Self-love. Let's talk about it.
People most often have told me that they signed up for my course for this reason: to gain self-love.
Peace of mind is a close second, along with creativity, happiness and a strong interest to explore theories on consciousness and self-transcendence, and even to reach enlightenment.
Before we get into the practicalities of how to "obtain" self-love, I want to quickly talk about enlightenment. What is it really? How does it feel like, and how can it be described?
Simply put, it is the realisation that the self (ego) being separate from the Self (universal consciousness) is an illusion. Even for a brief moment in time, it is the realisation that there is no cause and effect as separate entities. Cause and effect are one inseparable event. Without a cause, there is no effect, and without effect, there is no cause. This can be translated in several manners: without space, there can't be objects; without death, there cannot be life, and without darkness, there can not be light.
When mystics talk about Nirvana, this is what they are speaking about: Few. A sigh of relief, in realising that we are not, as Alan Watts puts it, egos stuck in bags of skin. We will talk more about that in the course and in further articles.
For now, and for the purpose of this article talking about self-love, this realisation gives us a perspective of Awe. This Awe, in turn, brings us love, not only for the self but for the Self. So comes peace of mind. How to get there is another story for another time.
Being aware of this illusion, let's continue talking about self-love, which, for lack of a better word, really is the love for our ego. Ego doesn't need to be seen as a negative thing. How do we get in contact with that ego? Meditation helps because we start to observe that voice in our head, and because we can follow it, we detach our feeling of being that voice. You are not that voice in your head, but that voice is there, and it makes life more pleasant when it is giving you love rather than judgement.
And so, on a practicality level, how do we get self-love?
Let us not confuse self-love with self-care. Sure it is great to have a nice bubble bath with a glass of fresh Prosecco or take care of our bodies with yoga and exercise. But that is care, not love. Love is much deeper than that. It doesn't just happen, it is created, and it is sustained by how we act, react, and make decisions.
I will go in the direction of the ancient Greeks and the Stoic philosophers, who believed that the Summom Bonnum (our highest good) for us humans is to live with virtue. All in the goal to live life with Eudaimonia. Eu --> good + Daemon --> Soul. To live with a good soul, to flourish.
They taught that Arete is the way to Eudaimonia, and it can be translated (loosely) in English by the word virtue.
There are 4 universal virtues that the Stoics believed to be of the utmost importance: Courage, Wisdom, Justice and Temperance.
Live with these virtues every single day, moment to moment, and you will get peace of mind. You will live as a good soul, which is beyond happiness, and what we might call self-love.
Self-love then comes from self-respect. When you act with virtue, you start to respect yourself in a way that is so deep that it brings you a new level of appreciation towards yourself.
Self-respect, in turn, comes from self-confidence. Confidence (con-fidere) means "with intense trust". Self-confidence then means to have a deep, intense trust in yourself.
How do we get that trust? Easy ;-)
By acting with virtue, every day, moment to moment, no matter the consequences.
Trust is built through time and action; it doesn't just appear. And although it is built stronger and stronger, acting with vice instead of virtue just once may break the streak and get you back down to where you were. (False sense of comfort + frustration + anxiety and depression). Fear is created when we act without virtue. If it is repeated too many times, that fear leads to hopelessness...
When talking about this to my coaching clients, I always like to give the example of acting with courage.
Like all virtues, courage has both a vice of deficiency and a vice of excess.
For courage, the vice of deficiency would be to be a coward (would you trust a coward?), and the vice of excess would be a fool (would you trust a fool?)
Courage is indeed not about acting without fear and more than acting despite fear.
It is acting in the face of fear, with heart.
Courage comes from the word heart (Coeur in French). To put heart, to act with heart.
Acting in the face of fear is the courage that will build trust in your ability to act with respect to your values, which will create self-respect and, therefore, self-love, but it also has a significant side effect: strength.
The more strength you have, the more you can act with self-mastery or temperance, the more your decisions are just, and the wiser you get.
You trust yourself, knowing that you will respond to injustice with justice and adversity with courage and grace.
We will get into more details in a later article, but for now, I want to leave the stage to you and ask you these questions (you can journal about it, send a reply to this email, or talk about it in our brand new community group chat on Telegram).
- Where in your life can you act with more courage?
- Where have you been compromising virtue because you were afraid of the consequences? Maybe telling a white lie to your boss so that he would like you or feel better about himself, or speaking badly to fit in, etc.
- How does this notion of courage, virtue, trust and love resonate with you?