Loving yourself is considered a key part of being happy and contented, but getting there is puzzling. Who is the self doing the loving, and how is it different from the self you are supposed to love? Aren’t they the same person? Yes, of course. But the problem lies in the divided self. The divided self is what causes inner conflict.
If you go to the refrigerator for a midnight snack, one part of you has the impulse to sneak some ice cream before going to bed, while another part resists temptation. We can reduce this to all either/or choices because they are the essence of the divided self. When you are in conflict, sometimes you make a good choice, but there is no guarantee. The result of living with inner conflict and confusion often leads to insecurity, denial, fear about what to do in a crisis, passivity, and dependence on others.
Can You Escape Inner Conflict Through Self-Love?
Partially, yes. An emotionally secure person feels confident and self-reliant. There is more trust about making the right decision. More importantly, there is less self-judgment. When you blame yourself or suddenly say “I hate myself” for doing something you know you shouldn’t have done, self-judgment is on display. With self-judgment there cannot be self-love. At most, feeling good about yourself comes and goes. It is an unstable condition.
This whole issue of self-love was addressed thousands of years ago in the Vedic tradition, where there is a surprising saying: “All love is love of the self.” Is it really true that when we feel love for our children, our friends, all the way up to love of God, that we only love ourselves?
There is actually tremendous wisdom in this saying, but we have to look at it in steps.
- The first step is to understand that the word “self” doesn’t mean the ego personality. Too many people have the wrong impression about self-love and wind up simply becoming smug, conceited, and self-satisfied. This results when the ego puts on a show of self-love in order to disguise its underlying insecurity. The divided self exists in everyone because the ego is constantly trying to make either/or choices based on its own inclinations, which are constantly changing in a stream of wishes, fears, desires, opinions, hopes, and beliefs. With the ego as your focus, your Self is an accumulation of experiences from the past. Since experiences are both positive and negative, the everyday self is too filled with contradictions to love.
- The next step is to realize that the issue isn’t self-esteem. It is good to have a sense of healthy self-worth, but that’s not what the Vedic saying means. At work you can enjoy self-worth from doing a good job, but the minute you lose your job, self-worth often collapses into depression and low self-esteem.
- It takes another step to get at true self-love. The self in question is found at a deeper level of awareness, where you can experience your true self. It lies deeper than the ego and the everyday self. The true self takes its identity from the flow of creative intelligence as it rises from the source. At the very source there is a field of infinite awareness; this is where creative intelligence is born.
Experience Life as Your True Self
As any impulse flows into the mind, we attach “I, me, and mine” to it. In other words, we identify with the impulse. An impulse of creative intelligence will bring love, compassion, insight, beauty, creativity, intelligence, bliss, or personal growth. Those impulses all originate in pure awareness experienced without ego. But no matter what the impulse is, if you identify with it, you are in touch with your true self.
You have had glimpses of your true self all your life. Any moment that feels loving, beautiful, blissful, or inspired is a sure sign that you are experiencing life as your true self. Now we see why all love is love of the self: it is the true self, the only self that can experience unconditional love, which matters.
Why Don’t We Experience the True Self All the Time?
Connection with the true self is broken because we are conditioned to focus on the ego or the everyday self. It isn’t the real you who is speaking, thinking, or feeling. Instead, it is your karmic history, a creation of the past, that is thinking, speaking, and feeling.
This understanding actually makes the spiritual path much easier. You can become conscious of negative thoughts, moments of self-judgment, and bad memories, seeing that they are not really you. Having this attitude is extremely helpful. If you pay less attention to negativity and self-judgment, while paying more attention to love, beauty, compassion, creativity, and the rest of the impulses that come from your true self, what happens?
You find that over time you draw closer to your true self simply by paying attention to it. You are obeying a force of attraction known in Sanskrit as Swarupa, or the attraction of the self. The mind naturally wants more love, more bliss, and more of everything that flows from the source.
So, the spiritual path comes down to allowing your mind to go where it wants to go, nothing more. Then you will see quite clearly that all love is love of the self. You will love your children, spouse, friends, and others even more, because you see them through the lens of bliss-consciousness rather than the lens of ego. Knowing that the true self exists is a major step in your personal evolution.
Connect with your true nature through exploring the flow of awareness as you discover self-acceptance, self-worth, and self-love in a special conversation with Deepak Chopra, available now in the Chopra App.