There’s a saying in my recovery program that ‘faith without works is dead.’ There’s also instructions that remind us when we take a leap of faith, that it’s not enough to simply make the decision in our mind, rather it has to be followed by affirmative action (a demonstration—an embodiment of the decision) or we haven’t actually done anything but intellectualize it. Basically, it’s telling us to just take the actual leap!
I’m coming to understand that the practice of self-love follows the same principle.
Self-love is not merely a thought or belief. Even though it requires more than intellectualizing and mentally affirming fondness for ourselves, it’s not simply a demonstrative action of pampering and soothing ourselves either; that’s more like giving a child candy for good behaviour, or putting a bandaid on a wound. Self-love is also not embodied solely in relinquishing destructive behaviour and bad habits—though that’s a good start.
The act of self-love requires affirmative action that embodies, nourishes, supports and champions our individual values, beliefs and identities.
The other day, when I was talking with a friend in recovery about my challenges in finding love–and that I believed perhaps that something is still ‘wrong’ in my own recovery–they ‘reminded’ me that I can’t expect to find love until I learn to love myself.
I was really annoyed and livid. I’m sick of hearing this particular clichéd, lazy response.
What but self-love is almost 18 years of recovery and working on myself and staying alive despite my destructive mind?
I asked myself why my friend’s statement made me so mad. Then I was inspired to write a blog rant about homophobia in which I discovered, as I wrote it, that I’m seething with anger about what growing up gay in a homophobic community did to my current lack of immediate confidence in love and dating.
I’m angry. I’m not resentful at anyone. But I am angry. I’m angry that I didn’t get to learn how to date. Angry that I still hear my gay friends say they won’t come out to their families because they don’t want to ‘rock the boat.’ Angry that we (LGBT people) still don’t always just get to grow into our lives and loves without declaration of who we are and an ensuing battle.
Fuck you world that doesn’t allow all people to be the same in our journeys into and through life!
I realized though, it’s actually a good thing that I’m recognizing this anger. Because it’s a part of who I am.
I’ve never really known who I was. I was so lost in playing an acceptable character that I never developed into who I would be as an authentic person.
So it’s good that I know I’m angry.
I’m also spiritual. I never used to say that out loud. I thought it was the exact opposite of the word itself to say I’m spiritual. But I am. My greatest passion in this life is spiritual development and healing myself. I try new things all the time; kind of like a spiritual thrill-seeker. I’m currently 112 days into A Course in Miracles, I’ve joined and studied with a Wiccan coven, I’ve completed all levels of The Living Kabbalah System and I’m heading into an intense week-long West African Bwiti healing ceremony next month (stay tuned for my blog!) I also like to write about and promote the things I’m passionate about.
Self-love is not only about having a bad day and pouring ouselves a bubble bath and getting a good night’s sleep. Digging a little deeper, self-love can mean giving up the things that instantly gratify us such as momentary hookups, or spending money on ourselves because we ‘deserve it’. It can mean easing up on gym-obsession and the vain attempts at body-perfection. Self-love can actually mean the opposite of these things, like saving money for a future trip or retirement, holding out for a more intimate or satisfying romantic connection and acceptance of a healthy body and exercise moderation. If I truly accept myself, do I need to endlessly labour over an unattainable ‘perfect’ physique?
For me, today, self-love (to love myself) is a firm decision that I’m making moving forward; a commitment to myself to be myself and honour my callings, passions and intuition. And yes this decision might include aspects of the peripheral self-love embodiments listed above.
More than that though—and most importantly—living with integrity is the single-most affirmative action I can take in solidifying my commitment to self-love.
Loving myself, therefore, is identifying who I am and what makes me tick, discarding what doesn’t serve me, and living to the best of my ability as the authentic person I’ve uncovered and am. It’s not simply a decision I make, or an acknowledgement of the fact that I believe I love myself, it’s making that decision/acknowledgement and then following it with the affirmative action of living with integrity.
So, if I’m gay, then I’m going to be gay! No more hiding, editing or censoring to make others more comfortable. If I’m angry, I’m going to be angry. If I have a crush on you, you’re going to know it. If I’m inspired to write a blog about self-love, I’ll write it and share it. And if I want to take a goddamn bubble bath, I’ll take it!