Self-love and liking yourself more

Our minds have been trained to believe that our successes will be based on how much we are liked and loved by the people around us, that we should be receivers of all the available love in this world, thanks to the “tele-serye” romantic movies and TV shows which we were exposed to during our teenage years.

But it occurred to me a few months ago after a debilitating heartbreak that one of the few things I can be sure of in this world is self-love. It was during those days after someone whom I thought was dear to me had hurt me in the most painful way possible and in my effort to recover from it that I decided to take the yoga practice seriously.

On impulse, I traveled to my hometown to give myself a good break. The next morning at my parents’ house, I set up a mat. I could still feel the emotional pain morphing into something palpable, as if your chest was being squeezed so tightly and your stomach punched a dozen times. I could no longer remember the last time I felt that. On top of the mat, I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing. I bent my body forward as if bowing to a bigger force in front of me. In those minutes, I can picture myself trying to pick up the pieces of my heart while doing the poses one deep breath and one vertebrae at a time.

Funny as it may sound but afterward I imagined my heart whole again.

I rode the bus back to Manila. As I plugged some music into my ears, I felt that inexplicable happiness. I enjoyed how light I could be. And I made a promise: I will never ever forget to love myself again. While loving someone else, you tend to forget yourself, unmindful of the things that make you happy.

I actually wasn’t able to explain it even after joining a group meditation a week later in Makati. (There is this group in Makati called Philippine Insight Meditation Community which does weekly group meditation). It only came to me when we began talking about “freedom.”

You become free when you release yourself from that bondage to things that are really non-existent, not in your present, not in your now.

Freedom was the best gift one can give to oneself– freedom from worries, anxieties, illusions.

Don’t get me wrong. We often confuse self-love with selfishness when in reality, they are the opposite of each other. A man who loves and accepts himself truly is always ready to give love and happiness to others. An empty man will need the people around him and seek material things to fill that gaping hole, and in the end will never be able to do it.

I couldn’t say I had found self-love and self-acceptance. I consider it a challenging but exciting journey because every day we are presented with a slew of distractions.

Heartbreaks could leave one’s self-esteem in tatters. To regain it, I did a writing exercise, sort of a set of New Year’s resolutions, except that those I listed are what I want to become in order to make me like myself more. I think it helps when you write them in the present tense. The exercise is something like this:

1. I am peaceful and mindful of the present. (I find those who are genuinely composed really attractive. They don’t get distracted easily as they live lightly and gracefully. Plus, there is a a study I read somewhere that people are more creative and productive when they are at peace with themselves.

2. I am full of love. (Love can be found everywhere, be with your parents, your siblings, friends, special someone, pets, plants, jobs, food, book, and even in silence) I remember Mother Theresa’s words: We can do small things with great love.

You can write as many as you want. The goal is to find ways and make those baby steps to like yourself more. But the most important part of this exercise is doing it. What I do is I read the list in the morning or in the evening to remind me about these daily goals.

(Above this post, I attached a poem by Derek Walcott “Love after Love.” That sultry voice is Tom Hiddleston’s. Enjoy!)

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