©Dennis L. Dossett
(All Rights Reserved)
I received a text from a dear friend recently asking, “Why is it so much easier to have unconditional love for others than for yourself?” I paused for a moment before realizing the importance and enormity of her question. She really hit on one of the most important questions each of us faces at some point during our incarnations on the earth plane.
For a few days I pondered how best to approach an answer to my friend's question before Spirit offered several perspectives for my own consideration and understanding. In fact, there are a number of factors involved and several ways one might go about it. But first things first.
Why is it so difficult to love ourselves at all, let alone to love ourselves unconditionally? I do a lot of counseling and coaching with my clients, and I so often hear stories of how people were belittled as children—as if shaming them enough might finally get them to change their behavior to please their parent(s). But I never hear stories even remotely suggesting that such a strategy ever worked. Instead, such children are conditioned to believe that they are not worthy, unlovable, and inferior in some way to “normal” people, and these conditioned beliefs almost always carry forward into adulthood, often with devastating effects.
But I also generally find adults who did not have such cruel parenting having much the same problem. Their beliefs about not being “good enough” or “as good as” others are also conditioned, but through social comparisons with other children, adolescents, and even adults with whom they interact. Much of this conditioning is driven by the notorious cruelty of peer groups, but a good deal of it is self-imposed. There will always be someone who is better than oneself at almost anything, be it “good looks,” dancing, athletic performance, problem solving, or simply “schmoozing” with the “right people.” It is as if one has to be better at everything than everyone else in order to regard oneself as good enough, worthy, etc. Added to this perceived “peer pressure” is the incessant marketing and reinforcement of an “image” of beauty, popularity, success, etc. in the media. Even children who are taught by their parents to value themselves as human beings invariably fall victim to some degree of self-devaluation through the mechanism of social comparison.
We are all intimately familiar with our own undeniable imperfections, except those who really are completely deluded by (and clueless of) their own self-perceived “perfection.” Consequently, it is fairly easy to view ourselves in a less-than-favorable light. We are generally much less aware of the failings of other people and, in any case, often have been taught to be more charitable to or forgiving of others. That doesn't make any of it true, but the battle is against perception, not truth, and the Lower Self part of us feeds on the negative energy of the whole process.
But what about those (such as my friend) who are actively trying to love themselves more? As the old saying goes, “Old habits die hard.” While I believe there is a lot of truth to that statement, I also believe that, ultimately, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of unconditional love and its underlying mechanism.
First of all, unconditional love cannot be turned on or off at will, while conditional love is exactly that. In other words, unconditional love is not about doing; it is all about being. Unconditional love reflects who you have become, not what you decide you are or not going to do next. You can't control it; it controls you. Your behavior toward others and yourself is like a reflex, a “gut reaction,” an instinct. It is displayed without thinking and it flows naturally because it is just “who you have become.”
If you have to try to love unconditionally, you cannot do so because it just isn't who you are—yet. But not to worry or fret; you will become unconditionally loving when you are vibrationally ready. Every soul will get there in their own way and in their own good time, you (and me) included.
Second, unconditional love is something you have to grow into, step by step, and no step can be discounted or skipped. It begins first with conditional love, then non-judgment, then forgiveness, then genuine compassion, and finally unconditional love. Each step is incomplete until such time as we treat ourselves just as we treat others. The reason is that you cannot give what you don't possess or have.
A young rabbi once admonished his detractors (as well as the rest of us) to “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). We must first learn at least to love ourselves conditionally before we can truly and genuinely extend conditional love to others and, to some extent, most of us do try to make an effort in that direction. But once we get to the point of working toward non-judgment, the potential guilt of hypocrisy prevents us from truly not judging others as long as we judge ourselves. The same principle extends to forgiveness and compassion, and especially to unconditional love. Only when we practice (and practice, and practice) each step on ourselves until it becomes a habit can we really hope to fully and completely extend it to others—as a habit, without thinking, and without conscious intention. It is then simply a matter of who you have become.
I often tell my clients that the essence of soul evolution is simply becoming a better version of yourself. In my view, unconditional love is simply becoming so completely aligned with your Higher Self that there is no separation whatever. Personally, I have a long way to go in that department, but it is okay. I am a work in progress, that of becoming a better version of myself. As I tell my clients, “Progress is our most important product” (corporate motto of General Electric Corporation in the early 1960s). And, “If you are looking for perfection, you are on the wrong planet.” That's why all of us are here together on this earth plane. Sometimes it is hard to imagine that some people (including ourselves) will ever attain that complete alignment, but that is only judgment in action. When we can honestly say that we judge no one—including ourselves—then we are indeed on the road to getting to our desired goal in our own good time and in our own chosen way. We are all on different paths together, eventually ending up at the same destination.
So why is it so much easier to have unconditional love for others than for yourself? One could generate a nearly endless list of “reasons,” but ultimately it boils down to understanding the nature of the objective and how to get there using whatever tactics, tools, beliefs, … whatever it takes. And “whatever it takes” doesn't really matter. All that matters is getting there—in our own good time and in our own good way.
If you are looking for a practical way to begin this process, the only advice I can share is to look into a mirror and focus on your eyes. Then repeat an affirmation (similar to the following) several times while gazing directly into your own eyes: “I love you, (say your name), you are perfect just the way you are.” And really mean it. Do this at least twice a day until you believe it. As Wayne Dyer frequently said, “You'll see it when you believe it.” Be easy with yourself (tolerant & forgiving) and be patient. Remember, non-judgment is the first step, but that is all you need to concern yourself with. The rest is just practice, practice, practice until it becomes a habit, a “new you”, a better version of yourself.
I look forward to joining you in the mirror, in Spirit. See you there!