Learning to Love Beginning With Me

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By Dana Madeya

One of the best feelings in the world is to love and be loved.  Many of us look for that love to come from a source somewhere outside of ourselves, from others, to confirm that we are in fact lovable.  So where do we look for that love to come from: A romantic partner, a parent, a child? While it is important to have love in our lives for our own growth, development and happiness, we cannot bank on any other source of love other than self-love, and we can’t expect others to love us and appreciate us if we aren’t willing and able to do the same for ourselves.  So before we can expect others to love us, no matter what age we are we must first learn to turn our love inward.

They say that “Love makes the world go ‘round.”  Love is a cyclical phenomenon that is best when given in order to receive it.  The common misperception is that love begins with loving another person so that we can receive love.  While the mutual reciprocation of love in our relationships is indeed necessary for love to grow, it is not where love begins.  Love begins with loving ourselves first and foremost. We must be able to see all of the wonderful aspects of the person we want others to see, admire and love. And when we are able to unconditionally give love to ourselves, we are more likely to better love and receive love from others.

One of the greatest compliments of my life was given to me by a dear friend. He told me that I have an amazing confidence when I enter a room that draws attention to me.  I was surprised at this compliment.  I never saw myself as confident prior to this time, but I realize now what he was referring to. That confidence came from within because for the first time in my life, I am completely comfortable with me. Like all women, I still see all the flaws and areas I could improve upon but I choose everyday to focus on the positive. I love myself for all of my gifts and imperfections because I know none of us are perfect. That does not mean arrogance or that I do not aspire to improve, but if I can’t be proud of who I am today and love all the good and bad that comes with being human, how could I ever expect anyone else to love me that way?

“Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it,” by Earnest Holmes is probably my all-time favorite quote. When I grasped the truth behind that statement, I realized the power we possess to bring all the love, joy and happiness into our own lives instead of allowing love’s fate to rest in the hearts of others. So how do we begin to love ourselves…I mean fully love ourselves? Think of a relationship that you currently have or have had in the past; a relationship so strong that nothing outside of the two of you could ever shake or impact that relationship: it could be a current or former romantic partner/spouse, it could be a friend, parent or other family member, it could even be your church leader.  What are the ingredients of that relationship that make it so strong?  You would probably say things like trust, respect, and appreciation for each other – knowing that each of you have each other’s backs.  That is how we begin to love ourselves; it has to start with respect and appreciation for, and trust in ourselves.  There were things about me that I didn’t respect; I needed to change those things so that I could respect myself. There were things about me that I didn’t appreciate; I needed to begin to appreciate every aspect, every success and every misgiving because I am valuable. And the hardest thing of all was learning to trust in myself.  None of this was easy to accomplish; like so many, I have a natural tendency to sell myself short. There were times in my life that set me back and made it harder to accomplish, but I knew if I didn’t learn to appreciate, trust, respect and love myself, all the love in the world from others could ever make me feel lovable.  It had to come from within and it took time, but I was worth it and so are you.

I encourage you to get started today.  Even if you already have a strong fondness and appreciation for yourself, strengthen it. Look in the mirror, especially on bad days, and see how amazing you are. Think of the times you have done something nice for someone or made a difference in another person’s life and appreciate you for being that person. And if by chance there is something that hinders your self-love, make a positive change to be a better you because love starts with loving you..

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