When it comes to self-love, I find myself both professing and internalizing the value of it in most moments; be it my writing, my coaching, my thoughts… My entire life seems to be permeated with this newfound concept. The notion of self-love has definitely infiltrated the New Age culture and many are deterred from just hearing the buzzwords that find their way into most conversations these days. Because what does self-love really entail and how does one accomplish it in the face adversity?
“Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never harm me”… I remember this saying well; I was taught it early on as an attempt to thicken my skin and not take to heart the mean things that were said to my face or behind my back. And yet, I remember becoming physically ill and emotionally wrecked by the stress and fear these experiences caused. While sticks and stones may have broken my bones, I came to understand that names could be just as harmful as words influence the expression of ours genes and wire our brains accordingly.
Language is a huge determinant of our wellbeing. Andrew Newberg, M.D., and Mark Robert Waldman, authors of Words Can Change Your Brain talk about the importance of “compassionate communication” and speak to the research which shows that as people concentrate on positive words, functions in the parietal lobe begin to alter, changing their perception of themselves and those they interact with. What we focus on affects our brains and the vocabulary we use has an impact one our reality.
So while this may sound “woo woo” to many and yield some eye-rolls and scoffs, science supports the validity of the power of language. Quantum physics reveals that all physical reality is made up of vibrations of energy. This includes language and vibrations differ based on the words used. In the 1990’s, Japanese scientist, Masaru Emoto looked at the effect that words have on energy. By observing the molecular structure of frozen water, he proved that positive and negative words carry different vibrations and change the physical structure of an object based on the specific energy generated.
This is critical for me to remember when I find myself overwhelmed in the face of adversity. As mentioned in my previous article, I no longer run from it no matter how hard it feels. I don’t numb it no matter how much it hurts. I don’t make it wrong no matter how much shame it brings forward. I feel it and I support myself through the feeling while being mindful of my vocabulary.
But what does feeling it mean?
Feeling does not equate to wallowing nor does it call forth self-deprecation.
When I feel, I allow myself to experience the range of emotions, regardless of how challenging they may be. And yet, I know that they do not define who I am and that they will inevitably come to pass. This awareness provides me with the space to fully process while not becoming attached to my experience.
Feeling my emotions looks like a lot of things: Sometimes, I bawl my eyes out until it seems like my tear ducts have dried up. I make it ok for me to experience the depths of my sadness and grief instead of trying to stuff it down and ignore the breaking of my heart. Sometimes, I scream into a pillow until I am blue in the face. I allow my frustration, disappointment and rage to be heard, rather than rejecting that which needs to be released. Sometimes I write out my anger, scribbling hateful, hurtful, shameful words and phrases onto a piece of paper that I end up burning. I do not hold back, I do not censor, I do not judge myself for anything that comes up in that process. Sometimes, I sit quietly in mediation and I ask the painful feeling what it has to teach me, as listen for the answer, the lesson. Sometimes, I call that friend I trust and admire, who refuses to coddle me or care-take. That friend who holds space and listens and then reminds me of who I really am.
As Brene Brown puts it in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, “One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on "going it alone." Somehow we've come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we're very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It's as if we've divided the world into "those who offer help" and "those who need help." The truth is that we are both.”
I ask for help when I need it. I don’t disconnect from my heart anymore. I don’t pretend to have it all together in every moment. I try not to judge my feelings as good or bad, and when I do, I forgive myself. And I accept the fact that I am human and with that comes a spectrum of experiences - every shade, every texture, every color are welcomed.
I am light, I am dark, I am everything in between and I provide the space for all aspects of who I am to be present.
Self-love comes with forgiveness, acceptance, acknowledgment, and trust.
I must be willing to forgive myself for the judgments I have carried; I must be willing to accept myself in moments of despair; I myself be willing to acknowledge myself for courage and strength required to feel; I must be willing to trust the process and know that it will inevitably change.
As I embody this mindset, paying attention to my language while giving myself permission to fully feel, I can connect to my heart and experience the love that beats through it. For there is no longer a barrier separating me from feeling its magnitude.
Photo Credit: Laurent Levy Photography
Jessica has a B.Sc. in Applied Psychology from New York University, M.Ed., in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard, and a M.A., (in progress) in Spiritual Psychology from University of Santa Monica. Jessica is also a columnist at Elephant Journal and has been featured with Huffington Post.