When we look closely at our relationship with ourselves, we see that most of us live in a way in which we only love ourselves "if" and "when" we meet certain conditions that we’ve created for ourselves and then projected on to some distant future or some long-gone past.
- I will love myself if I’m in a loving relationship.
- I will love myself when I become successful.
- I will love myself if I lose weight.
- I will love myself when I make more money.
- I will love myself if I get that degree.
- I will love myself when I have that new car or that new house.
- I would love myself if I didn’t have wrinkles.
- I would love myself if I didn’t have this illness or this disability.
Do any of these sound familiar?
Because most of us never learned how to love and value ourselves in the present, just the way we are, we constantly look to a fantasy reality in the future where we think we’ll be more lovable, more deserving of love, or more able to love ourselves than we do right now. Some of us even take this dynamic and turn it around by looking back on our past with regret or resentment over what has been and gone and therefore no longer is.
Regardless of where we place the conditions on our lovability, if we continue to relate to ourselves in conditional ways, we’ll never get to where we’re finally ready to love ourselves here in the present. We have to begin to love ourselves now in order to create, accomplish, or find what we desire most in life. It is never the other way around, despite how much we believe it to be so. Looking to the future will never help us transform what we have not been able to love already within ourselves, our lives, or our past. Similarly, holding on to situations, relationships, or images of the past that are loaded with regret or denial will never help us to create healthy, happy lives here in the present.
Why Are We So Hard on Ourselves?
Our conditional love for ourselves is generally rooted in deep feelings and limiting beliefs around not being "enough" or "worthy of love" just as we are, which leaves many of us feeling we must always be more, do more, or have more to finally be lovable to ourselves and to others.
At the core of this self-destructive internal dynamic is the fact that when we were growing up most of our parents could not love us unconditionally, just as we were, because they did not love themselves unconditionally, just as they were. Not only did we inherit love-deprived beliefs, emotions, and habits at birth, but many of us were also raised in homes where—no matter how much we tried to please our parents or make them happy—nothing would ever or could ever be enough to satisfy their insecurities, inadequacies, dissatisfaction, and unreasonable expectations.
Since then we've lived unaware that another way of life exists outside of the self-imposed limitations and conditions we inherited during childhood. Understanding this dynamic is in no way encouragement to blame our parents or to feel sorry for ourselves. It’s simply a logical view on the root causes of many of our struggles; struggles which our parents endured their whole life as well, because, like all of us, their parents didn’t know better either.
For generations, the majority of the population has remained unaware of how to live in a way where they feel connected to their inherent wholeness and worth. Unaware of this, however, we’re still placing ourselves under constant pressure and creating our lives from a mindset of lack, unworthiness, and inadequacy. We constantly hurt ourselves for the love of other people, always trying to please them and keep them happy because we mistakenly believe this is still the only way to survive or get by. Meanwhile, our true needs, desires, and dreams continually get ignored because we don’t think we’re worthy of having what we genuinely value or envisage for ourselves.
Luckily, We Can Wake Up
Each of us is destined to wake up from this perceptual nightmare and heal ourselves by letting go of the limiting conditions that we continuously place on our own love for ourselves. A key to achieving this is understanding that beneath all the limiting conditions we create or take on there is simply repressed emotional pain, which is the result of all the times in the past that we have not related to ourselves with the honesty, acceptance, and kindness we need.
Our limiting beliefs around being inadequate, unworthy, or undeserving in any way paradoxically exist to protect us from the uncomfortable emotions that we ourselves have created and stored within our being. They also exist to create contrast and thus give us an idea of what the opposite and adequate feeling is.
All the aspects of our life that are or were painful—that we judge, reject, deny, hide, run from, fear, feel insecure about, ashamed of, angry about, regretful for, or guilty about—are the obstacles that block us from feeling and knowing our true nature, which is always enough, always whole, and never lacking in anything. Once we learn to be kind and true to ourselves with each word and action, we stop creating knots and blockages in a body that is designed for an infinite amount of life and love.
When we finally slow down enough to drop out of our head into the depth and wholeness of our being, to our surprise we find an ocean of loving wisdom and strength beneath all the negative beliefs and feelings that we hold within and towards ourselves. In this revelation comes a desire for deeper surrender into this truth, where we finally stop cutting ourselves off from feeling secure and enough.
Once we’re clear on how our habits of holding everything in lead us to feel insecure, inadequate, and trapped in the vicious cycle of conditional love, we naturally don’t want to hurt ourselves further. This is where we really come to see every limiting condition that we place on our peace, happiness, and love for ourselves as just a fear-based pattern of thought that we’re using as an excuse not to be true to ourselves now, which does not serve us anymore.
Adapted from You Were Not Born to Suffer: Overcome Fear, Insecurity and Depression and Love Yourself Back to Happiness, Confidence and Peace. Copyright © 2017 by Blake D. Bauer. Used with permission.