YES…..Marry yourself first.

The concept of loving oneself is not new. We have TED talks, articles and movies that are spreading more and more awareness about the importance of self-love. My induction into the concept happened some three years back when I was facing some personal challenges. The situations forced me to take a hard look at some patterns that I could not stop. I wanted answers and looked into the plethora of spiritual resources – Osho, TED talks, Buddhism, psychology studies. Even though my journey with self-love started long back, I can only now (after three years) say that I truly understand and live the concept.

The concept is very simple. We reflect our shortcomings on other people. When something bothers, upsets, anger, or just irritates us in another person, it is very rare outside of us. If someone else can upset you – you have given your power and energy away. Having realized this, I set on this mission to never let anyone else get under my skin. My approach was incorrect. I saw the symptom – which was my irritation – and I jumped to eliminating it. I did not spend time introspecting the cause of the irritation or anger in the first place. The cause was simple – I did not accept myself completely. I did not accept my shortcomings and flaws. Hence, when someone else triggered my flaws, I did not exhibit the awareness to understand, register and let the irritation go. Instead, I reacted.

How could this go on? I have family, friends, work colleagues. I spend time with all of them. However, the one person I do not get any rest from is myself. I have to live in my body, in my mind, in my soul – all my life. Even when I sleep, my overactive imagination sends messages through dreams! It is impossible to get away from myself and I would be a fool not to try loving myself!

Self-love does not work in isolation of self-work. In order to love myself, it was important for me to follow these three steps:

Introspect

A lot of introspection to helps me understand myself better. When I am not surrounded by people who validate my existence, how do I validate it on my own? Who am I when no one is watching? This was tough. Mix the social life in the city with work – you hardly spend time with yourself. I had to make conscious efforts of turning down invitations if my heart wanted to spend time with myself. Eventually, I could see a clear shift. From being restless with spending time with myself, I started enjoying my cuppa, book and diary. Now I am at a point that me-time is one of the most rejuvenating parts of my schedule.

Accept

Introspection is not always pretty. The process does not always involve a cup of coffee and a faint smile on the face. Introspection has a very honest face which exposes your shortcomings and flaws. Oh, how tough this stage was for me! I had been dealing with anger issues for a long time and only now was I beginning to understand that anger was just a symptom. There were layers of self-doubt and self-defense that had shifted my primary response to anger. I had to accept it and let go of the guilt with it. I saw myself as I was. Not as others saw me. The moment we think anyone is watching, we lose our true selves.

The reality is what is inside you. This step is the toughest. We are tuned to come up with excuses for our behavior – ‘the circumstances are tough, hence I act out’, ‘I have grown up seeing anger, hence I react with it too’, ‘nobody understands me’, ‘my work is demanding and I do not have time for feelings’. We are also tuned to protect ourselves – hence more often than not, our justification for reacting to a situation in a certain way will be very comforting. We forget to question in that moment why circumstances triggered the emotions we felt. That is key. Undiluted honesty.

Pat yourself on the back

However, another very important part of acceptance is giving yourself a pat on the back for the strength in your character. I maintain a gratefulness journal and every now and then, I would write down my strong qualities that had either been passed on by my parents or that I had built. I am grateful for being the person I am, albeit with flaws.

Transform

This part was easy. I knew my flaws. I understood them. I understood what triggered them. It was time to let go. I worked on letting go my anger and of transforming myself into a person I would want to spend time with. It is an ongoing life project and I can say it is the most rewarding one. I am building myself every day.

None of the above has a start and end date. It is a cyclical process. However, once you pass the first cycle truthfully, you will look at yourself in the mirror and feel happy with the person you see. I got married in Dec of last year and it is only recently this year that I could say with certainty that I love the person I have become and I would be happy to spend the rest of my life with myself.

People often confuse this self-love with selfishness. To those people, I would appeal – please go through the cycle J, your introspection might well reveal your inability to love yourself, triggering you to reject my ability to self-love. If in doubt, if in a reactive mode, just ask yourself – would you want to spend the rest of your life with this person?