The idea of self-love didn't even cross my mind until 14 years ago. Before that time I assumed you get what you want in life, (money, job, partner, friends etc.) and that is happiness. Self-love was a foreign concept to me.
While in Australia my world opened wide to a more feeling way to live in the world, and instead of my life revolving around outer change it became more about inner change. It was in Australia that I first heard the term self-love and how it was very important to have.
Authors were quoting it, books were written on the subject, and they gave exercises on how to love one's self. But none of these exercises ever really meshed with my reality, or worked for me. What I realised, 14 years later, was that you cannot love yourself before you accept yourself. There is no direct route to self-love, it happens in stages and over time.
So if you are like me and feel pressure to love yourself and feel frustrated because you are clueless on how to do this, don't try. First ask yourself the question: "Do I accept who I am?" If you don't, it's time for a personal journey towards self-acceptance.
Where Do You Begin?
As someone who is just beginning to accept myself, my own journey has had many many challenges, like most people on the path to self-love. So you need to start where you are.
Surrender is the beginning. Surrendering to 'what is'. Accept your life as it is right now.
No job? No money? No friends? Broken marriage? No joy? No car?
Well, resisting these things is not going to make you feel better about who you are. It's important to surrender to 'what is'. Acknowledge 'what is'. Allow what is. Embrace 'what is'.
Can you say to yourself "Right now I acknowledge I have no money!" or "Right now I am single and lonely?" etc.. And be okay with this. It's true after all. And if you follow the questioning process of Byron Katie (see here), you will begin to understand that resistance to 'what is', is ultimately futile. It doesn't make things change, it doesn't improve the situation, it merely postpones peace. Inner peace.
Fighting against 'what is', is one of the biggest obstacles to self-love. Your reality as it is right now, is the way it is right now. Wanting it another way is fine, just make time to be present with 'what is' so that you can begin to accept who you are. You are not your circumstances, but you are feeling and responding to those circumstances. So if you surrender to 'what is', you are becoming more accepting of you.
When I say surrender, this does not mean give up. If you are seriously depressed, surrender simply means saying to yourself "Right now I am experiencing depression, I am not bad, not wrong, just experiencing life and myself in a depressing way, and this can change also. But for now, I welcome you, my feelings."
Acknowledging where you are, is part of the process. Once you let go of resisting it, you are then more open to inspiration, ideas, what you need to do, for life to naturally unfold and change for you.
Accepting is only the beginning, from accepting you can then begin to like who you are and eventually in stages love who you are. And some days you will like parts of who you are, and some days you will love parts of who you are and eventually you will experience the whole of you as worthy of your love.