“For our last exercise of the evening, I would like to go around the circle and have each of you share three positive traits about yourself.” We were wrapping up a lively book club discussion exploring the myth that loving yourself is selfish.
The women surrounding me were all intelligent, entertaining, articulate and well-read. I could have quickly and easily named a handful of amazing qualities about each one of them. Yet the group looked at me like deer caught in the headlights. If I were a mind reader, my hunch is the collective internal response was something along the lines of, “Oh, crap – does she seriously expect us to do this?”
As we proceeded to go around the circle one-by-one and share our awesomeness, I was struck by how difficult this exercise was for each of us. We had a hard time coming up with a whopping three whole traits. We qualified our responses (e.g., “I write well” quickly followed by “I mean, I’m not a writer…”). I personally had to make a verbal commitment to the group to actually look them in the eye while sharing my traits – it was soooo uncomfortable!
So why was I forcing my dear book clubbies to go through this painful exercise? Well, for one, it was suggested in the book we were discussing, What if THIS is Heaven? It’s the latest from Anita Moorjani, and it explores the top cultural myths that keep us from experiencing heaven on earth. But perhaps even more important than the book club agenda, my word for 2017 is self-love, and I’m really interested in finding out what this clichéd phrase means to others.
Several years ago, if someone had told me their word o’ the year was self-love, I would have promptly rolled my eyes (at least internally) and written them off as an indulgent self-help junky. It’s not as if I haven’t heard this word thrown around nearly daily in the coaching and spiritual circles I run in these days. But it had no weight, no substance. It was overused, fluffy and meaningless to me.
Then I hung out my shingle as a life coach. I was told early on by several key mentors that starting your own business will bring up all your shit. They weren’t kidding. Over the last couple years, I have doubted my intelligence, my ability to contribute anything meaningful to the world, my value to my clients, and even my choice of shoes.
I also found myself giving and giving and giving while simultaneously refusing to receive…receive help, compliments, compensation, you name it. Something had to change, as this way of being was crippling my life and my business.
Serendipitously, I was introduced to Anita Moorjani’s work, and I realized the foundational component missing in my life was (you guessed it) self-love. If you don’t know her story, Anita had one of the most incredible near death experiences (NDE’s) I’ve ever heard, which is chronicled in her first book, Dying to Be Me.
After four years with lymphoma, Anita was losing her battle with cancer. Her emaciated body was riddled with lemon-sized tumors that protruded from her 90lb frame. She had lesions covering her body oozing the toxins her overwhelmed and failing organs could no longer process. In February 2006, she finally slipped into a coma and doctors notified her family she would die very soon. But she didn’t.
Instead, she went to that ineffable place of light described by most all NDE survivors. She encountered loved ones who had passed on before her, and she experienced the most beautiful, unconditional love she had ever felt.
Following her NDE, with her family and doctors in stunned disbelief, her organs began to function again and she woke up. Even more miraculous, in less than a week, her tumors had shrunk by approximately 70%. Within about a month, she walked away from the hospital and her astonished doctors without a trace of cancer in her body.
My brief synopsis here does not begin to do her story true justice. This summary is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the unbelievable events that went down. But I include it here because one of the biggest realizations Anita returned with is the knowledge that loving ourselves is the most important thing we can do in this life.
She writes that from the realm of death, she realized how powerful and special she was in the eyes of the universe. Ultimately, she said loving herself was what brought her back from the brink of death to where she is now.
All of this sounded lovely, but it hadn’t quite landed for me until I read her latest book where she makes a really solid point. Namely, “the amount of love, respect, support and compassion I receive from others is in direct proportion to how much I love myself, because it’s impossible to receive something unless I have a place to put it.” And if that didn’t bring it home, she pointed out that loving your neighbor as thyself doesn’t work so well if you don’t even love yourself.
Damn. It finally made sense. All those years of seeking my worth in money or education or some external thing…all those years of trying to prove my value through over-giving and overachieving…all those years of deflecting help, compliments, love, whatever…it all boiled down to not loving myself first and foremost.
Thus my commitment in this New Year to finally, finally build a solid foundation of self-love. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes in later parts of this “I’m First” series.
In the meantime, our wonderful little book club will continue. I now hold a vision for a future meeting where I again invite each of us to share some positive traits about ourselves. Instead of dread and discomfort, however, we feel joy and excitement.
We have these traits locked and loaded. We are delighted to share our own, as well as applaud those of our fellow clubbies. This exercise isn’t seen or felt as egotistical or narcissistic, but instead is a celebration of how awesome and dearly loved by the Universe we all are. And we leave the meeting loving ourselves as if our life depends on it because, in the words of Anita Moorjani, it does!
And many thanks to Anastasia Vish for the beautiful copyrighted image above!