I haven’t blogged in AGES.
And, I recently lead services as Hazzan (Cantor) at a lovely California synagogue.
The theme of the sermons was based upon the Serenity prayer-
Accepting the things we cannot change…
I gave a short D’var Torah (sermon)-
About Self-Love- Self-Acceptance, and the journey to both…!
Here it is:
You know that common theme in self-help literature, that ever-evading, ever-lurking, hyper focused notion of SELF-LOVE?
Once you love yourself, you’ll be happy.
If you can love yourself, you can love everyone else.
Lose your ego, and love yourself.
Make more money, and love yourself.
Be a certain weight, and love yourself.
Look a certain way, and love yourself.
I don’t know about you, but all of the above, to me, consciously, and subconsciously, is EXHAUSTING.
Probably especially because I was teaching that before I became older and wiser.
Now, there is some truth mixed in with some of these pressure-laden lies. Such as when we have love for ourselves, it is easier to see, and love another. But let’s talk about how to actually go about loving ourselves.
Self-love, like anything else in relationship with self, is never a fixed, or stagnant experience. It’s not something we get to, or remain at. Self-love is always ebbing and flowing, in and out with each breath, and each experience.
But let’s nix the words: Self-love, for a moment- to get at the root of how to even attain it.
In order to love ourselves at any “level,” we must first be able to ACCEPT ourselves.
We must start with self-acceptance.
I may be confident about certain aspects of my life and self. But there may be other parts of my experience that I don’t like, or give space to, or… accept.
For instance, I am confident about my singing. I love and accept that.
But I still get nervous anytime I have a singing gig, or a service leading job that I haven’t done before, or that feels like the next level. It’s so frustrating to have performance anxiety after ALL THESE YEARS. And so in the unconscious experience of it, I resist it rather than accept that that’s a part myself. A part of my nervous system, trying to protect me from what it’s judging as a life threatening fear (even though my mind knows I’ll be safe).
So… when this kind of thing that I don’t like about myself, surfaces.
I can first pause. Notice, and get present with the fact that it’s happening.
Notice the judgements that emerge.
And then soften to it.
Stop resisting, and say, “Wow- nervous system. You’re here to protect me. Thank you. I accept this part of myself.”
This kind of softening and acceptance lightens the anxiety, in the process of making way for self-love.
I’ve also done this with skin, personality, and bodily experiences.
You can do this, too.
Let’s say, like millions of people, you don’t like your singing voice.
And therefore you say things like “I cannot sing. I have a bad voice.” You might even put yourself down harshly- I’ve heard it all.
In these moments, you can soften, and speak to the part of you that feels embarrassment, shame, or judgement. And say “wow, I didn’t realize I was being so hard on myself. I still may not like the sound of my voice, or the look of my body, or the way I respond in a certain situation.”
But with a hand on my heart, I’m going to practice acceptance of my voice the way it is. Of my body the way it is. Of my personality the way it is. I can choose to learn new things and grow, but learning from place of relaxed acceptance is a lot easier for growth, than learning from a place of resistance- because we hate something about ourselves.
The Baal Shem Tov said: “To love yourself is to identify yourself as part of the Shechina (divine presence).”
With repetition of the experience of stopping, softening, and accepting, you’d be surprised at the capacity you have to build true self-compassion.
Which leads to a depth of self-acceptance; especially the parts of yourself you struggle with most.
Which— leads to- you get guessed it, one day:
Actual, bonafide, AWESOME self-love.