I was sitting at the 2011 Miss Gay Rochester Pageant listening to Miss Kelly Valasquez Lord perform her rendition of Whitney Houston’s song The Greatest Love of All. Given all that has been happening in our country with youth on youth violence and youth suicide, I was struck by the timeliness of the message of this song. However, it was the chorus, which resonated with my spirit.
I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
Learning to love ourselves is indeed the greatest gift of all. For some, however, the decision to love one’s self is not quite as easy as the lyrics imply. As the first line suggests, we must decide not to walk in anyone’s shadows. How many of us have become so domesticated to the dreams of our parents, our government, our churches, our educational institutions, the media and other forces of social and cultural domestication that we are now walking in the shadows that have been cast for us without question.
Coming to an understanding of what we believe is a process. It involves an ongoing evaluation of all that we have agreed to in our lives. It involves a change in the way we view others, the world, and ourselves. As we work through the process of dissolving the ways of thinking and being we have been trained to internalize, we begin to learn how to love ourselves for who we were created to be, who we are, and whom we are evolving into being. We learn how to let go of the beliefs we were forced to believe and learn how to honor our own talents and the values that ring true to our souls. It is then that we can learn to believe in ourselves for who we are, to reclaim our worthiness as human and spiritual beings, and to live in the fullness of who we were created to be. It is then that we are able to understand that ultimately it is not important whether others view us as having failed or succeeded. What is important is that we are living with integrity and clarity about the beliefs values that guide our lives.
Self-love is the process of breaking free from the need for others to approve of our way of being in the world. When we love ourselves, then our state of mind, our state of being, is not dependent on the praises or criticism of others. When we strive to be the best, we can be at any moment in time, knowing that our best varies from moment to moment then our sense of self and self worth is related to the internal, not to the external. Perhaps the hardest part of our journey is making the conscious effort to become aware of our own reactions and responses and transform the way we think of ourselves to being worthy, loving and creative beings just as we are.
Self-love means that we stop abusing ourselves and in doing so stop allowing others to abuse us or to treat us in ways that are shameful or disrespectful. Others can only abuse us to the same degree we are willing to abuse ourselves. Self-love means we practice loving ourselves on a daily basis until we have mastered it in the same way we have spent years mastering those emotions and feelings that have chipped away at our sense of self worth.
The greatest love of all is indeed happening inside each of us as we allow it to occur. The greatest love of all is not found in our relationship with others, but inside of ourselves. Are you ready for a treasure hunt? Are you ready to explore yourself, discover new parts of your personality? Of your soul? Are you willing to love yourself in a way as if you have never loved before? During this holiday season, why not consider giving yourself a gift that money cannot buy – the gift of self-love.