Love can feel like a sense of safety, comfort, lightness. It can look like dancing, smiling, and singing — for oneself, or someone else. That’s really how love should feel: unconditional. But how unconditional is it really??
Often, when born into a family, to a mom, or sometimes into a society, love is present — but ever so intimately attached to conditions:
- “If you make mom happy, we’ll go for ice cream later.“
- “When mom is stressed out, your needs don’t matter as much as mom’s does — so stop crying!“
- “Mom wants me to become a lawyer, so I will go to law school to make her happy. If I can make her happy, hopefully, one day, she sees me and I can just be me.“
- “I WANT my dad’s approval. NOW.” A cry-out of that little child inside of you that feels lonely every time dad doesn’t show up and that front-row seat at your performance remains empty.
Many of us, myself included, grew up believing with all our survival instincts might that to feel safe, we first have to make someone else happy. Because once we’ve succeeded at that, they’ll shower us with love. We engage in these actions at the expense of our Self, dreams, and integrity. Primally, this makes sense: As newborns, we depend on our parents to feed, shelter, carry us, etc. We’d die without their help.
However, as you learn to walk, eat, and generate an income for yourself, these pleasing tendencies are detrimental to your health. They kill your true self. They prevent life from coming through you in its most loving ways.
Discovering Your True Self Again
In adulthood, when you let go of the ego self and let yourself be reminded of your True Self, you truly do free yourself. It feels painful because you’ve learned to attach your sense of safety and love to someone else’s well-being. Returning home to your true self is an act of detaching your health from another person’s health. You enter unknown — or forgotten — territory.
As you begin to speak your truth, what you have to say might sound foreign to others. There will be those around you that feel threatened, rejected, triggered, done-wrong-by-you the moment you break the oppressive patterns of the patriarchy, mom-ipulation, oppression of Self, and other toxic tendencies.
Here is what I know:
Your truth is a sanctuary of safety, self-love, and self-acceptance of you. At the same time, your truth is a direct threat to (false) safety, (false) love, and (false) acceptance of ‘them’.
- They…will try to pull you back in. Guilt tripping you: “Don’t you remember all the things I’ve done for you?”
- They…will suddenly get sick. Blaming you or activating your (false) sense of moral responsibility: “But I’m so sick. I need you! Who else is going to care for me now?”
- They…will bribe you to return to who you used to be. Sugaring up their conditional love: “Look, I’ve made your favorite cake, now let’s talk about some of what you’ve been doing lately. I don’t think that…”
There comes a point, I’ve found, when that favorite cake tastes like acid:
Enough of the lies.
Enough of living a false life.
Enough of pretending to enjoy yourself.
Enough of denying your own beliefs, desires, dreams, wishes, and opinions.
Enough of suffocating YOUR TRUTH.
Enough! Start Prioritizing Your Own Peace
You shut the door to falsehood. And you enter into the world of True Self, Integrity, Authenticity, Awakening. Different traditions call it different things. Self-love is at the core of it all.
My guru here in Bali described this moment as a re-birth to me: Your false Self dies. Your True Self re-awakes. It happens suddenly. It is like a switch that, once you’ve finally found it, you can’t switch on quickly enough
But remember what happens when you’re born? Yes, you cry. You cry for what you used to know — the comfort, the darkness, the endless supply of nutrients, mom’s heartbeat. You cry because suddenly, you can’t tell which way is up and which way is down. Your body feels different now. Your eyes take time to adjust. You shiver. You hold onto anything that feels familiar: mom’s heartbeat.
Throughout life, on a quest for love and belonging, you stray away from that inherent truth, inherent integrity, and intuition. Through whichever healing journey, many of us can find our way back home — home to our true self, returning onto the path of integrity. As you return home, you go through a similar birthing process. This is what it feels like:
ENOUGH is sudden. And as you shut that door, you cry once again. You cry once more for what you used to know — the comfort, the darkness, the endless supply of nutrients, mom’s heartbeat. You cry once more because suddenly, you can’t tell which way is up and which way is down. Your body feels different yet again. Your eyes take time to adjust. You shiver. You hold onto anything that feels familiar: your intuition — long lost, now found again.
This process takes time, however, and the temptation to return to how it used to be might be strong. The cost of stepping into your True Self is high: you lose a lot. You lose all the things that kept you from yourself. The reward is priceless: You gain YOURSELF again.
Would you really want to give that up, now that you’ve just found it again? No.
Healing Doesn’t Always Have a Clear-Cut Path
Keeping on this journey, of integrity, even just flirting with it by yourself, is challenging. It’s nearly unbearable. It’s disorientating. It is lonely. You may not want a large audience watching you as you rekindle your life and BEING. You may not even want a group around you, however intimate it may be.
- What you may want, however, is the ability to call a friend at any time.
- What you may want is a book with insightful prompts that can help you get to know yourself again.
- What you may want, is hot tea.
- What you may want, is a shoulder to cry on, or an embrace to crawl up inside of.
- What you may want, is a process – a sequence of questions you can ask yourself.
What you most definitely need is reaffirmation: Now is the time to embrace your Self, fully. Fully embracing all parts of yourself, expressing gratitude to yourself, speaking tenderly and lovingly with yourself, and respecting your needs and desires.
One of my yoga teachers here in Ubud, one who follows the classical tãntrik traditions rather than the classical Indian traditions, always says, when it gets messy — when you might feel as though you are about to topple over on your mat because you’re in two bends at once — that is when the healing happens.
Healing happens when it gets, you know, sticky. It’s almost like the pain that is being released is detaching itself from you — like you’re ripping off a band-aid for the wound to heal in fresh, clear air.
And yes, I know this sounds like it’s next to impossible. And yes, I know this works. I know there is so much strength and power in self-love. There is loving in self-love. There is happiness in self-love. There is lightness in self-love. There is inspiration in self-love. There is acceptance in self-love. There is celebration in self-love. And there is an endless supply of safety in self-love. Love is safe.
Self-love is one of my two main business strategies. The other one, as my clients will tell you, is meditation and seeking introspection through meditative visualizations. As the year begins, it’s time to put loving back into living in all aspects of life. Especially when it comes to these things that tug at you — the things that would potentially piss off or threaten a lot of people’s comfort around you, or the things that feel like they just HAVE to come through. Or maybe it’s the things that you’re afraid to step into because you fear invalidation, rejection, and a loss of your community.
If there is one thing I’ve learned this year, after someone very close to me shut the door in my face, it is this: The deepest sense of loving and belonging doesn’t come from outside. It comes from within. And it is pure bliss.