In order for this foundation of loving others to be built, there is ultimately another step that needs to happen first before we can even think about world peace. That first step is that you must cultivate love for your self.
Taking That First Step Towards World Peace
When you do not cultivate love for your self first, you are unable to truly sustain love for others.
We have heard about this idea that in order to love others, you have to love yourself first. I can reflect back on how most of my life I didn’t really get it. The words computed, but the essence and visceral experience of what it means to love yourself felt like an elusive concept.
Why is this?
Growing up in a culture that promotes striving for perfection, massive productivity, materialism, independence, strength, and thin beauty is a hard standard to live up to.
We are not taught how to love the ugly and vulnerable parts of ourselves along with our strengths and gifts. Rather, self-love becomes conditional and then the love we have for others becomes conditional too. This makes it challenging to cultivate love for your self.
Why Are We So Damn Critical of Ourselves?
Clinical psychologists agree that self-criticism often originates from being criticized as a child. This is when we are forming beliefs about ourselves and the influence from our early relationships with caregivers, teachers and peers is critical. How we were treated and the labels that were placed on us as children carry weight well into adulthood and impact us in every area of our lives.
Our own internal dialogue can also reflect that parent who was very self-critical in front of us. As impressionable children, we are influenced to model similar behavior as our parents.
As we form negative beliefs about ourselves, our inner critical dialogue may actually feel satisfying, in an odd way, because it is confirming our negative self-belief. Loving kindness for ourselves is more unfamiliar. In order to turn this around, you need to cultivate love for yourself.
The Key To Healing
Despite what happened to us as children, how we percieve what happened to us is the key to healing. Being able to separate ourselves from the inner critic and not allow ourselves to be defined by what happened to us allows us to move forward in a better way.
Due to the instinctual part of our brain that is wired for safety and security, we as humans are designed to react more to danger and negativity. Which may explain why criticisms hit harder than compliments.
We remember the things that scare us so we can avoid them in the future.
Those experiences of being hurt or frightened can often become so uncomfortable that we eventually learn to protect ourselves from those painful experiences and raw emotions. For example, We may lash out in defensiveness to shield the open wound of a broken heart, or display rage to guard our own insecurities and fears.
As adults, it would be helpful for us to heal our childhood hurts and take on a more compassionate view of ourselves when dealing with our inner demons. Cultivating love for yourself is essential.
How to Cultivate Love for yourself
In the book, The Places That Scare You, A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times, Pema Chödron says that the first step to cultivating loving kindness “is to see when we are erecting barriers between ourselves and others. In cultivating loving-kindness, we first train to be honest, loving, and compassionate toward ourselves…rather than nurturing self-denigration…”
Even though it may seem easier to love others than yourself, your relationship with yourself is the most important and longest relationship you’ll ever have. It’s not an easy thing to do when we aren’t taught to love and forgive ourselves while growing up.
We so often struggle with our demanding inner critic and the negative self-beliefs running rampant within our minds, that we may need some help getting unstuck.
It may seem difficult to feel love for yourself. By doing loving things for yourself, you are taking a step in the right direction.
10 More Ways to Cultivate Love For Yourself
- Set healthy boundaries, learn to say no when needed
- Let go of comparing yourself to others
- Be honest with yourself
- Allow yourself to make mistakes, embrace your humanness with more grace, compassion and understanding
- Practice being grateful and appreciative
- Don’t waste time people pleasing and just be your beautiful authentic self
- Write down your accomplishments by making a “brag” list, update it
- Allow for your feelings
- Take care of your body
- Remember your interconnectedness with all beings
Without loving kindness for ourselves we will have trouble genuinely expressing it to others.
When we get caught up in our own personal concerns, we can sometimes forget our kinship with others. If we can remember, that as humans, we all suffer. By realizing that we each carry our own unique, scarred, harrowing stories, we can have compassion for ourselves and for others. We know that loving kindness goes a long way to help ease our suffering.
When we can recognize that we are all interconnected we will grow in deeper understanding that when we harm another, we are harming ourselves.
Practice These Loving Prayers to Cultivate Love
- Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu is a sanskrit mantra meaning: “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to the happiness and freedom for all.”
- The Metta Prayer of Loving Kindness
Metta refers to an inclusive, unconditional love that exists without any expectations of anything in return. The metta prayer starts with the self and then extends to all beings.
There are seemingly many renditions of this prayer.
Here are 2 Metta Prayers of Loving Kindness to Choose From:
One more thing…
Love is the secret, potent sauce not only to living a fulfilling life, but to connecting in kinship with others, and causing the ripple effect of loving kindness into the world. World peace begins with loving yourself. Taking those steps to cultivate love for your self will inevitably spread greater harmony into our world.
If you’re struggling with the concept of loving yourself and could use a hand taking those first steps toward greater peace, please feel free to reach out and connect with me. I would be happy to chat, at no charge and listen to your story.
Mucho Love xx