Throughout our childhood and adolescence, we learn a lot of things from our surroundings that shape our belief system based on which we form the idea of Self. Whether it is our scriptures or our family and peers, all of us have been taught to imbibe virtues such as kindness, compassion, patience, benevolence and so on, clearly highlighting the importance of putting our fellow beings before ourselves. Among them, Love is a virtue which we often associate with either showing affection and warmth towards someone or receiving it from others. It is something that is very much familiar to everyone and one that is expressed in numerous ways throughout our lives. We are always encouraged to love and respect each other. However, the notion of Self-Love isn’t as well known, perhaps because we have never been taught what it actually means and its importance as a virtue. With the teachings of Lord Buddha’s Dhammapada, Sri Guru explores this lesser-known yet beautiful notion that enhances the quality of our life immensely and helps us move forward on the path of oneness.
Love and Self-Love
We have often heard the phrase ‘God helps those who help themselves’. While it certainly inspires us to become self-reliant in challenging times, another way of interpreting it is that God has equipped us in every way to help ourselves grow as an individual. And Self-Love is a wonderful way to do just that. Thus, when we decide to focus our actions towards the well-being of Self, it is actually God that is helping us! (As He has made us in His image of all-inclusive, infinite and eternal love energies.)
So what does Self-Love actually mean and how is it different from Love?
|Love is a sense of Belongingness.|
Love for our children, parents, relatives or friends, is born out of a strong emotional bond and a sense of belongingness we share with them. In addition to our family, friends and community, our admiration for various elements of nature such as flowers, animals, birds, mountains etc. shows love as a deep connection with mother Earth. As living beings, we value social connection and express it in many ways, most common of which is love.
|Self-Love is a sense of Evolving-ness. |
Self-Love is born out of an intense yearning to evolve in terms of the quality of our thoughts, our decisions as well as our actions. It motivates us to look beyond our presumed boundaries within which we have confined ourselves, without walking away from our responsibilities. It is more about an evolved perspective of looking at everyone around us, including ourselves. Self-Love helps us believe that we are not our limitations or vices, and that we belong to the pure and infinite consciousness that manifests itself in every element of Creation.
|Love magnifies our sense of appreciation. |
Love certainly magnifies our abilities to appreciate others. It opens our hearts and minds to embrace more and more ways to express it. This is how poetry and music seem to flow spontaneously within us. Love naturally makes us push boundaries and broaden our horizons. When in love we are, in a way, emulating the very nature of this ever-expanding and limitless existence.
|Self-Love magnifies our sense of introspection.|
Self-Love allows us to make more room for introspection, so that we can take a closer look and remove the waste thoughts and negativity that are weakening our resolve to become better human beings. The more we embrace the notion of Self-Love, the more we become aware of the deeply buried feelings, opinions, habits, fears and memories that occupy our mind. Through continuous introspection, Self-Love helps us gain clarity so that we realise our true purpose of existence.
|Love is about giving.|
When we are in love, we want to devote our time and energies to those whom we hold dear. For instance, a parent taking care of his or her child, a person helping his friend in need or someone working hard towards eliminating poverty or hunger from society, are different forms of showing our love through giving.
|Self-Love is about radiating.|
The act of giving may build some expectations of getting something in return, such as respect or fame. Self-Love on the other hand, is simply about being content with self and is therefore devoid of all expectations. It means radiating the inner purity and bliss. This is why we feel peaceful and calm in the presence of those beings who are drenched in Self-Love. The inner beauty radiating from their hearts invokes the same within us.
“We radiate what is inside us. When things change within us, things change around us.”
Self Love vs. Narcissism
Self-Love could easily be mistaken for egotism or even narcissism. But it has nothing to do with ego or being narcissistic. Egotism means to build a false sense of superiority within, which makes one demand respect and adoration from others. On the other hand, the word narcissism is derived from a plant called Narcissus, which grows on the banks of a river such that it can see its own reflection in self-admiration. A narcissist, therefore, is obsessed with self-image and thus spends his time and energies in polishing his outward appearance. But, Self-love does not portray such level of self-indulgence. Rather, it means taking care of our physical, mental and intellectual well-being as well as the illumination of the consciousness within. In fact, Self-Love becomes very useful on our journey of self-realisation when we confront our deep-rooted vices and resolve to eliminate them.
Obstacles to Self-Love
1. When our belief system strongly differs from our actions: This creates a rift in our subconscious mind. It feels like we are going against our own principles for which we have high regard. As a result we start building up self-guilt and self-hatred. For instance, when we decide to become physically fit by eating healthy food and exercising daily, but fail to maintain it for long and end up hating ourselves.
Solution: Learning to honour our commitments towards Self improvement and growth actually wires the neurons in our brain in a way that makes us more confident and optimistic.
2. When our role models are different from our way of life: Having someone as a role model means we really want to become like them. However, if our role models are larger than life and our conscious actions and way of life is not in alignment with theirs, then it creates a mental conflict within which in turn fosters disappointment and self-discouragement. For example, if one considers Lord Mahavira as his role model, but in reality is not as calm and forgiving as He was.
Solution: We can admire a lot of people for their qualities but when it comes to deciding our role models, we should be more thoughtful and have the right understanding.
3. When our aspirations are ‘insanely’ higher than our reality: It is good to strive for something higher in life, but setting unrealistic and unachievable goals is neither wise nor is it good for our self-respect. For instance, a person aspires to become as successful and famous as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. However, despite sharing the same passion for innovation and working hard, he fails and gets depressed for not being able to attain the same level of success or fame. Failing to realise the ‘insane’ aspirations is bound to hurt our confidence and fill our subconscious mind with doubt and self-hatred.
Solution: We should accept the fact that even if there is no deficiency in our efforts, it is quite possible that we may not get our desired outcome. This is because God’s plan for our life, our destiny, circumstances and karmic forces at play can be very different the people who we are aspiring to become. This is not meant to discourage or de-motivate us, but to simply help us set realistic aspirations. Sri Guru also says, “Try to be like your role models, but do not aspire to become like them.” which further makes it clear that embracing someone’s qualities is very different from attempting to replicate their life and achievements.
4. When we constantly seek approval from others: What actually happens when we seek approval from everyone around us is that we judge ourselves more and more from their perspective (rather than our own) in order to get mental satisfaction. In other words, we measure our self-worth from what other people have to say about us, people who may or may not care deeply about our well-being. Consequently, we allow disharmony and self-doubt to burden our mind.
Solution: It is important to be confident about our own abilities. More the number of people, more varied are their opinions about us and therefore more confusion. We may take opinion from a few people who can actually help us grow as an individual, but we must not chase everyone to appreciate or validate our efforts.
5. When we aren’t in the aura of an enlightened being effortlessly radiating Self-Love: So many of us are wandering everywhere to catch a glimpse of true love and joy. But we haven’t really been in the aura of someone who is continuously immersed in Self-Love, someone whose mere presence inspires us to embrace a divine way of living our lives. Being in the aura of such a being (like a Sadguru) is a rare blessing, which quite literally elevates our experience at the level of body and mind, something which religion simply cannot impart. Without Self-love, we cannot feel the essence of Seva (selfless service) or the moments of warmth and light-heartedness.
Solution: Be more and more in the nurturing aura of an enlightened master who sows the seeds of transformation within, who kindles the yearning to evolve, who inspires us to introspect deeply and who awakens the divine virtue of oneness.
The Wonderful Benefits of Self-Love
- Self-Love has the power to penetrate through deeper layers of our mind and invoke the subtle love energies with which we are born. These love energies allow us to heal from the inner disharmony, help us amend our wrong equations and magnify our learning abilities. We feel more connected to our true selves despite the duality of good and bad, right and wrong or the presence of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.
- Our relationships improve as Self-Love nurtures trust and respect within, which ultimately grows mutual trust with others. It is a law of life, when we are in harmony with ourselves, the right people and right things will automatically be drawn towards us.
- Lesser feeling of dissatisfaction and loneliness as Self-Love teaches us to enjoy our own company.
- We become more aware about ourselves through active introspection which brings forth immense possibilities of transformation.
Sri Guru simplifies the concept of Self-Love through this equation:
Self Love = Self Esteem + Self Confidence + Self Worth
Self-Love truly has the power to alter and transform the entire neural network in our brain. As human beings on a divine journey of oneness and evolution, we have so much to gain by welcoming the state of self-love in our daily lives.
— Written by Jayshree Khadkiwala, derived from Sri Guru’s Satsang #23 on Dhammapada