Wellness Wednesday: Loving Myself and All My Imperfections

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“Suddenly, I was falling in love with me, seeing myself clearly without all the trappings and exterior appearances.” 

By Tara Rodden Robinson |Twitter: @tararodden 

Recently, I saw a blog post on whether or not God wants us to love ourselves. The author was pretty adamant to the contrary. She criticizes the popular notion that “you can’t love anyone else until you love yourself.” I disagree. Personally, I know plenty of people who loathe themselves, but love others around them very deeply–to the point of making enormous sacrifices and being completely selfless in ways that they’d never, ever contemplate turning towards themselves.

I read: “How can you love yourself when who you are isn’t that great?”

Isn’t that the deepest question of them all?

How can I possibly love myself when I’m so flawed and broken and messed up? It’s a complete miracle that anyone loves anyone, given how imperfect we all are. If others knew me as I know myself, no one would love me. Ever. That’s what I used to think about myself, until I had a profound experience in seeing myself differently.

It happened about a year ago. I went to Portland, Oregon, to experience what it’s like to float in a sensory deprivation tank. Sensory deprivation tanks have been around a long time (there was even a sci-fi movie back in the 80s about floating called “Altered States”). The idea is pretty simple. The tank is completely sound and light proof; inside the tank is a pool of water, about nine inches deep, warmed to body temperature and laced with a massive amount of magnesium salt. The salt provides buoyancy so you float with no effort at all. Climb in the tank, shut the door, lay back and experience complete darkness, silence and profound solitude.

My float was heavenly. First, I had to get used to having no frame of reference for up, down, or sideways. I felt as if I was slowly drifting backwards until my brain settled down and became convinced that I wasn’t moving. Once the sense of motion stopped, my mind followed suit. I just was. There was no more doing or being.

I experienced one of those moments where I asked myself, “Who is thinking these thoughts?” And the answer came back, “I don’t know who it is, but I love her.”

Suddenly, I was falling in love with me, seeing myself clearly without all the trappings and exterior appearances. My mistakes, my awkwardness, my darkness, the greed, the back fat, the petty, the ego. I saw that I am not those things. Instead, I saw with amazing and complete clarity how all those are entirely temporary. I will shed all that along with this body when this lifetime is through. At last, I recognized myself as a soul—a spiritual being having a human experience, a beloved child of God.

After this surge of love had washed over me, what was left was a profoundly warm affection for myself. It’s not that I’m crazy about everything I do and say or that I think I’m all that. It’s not that I suddenly see myself as perfect. No. It’s more a gentle humor. I just don’t take myself so darn seriously. I use the same love filter on myself that I use on my husband when he does something annoying: I just smile and think about how much I love him and I let it go.

After having a year with this love for myself, here’s what I think: God wants me to see myself as He sees me—beautiful and desirable and precious; the apple of His eye; His delight and beloved. When I reside in seeing myself the way God sees me, I treat myself with love and kindness. I am able to forgive myself, to behave compassionately and kindly. And, most importantly, I am able to see others in the same light: beloved of God, precious, incredibly worthy of immense love.

Thomas Merton wrote about his own moment of extraordinary clarity. He stood on the corner of 4th and Walnut in Lexington, Kentucky, and suddenly saw every person around him as shining souls, spiritual beings, adored by God:

“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.” ~Thomas Merton.

I’ve experienced something similar since emerging from the sensory deprivation tank. I find myself gazing at people and feeling this incredible, deep love toward them. Total strangers, my friends, my family—I am filled with warmth and caring. I’m not able to do this all the time, or on demand, but I experience it often enough to make me believe that, with practice, I’ll become more proficient at it. I believe this is exactly what God wants me to do: become better and better at loving others for their true selves–shining children of God, His beloved.

He teaches me this through teaching me to love myself.

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Dear SheLoves readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts:

  • What would it be like to love yourself with the same heart that loves the precious ones in your life?
  • If you looked back to see yourself as a tiny newborn, how would you feel toward yourself?

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About Tara:

Tara Rodden Robinson is an author, coach, and educator. Known as The Productivity Maven, she blogs at tararobinson and tweets @tararodden. She lives in Corvallis, Oregon, with her husband and their two dogs. She is working on mastering complex yoga poses and searching for the perfect gluten-free bread recipe. When she’s not writing, coaching, or teaching, she’s out in the wilderness hiking and watching birds.

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