“Find the love you seek, by first finding the love within yourself.
Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home.”

~ Sri SriRavi Shankar

Whether it’s a self-help book or a forum dedicated to leading a happier, fulfilling life, they’re all awash with the same core theme – love yourself.

Love. Yourself.

Just two words.

Simple, really.

But is it simple? Is it so easy to love yourself?

Can you love yourself too much? Too little?

How do you know when you have the balance just right?

For the last year, I’ve been asking myself the same questions. At the beginning of the year, at the start of my journey and with the help of my counsellor, I learnt that I didn’t love myself. It wasn’t an instant revelation, but something I realized over a course of time, a slow, sinking feeling, a dark consciousness, fingers lightly clasping the dimmer switch to my heart. ‘Who told you that you are unworthy?’ my counsellor would ask me. And I didn’t have an answer.

This new awareness pursued me like a hungry tiger. It wove in and out of my legs and its intense eyes followed my every footstep. I felt apprehensive and panicked, ‘how do I start to love myself?’ I would say, ‘how do I tell myself that I am worthy’, and yet no one would reply. No one could reply. I had to find the answer within myself. I observed those around me; people on the bus, my colleagues, friends, family – I tuned in to their dialogues; not with other people, you understand, but with themselves. I became increasingly aware of the way in which people treated their own heart and soul, how they would refer to themselves as ‘fat’, or ‘ugly’ and how they dragged their own self esteem around like an unwanted item. It occurred to me that I was doing the same; beating myself over and over for not being good enough, for being boring, unlovable, rubbing my own face in the dirt – my soul was black and blue with bruises – I was hurting myself, and I had been for years.

I lacked confidence and so I furiously fed on the reflection of myself from the mirrors that others held before me. I was a master of my own facade, a slippery chameleon, changing, shifting within the circles in which I stood. I danced like the Court Jester, I paraded and drank and span a complex web of colorful ribbons that dipped and dived and kept me at arms length from myself. From afar, it must have seemed like such a beautiful creation, an artwork almost, something to be commended and applauded, and yet behind the florid hues lay a grey canvas. Insipid and miserable.

And so, my quest for self-love began, quietly and with hesitance. I softly waited and listened to my inner-voice. I asked myself questions, ‘what do you want?’, ‘how does this make you feel?’ I would stay in bed. All day long. Because I wanted to. I’d ignore the sink piled high, the dirty dishes, the dust on the floor and the nagging voice, ‘you should get up now and tidy’, and instead, I’d lose myself in my love for words, my fingertips hovering over my laptop as I channeled creativity and then I would just write and write and write for hours. I filled my home with books and candles and warmth, I bought a beautiful, wing-backed chair from a charity shop and in it I would curl under a blanket and stare at the garden. I started to smile more, I would stick my tongue out at children passing by in their prams making them laugh, I would wave at fellow runners in the park and I would stop and help people, ‘do you need a hand getting on to the train?’. Small differences, really, but I was unwittingly learning to smile at my own heart.

Happy Valentines Day, me.