How to love & accept yourself

The author and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote ‘To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.’ This may also be one of the greatest challenges we face on the spiritual path.

It’s an easy thing to say too. Just love yourself. You just have to accept yourself. These words live up there with ‘let it go.’ Intentions might be pure but it means little without some level of practicality. How do I love myself? How do I accept myself?

And maybe it starts with a reminder, a reminder that God loves you exactly as He created you.

The Importance of Self-Love on the Spiritual Path

In Paramahamsa Vishwananda’s new book, Just Love: A Journey into the Heart of God, he writes, ‘To be able to let Love awaken and grow inside you, you should first learn to accept. But accept what? There are so many things to accept. When you look around, everyone is telling you to accept: ‘Accept this because everyone says this is right, or that is right’, but it is not about ‘accepting this or that’ – it’s about accepting yourself. Only by accepting yourself, can you develop this trust inside you. When you have this trust inside you, this Love will grow more and more. Of course, I don’t say that doubts will not arise, but this is where you will learn to control doubt. People think, ‘If this one is like that, then I have to be like that, too’. No, you are an individual and your aim, your dharma is different from everyone else’s.

Wherever you are, God will awaken the cosmic Love inside you – the moment you start to accept. Have acceptance of yourself. When you start to think what people think, then you stop living your life. This is the thing. Then you start to pretend to please others. Then you can’t be free, you can’t be who you are. Then you can’t even accept yourself.

There was a beautiful garden, where creepers were growing together with some beautiful rose bushes, and as they were growing, they appreciated the companionship of each other.

As you know very well, creepers grow faster than other plants, so the creepers started to grow and, from one moment to the next, they started to grow faster. So, the creepers could not understand what was happening, ‘Why am I different from other plants? Why am I growing faster and taller?’

Soon the creepers started to go sideways and started creeping over the walls. And, of course, the creeper was confused about what was happening to him.

One day, the owner of the garden came, and as she looked around, she saw the creeper covering the whole wall. The whole wall was green. It was so beautiful. Seeing that, she exclaimed, ‘How beautiful that creeper is, how beautifully it has covered the wall!’

Hearing the owner of the garden praising the creeper, the creeper started to look at itself in a different way. It started to realise: ‘I am perfect the way I am. I don’t need to be different.’ And the more the owner of the garden started bringing friends to look at the wall being covered with the green leaves of the creeper, the more the creeper started to appreciate itself.

So, like that, when you learn to appreciate yourself how you are, it’s not about the acknowledgement of anybody else, it’s about seeing your own inner beauty, your uniqueness, how God has made you. And when you learn to appreciate that, this is where love starts to flourish inside you. Because you are yourself. You don’t need to be how ‘x, y, z’ want you to be. And this is what love does. Love makes you appreciate every moment of your life. There is no need to have more or different things. Just be who you are. Because if you can’t appreciate yourself, you can’t accept yourself; nobody will accept you. As much as you will pretend to be different, no one will accept you. But if you accept yourself, then people will see and feel it and they will appreciate you. It doesn’t matter at that moment, whether they appreciate you or not, whether they accept you or not, because you will be who you are.’ 

An excerpt from Just Love: A Journey into the Heart of God

How to develop self-love and acceptance

Self-love is also a choice. It is a commitment we make every time we choose to see the good when confronted with so much we could consider bad. It is the choice to cultivate your relationship with the Divine who is the one who loves you exactly as you are. It is the choice to not let someone else’s judgement sway you. It is a choice you make every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others. In our post on overcoming jealousy, we said that comparison is the thief of happiness. The same is true for self-love and acceptance. When you spend all your time comparing yourself against all the things you could be, you lose sight of all the beauty and uniqueness and miraculousness that you are. The same tools that help you overcome jealousy can help you stop comparing yourself to others too.
  2. Cultivate your relationship with God. He already loves you the way you are. Cultivating your relationship with Him will help you see yourself the way He sees you. That could be through japa or Atma Kriya Yoga, through puja or simply talking to Him like He’s your best friend.
  3. Perform self-analysis with the goal of being more compassionate with yourself. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn and how you can find more love and compassion in your heart. 

The more you make the conscious choice to find that love and acceptance within yourself, the easier it will be to accept yourself exactly as God created you.

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