It’s often been suggested that we should “love our self.” What does this mean? If by “love your self” is meant “self-respect” or “self-esteem,” then it sounds healthy. And if we’ve been filled with self-hatred it may seem reasonable to try escape by replacing self-hate with self-love. But in this we may find ourselves on the horns of a dualistic dilemma, a tricky reasoning where the mantra “love yourself” may become a philosophical justification for selfishness and egotism that is contrary to love.
What of “self-esteem?” Implicit in this psychology-word are aspects of ego or self. But mystic experience affirms there is only one real Self–so what is this part of self that holds esteem for another part? What is the division? What’s happening when we say we have self-esteem or that we feel good about ourselves? Perhaps when what we are doing at a behavioral level–physical, emotional, and mental–is more or less aligned with soul, then we receive an inner validation, a sense of harmony, a right creative tension. In this sense, self-esteem may be a reflect growth toward integration and self-awareness.
Yet consider the paradox. The thought of loving ourselves seems to imply there is one thing called “self” and another separate thing called “love,” and that we can direct one toward the other. By this thought it seems we cut ourselves in half, and in trying hard to “love our self” we might very well fail to rise above our current egotistic concerns—those very concerns which, when we are obsessed with them, shut out the light of love.
Perhaps the thought of loving our self may be born of a natural and understandable desire for self-improvement, or a desire to compensate for self-hate, or to feel better about ourselves. These are normal human tendencies, yet all are personal desires and not love, that is, they are acquisitive and not radiant. They may give some improvement or relief, but not transformation. Love is transformative, radiant, and unitary, leading us beyond the normal toward the supernormal.
Love doesn’t divide–it unites. I’m thinking that, to the degree that real love is present in consciousness, we don’t experience a division between “self” on the one hand and “love” on the other. In love there is simply one central shining reality, one positive consciousness, the consciousness of love. In that unified state we are in love, of love, and we are love. And when filled with love, we no longer need to prop ourselves up by an effort at self-love. Simply to love is enough. In the mystic sense, we need not think about loving our self. We need only think about the nature of love, it’s goals, and purposes and how to manifest these in our lives and in the world. We need only think of how we may most wisely express this energy, the light of our essential nature. The affirmation of the heart is not “I love myself,” but “I am love.” This identification is powerful that opens the gates. It is enough to recognize that we are the power. It is enough to simply be what we are.