Yesterday, a colleague asked me: "How did you come to love yourself?"
I sat for a second and then said something almost exactly like this:
Well, that's something that I'm still working on, but it's an interesting question and forces me to think.
I guess what I know for certain is that I didn't start loving myself or even know how until a couple of years ago when somebody I loved dumped me.
And I stopped eating. And I stopped sleeping. And I was completely lost.
And then one day--as bizarre as this might sound--I was in Yoga practice, and I was on my stomach, with my forehead on my mat. And I was getting ready to do a pose in a series, and I closed my eyes, and I knew at that point in time that I was at the lowest point in the deepest part of the ocean.
This was a place that I didn't know how to get to in my imagination previously--didn't even know I could go there. So the pain forced me into that place, and I saw a light there.
I saw a really, beautiful, white, opalescent light. Something soft--not glaring or beating you over the head--just inviting and bright.
And I knew that was me. That light.
And I knew two practical things as well in that moment. I knew that from that point I could only go up. And I also knew that I was, I am, I always will be fundamentally alone.
So those two things really catalyzed me loving myself, because I started to work my way back up, alone. Rebuilding, gradually, my emotional life, from almost a scratch-point, but a deep point.
Because that deep place was mine and mine alone, I realized that it doesn't matter if someone despises me, says mean things or nice things; it doesn't matter if anyone praises me.
While those things do affect me somewhat, they're never going to be deeply hurtful or satisfying because they can't touch that deep point--i.e., I tend to operate out of that point now, so those things don't really have as much of an impact.
So I started building out from that point, what I have come to define love as.
Love is a matter of staying.
In times of big stress, and even in the smallest instances, I have learned to stay with myself. This is instead of how I used to operate: every time I was ashamed, embarrassed, anything, I'd just assume myself unworthy of even my own support and love. I would beat myself up and abandon myself in a way.
Now, I've worked my way up to staying with myself about 85 percent of the time, and that number is growing. I have a new self talk, and through being awake in a bunch of situations, my system is improving--the holes in it, that used to let my love out to people I put above me for whatever imaginary reasons--mostly repaired.
Sure, I listen to people, because that's good for me, and I can make my own decisions about what they say.
The point is, I come first. It starts with me. Everything, since that day two years ago, became more and more for me. And it's not as if I'm acting selfishly at all. I love to serve people and do things for people because delighting others makes me feel happy and joyful and connected and satisfied. But honestly, I don't do those things for them as much as for me--because if I did these things for them, I'd always be disappointed and misappropriating expectations.
Everything over the last two years has been part of a construction project, resulting in increasingly loving myself.