“This is who I am when no one is looking.” Do you, can you, love that person unconditionally?
Today’s Wisdom Bite about unconditional love takes a reflective look inward. Regardless who we surround ourselves with or how many people we are in the presence of, we spend most of our lives in between – the moments in between our interactions with others and the internal state that arises from this. This is ultimately who you are when no one is looking. Do you recognize your innate deservedness? Have you fostered a level of kindness, compassion and reverence for yourself, regardless what anyone else may think or say? Do you, can you, love that person unconditionally?
A harsh inner critic means much of your in between moments are judgemental…
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Here’s what you need to know
A harsh inner critic means much of your in between moments are judgemental. It’s important to note though that any unwanted behaviours you’re judging – such as overeating or binge eating – were likely formed unconsciously at a much younger age to help you function.
Which means you are not responsible for their existence and there is nothing wrong with you. You are, however, responsible for the present-day impact of those behaviours – extra weight on your body – but only after you’ve developed some important insights around them.
The first insight is, you can’t create lasting change from a place of self-loathing. Sure, you can force weight off your body with control, guilt or shame tactics but this never lasts because these tactics stem from fear not love. The second insight is, you can’t go from self-loathing to self-love without first understanding what self-like is.
- Self-like is a kind, non-judgemental way of being, where you consciously choose to park your inner critic so that you can look in the mirror and simply appreciate the deserving person looking back. As a human being, you will always be beautifully flawed and bountifully fascinating. Yes, this is largely an intellectual exercise but you need this stepping stone of seeing yourself more objectively before you can drop down from your head into your body and begin to feel self-love.
- Self-love is a compassionate, championing way of being, where you’re able to recognize that you’re doing your best and that your best is going to be different on different days. You are embracing your authenticity and there is room enough for mistakes and forgiveness. You can actually feel the warmth of your positive emotions here, though this can be somewhat conditional – easier to feel these emotions when things are going well.
The third insight is, there’s an even more evolved way of being than the above, where you can drop down from your body into your heart and begin to know unconditional love. A lot of people pay lip service to unconditional love but I believe it’s quite rare to see this modelled in the world and there are even fewer people actually teaching it.
- Unconditional love is a reverential, Soulful way of being, where you cherish your humanness with a tinge of awe. Forgiveness is unnecessary – a red herring in fact – because there is nothing you could say or do that would lead to withholding kindness and compassion from yourself. You have developed the capacity to hold yourself in esteem while humbling yourself to and addressing any Ego-triggered behaviours.
Learning to like, love and unconditionally love yourself develops in stages and this is essential to your personal evolution. It is you learning how to thrive in the world without the need for validation from others that you’re a good person, or approval from society that your weight falls within some arbitrary ideal. It is you learning how to be at peace with yourself.
Here’s what you can practice
Contrary to what people initially think, moving through these levels of understanding and acceptance does not equate to greater licence with your unwanted behaviours. You’ll actually develop greater sensitivity and self-integrity with them. So how do you know where you are and how to progress along this spectrum?
With self-like, you’ll be bringing more curiosity than judgement to your reflection in the mirror (e.g. you start your day with some simple acts of self-care, rather than being in conflict with your body).
With self-love, you’ll be adding generosity to your curiosity (e.g. you start your day engaging your body through gentle movement and supporting it with quality food).
With unconditional love, your eyes light up when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror! (e.g. you start your day honouring the person within, with choices that make you feel powerful and joyful).
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How did it go for you?
We often learn these ways of love by practicing them in our close relationships. One of my clients summed it up beautifully when speaking of his significant other “At some level, I am grateful for her challenging moments, since that is an opportunity to love her in a way that really counts.”
Pick one of your challenging moments with yourself and share it in the Members-Only Comments section below.
Tell us how you were able to be non-judgemental, championing or Soulful with yourself and the difference it made.
Be sure to check back in too, to let us know how it’s going!
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A tough hurdle for me on my way to self-like are external influences. They seem to have a hold on me and I would like to feel more empowered to get past or silence that need for approval in order to develop a strong sense of self-like.
Learning to honour your promises to yourself & claim your voice with others, however small these steps may need to be in the beginning, cultivates the inner strength you’re referring to here. Inner strength has a level of self-respect that makes external approval a non-issue.
Kathrine, I would really like to understand better how to move from one stage to the next.
Graham I know you’re asking in the context of your partner so…’falling in love’ is the fun & easy part but ‘being loving’ is the real work of all relationships, no matter how they originated. It’s when you learn how to appreciate your partner’s extraordinary essence AND their ordinary humanness. This is especially important in those day-to-day moments where we often differ or disagree and we’re tempted to judge our partner &/or withhold our affections. Can you continue to give to the relationship, to be loving, while you explore a healthy discourse? That’s the key.
I really like the line, “contrary to what people initially think, moving through these levels of understanding and acceptance does not equate to greater licence with your unwanted behaviours.” Because for me in the past, some form of self-acceptance has often equated to, “Don’t judge yourself harshly” = freedom to eat whatever I want and move as little as possible. So I appreciate the distinction that this is not actually self-love. Engaging in self-destructive behaviours is not how I love my body, mind, and soul. Thanks for this reading!
A great litmus test here is – does the behaviour you’ve chosen still move you forward, albeit in a more incremental way?