Thursday, 6 June 2013

Self love - and letting go of identities

PARTY PICSelf love is a much talked subject in personal development and/or spiritual circles. 'You cannot love another until you truly love yourself' as they say. Some people may argue this - a parent might say 'I love my children to death, even though I don't necessarily love myself'. And I think it's true that we can feel love for others in this way. However, this kind of love will always come with conditions - ie expectations of how the other must behave. A parent may say they love their child, but if their child chooses to pursue a different career than what the parent wants, the love could turn into anger. A spouse may say they love their husband/wife - but if the husband/wife leaves, the love can turn into hate.

So yes, I do think it's possible to love people even when we don't love ourselves - but pure, unconditional love can only come when we truly love ourselves. I won't go into a description of what unconditional love is (partly because I don't really know it for myself yet, ha) - but it's a journey. Love starts with ourselves.

I have heard the concept of loving myself mentioned on countless occasions. Am I good at it? Not massively. There are still parts of myself that I hate. These are the parts that I need to accept about myself. The parts that we cannot accept about ourselves, the things that we think make us stupid, worthless and pathetic, the things where we think we're worse than most people - these are the parts of ourselves that we need to own rather than deny or wish they weren't there. We can know deep down that we're a good person, and others know this too - but the parts that other people don't see so easily - the flaws, quirks, shyness, hatred - the general feeling that 'we should have done better', the past regrets, the hurts, the failures - can so easily form our identity - and I will venture on to the subject of identity in due course.

Intellectually, I know that loving myself is important. But, like many others, the parts of me that I have disowned and that I dislike - have led me to seek that love and fulfillment outside of myself. So many people look to their partners or even children to fill a void, to fill an empty heart. There have been times when I wish I could have the relationship I craved. Relationships are so often based on need rather than true love. And this can be a part of life's journey. Sometimes these relationships can teach you a lot.

How can we truly love ourselves, I hear you say. Well it's not an overnight fix. We have had countless thoughts programmed into us along the lines of 'I'm not good enough', 'Other people are better', 'I'm useless and a failure' - often parents unintentionally thrust their own insecurities onto their children, in my case, school really messed up. These things that are subconsciously programmed from an early age end up forming parts of our identity which are not easy to let go of. It is a rare person indeed who enters adulthood with a true love for themselves, certainly in the western world.

I believe that if we are to learn to love ourselves, we need to let go of our identity, which is often rooted in our story, of what has happened to us in the past. I believed from an early age that I was unlovable, that no woman would love me, had a paralysing fear of rejection, and as a result, I have attracted circumstances that have mirrored this belief. And it has subconsciously formed part of my identity, along with other things. The mind looks for ways in which we are supposedly different from others, in which we have spectacularly failed, in which other people have grossly mistreated us. People who have been abused have an identity of 'an abused person' which I'm sure must be incredibly hard to let go of, and there are plenty of other things that can form the identity of the person we think we are.

The mind wants justice - 'Why did this happen', 'Why do I have these personality traits', 'How can people treat me so bad' - and it can be bloody hard letting go of these things. Byron Katie puts it best - 'Who would you be without your story?' This is the question we need to ask. Letting go of my identity as 'the man who can't get a relationship' or 'someone who has been through hell' - is something I really need to do now, and hopefully I feel ready for it. The mind believes that we will have we want if we hold on rather than let go. Letting go of our identity is scary - it is the unknown - but we need to take that first step in faith and trust that things will work out, and that we can still have what we desire after we have let go of the need and desperation for it, even though it may not happen overnight.

Who would you be without your story? If you could start all over again and not be bound by the past? If you could embrace the things you can't necessarily control? How about, a Divine human being who deserves the best from life? You don't necessarily have to be spiritual or believe in God. It's a case of - what do you want, and who would you choose to be? I believe that we really need to let go of our identities that are rooted in our life story, if we are to truly love ourselves and others.

This is very much a personal journey. It takes courage and it takes time to let go of things that hold us back. But I believe we're in a time where we are being called to let go, and to move forward. To be the best of what we can be.


Photo taken by Su Davies


  1. I really needed this today Andy Thank you! I always think I love myself but I sometimes struggle with self it the same or different?? That is me worrying about my self worth through the eyes of others even though I think I am great ha. I guess we all have our journey and releasing the past is the way forward. Sometimes this can be difficult when you feel tied by your past in your present. This has been my struggle of late. Thank you again great blog x

  2. Hard to say whether love and self worth are exactly the same .. I'd say maybe slightly different but could be wrong. Thanks Anna :)

  3. Great post Andy! I don't love myself yet BUT I try to keep it easy going in that I can start with accepting myself. You can't go straight to love but you can start with accepting.. and then go to liking... and finally loving. One step at a time.

  4. Yes indeed :) I like that .. starting with accepting .. going to liking .. and finally loving. Excellent! Thanks Kelly :)


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