behaves. This way you might begin to see what it is you are still trying to learn from doing the same thing over again.
3. WE ARE SOCIAL BEINGS WHO THRIVE ON LOVING CONNECTION
You’ve been taught to believe that self-love and love from others is somehow the same thing. It’s not. You can love yourself all you want but that isn’t going to replace the loving connection that human beings need from others. We are social beings. We thrive on connection. You want that type of love so badly you are willing to believe that if you just somehow learn to love yourself more you will get it. Isn’t it nice to think that we don’t need others, especially in our increasingly more individualistic culture? It sounds so easy to get our needs met if all it takes is for us to do it ourselves.
If there is any lesson to be learned from the pandemic, it is that we need each other more than we are willing to admit. Sure, we can get by on our own, but who the hell wants to just get by? If we want to keep the world safe and thriving it means looking out for more than just ourselves. We are better than we could ever possibly be on our own when we accept just how interdependent we are.
There are so many different kinds of love and the sooner we acknowledge that we need self-love as well as love from others the closer we will be towards finding happiness. Keep in mind, however, that the more self-love you have, the easier it is to give and receive genuine love from and to others, as opposed to the needy, codependent, insecure love that many of us are used to seeking. Although self-love is not a replacement for the love we need from others, it is certainly a key ingredient, so learning to cultivate it can kill two birds with one stone.
4. TRUE LOVE IS AN EXTREMELY ELEVATED EMOTION
Now that we are talking about the various forms of love, we cannot address the notion of self-love without discussing a state of being which yogis call “ananda” or “bliss.” This state is the truest form of love that exists, transcending even self-love or love from others.
In the yogic tradition it is believed that we are made up of five bodies or sheaths if you will, that nest inside of each other like a Russian Matryoshka doll that contains smaller and smaller versions of itself inside of one larger doll. The outermost sheath is our physical body, made up of our skin, bones, organs, tissues, and cells. The other 4 sheaths are all ethereal in nature, but are essentially what gives life to the physical body.
The second sheath is our life force, or what is called "prana" in Indian yoga and “qi” in yin yoga. The third is our mental body which is the seat of our thoughts, emotions and nervous system. This is the body from which we are acting when we are caught in that habit loop I described earlier. The fourth body is the wisdom sheath, which is where we experience a higher form of self-awareness or begin to perceive reality for what it really is. The last sheath is the bliss body “anandamaya-kosha,” which is where we experience boundless freedom, joy, connectedness, peace, and expansiveness.
Reaching “ananda” or bliss is your consciousness transcending beyond the limits of the other bodies. Some may call it a coming home to the true self or “samadhi,” the unity of individual and universal consciousness.
It is when we reach this state that we feel true love, or what spiritual gurus often call “source love” or “divine love.” In Christianity this might be equivalent to God’s love. For those of you who are less spiritually inclined this could be thought of as unconditional love.
Although this seems unworldly, it is not impossible to reach this state here on earth. You’ve likely had a glimpse of it when you’ve found yourself in what at the time you might have called a “flow” state as opposed to bliss. This could have been through practices such as yoga, meditation, dance, making art, writing, singing, making love, or even witnessing the birth of a child or something incomprehensible such as a miracle. It is a pure connection to oneself, others, the universe, the divine “spirit” or whatever term you wish to attach to it.
What prevents most people from achieving this state is disharmony in the other 5 bodies. For example if you feel a pain in your physical body, or an uncomfortable sensation such as hunger, most of your attention goes towards this sensation, and pulls you out of the wisdom body, that sheath from which you are able to remain a conscious observer. Likewise if you are experiencing emotional distress, which could very well be the result of the physical pain, or vice versa, all of your awareness gets poured into that mental sheath. Both of these examples affect the energy body. Think of the last time you felt fatigued and yet you’ve been getting enough sleep and haven’t been exerting yourself too much. Your energy or life force has all been directed towards solving your emotional or physical problem.
Although we’d like to believe that we are a more evolved species, most of the time we operate a lot like animals, following one compulsion after another, never really being able to sustain a higher state of consciousness, if we’ve even reached one to begin with.
The question to ask yourself is how much do you want “ananda”? If you were to commit yourself to the pursuit of bliss you might begin to ask yourself if it is worth it to let your attention be swallowed up by that strong emotion that got triggered when so and so didn’t act the way you decided they should. You would begin to rise above your circumstances and the ego you’ve spent your life constructing.
So to answer the question of why your self-love isn’t enough, it’s because it isn’t. Contrary to what you’ve been told, more self-love is not the answer to all of your problems. Could we all use a little more self-love? Definitely! The path to self-love is a very worthwhile pursuit, and if you have not yet experienced it on that surface level by all means dive into exploring all the various ways out there, the yoga, the affirmations, gratitude or whatever speaks to you.
However, once you have climbed your way up there, shift your focus to achieving that state of bliss or “ananda.” Expand your concept of what love is. Humans have a huge capacity for love on so many different levels. Self-love is by no means the only type of love we crave or need. Start letting love in in all of the different expressions of it. Try to remain open to the possibility that in your search for self-love you might actually be seeking a type of love that you’re not yet able to conceive of.
After-all, when you “fell in love” for the first time you also did not know what that type of love felt like but somehow you knew you were in love. When you fell in love a second time, if there was a second time, you probably noticed that it felt a little bit different than the first, and again it wasn’t something you had ever experienced before. You know that the love you feel from friends or family isn’t the same as that romantic love, nor is the love you might feel towards your cat.
The important thing to remember here is that love is limitless. So why on earth would we want to limit ourselves to just one or two forms of it?
If you're looking to make big changes in your life, grab my FREE Live Your Dream Life Starter Kit. This kit contains a meditation, yoga classes, and a worksheet to identify your dominant roadblocks, all designed to get your started on your journey towards true transformation.