Four myths that keep you from living fully and fearlessly
by Anita Moorjani —
One of the biggest lessons I learned from nearly dying of cancer is the importance of loving myself unconditionally. In fact, learning to love and accept myself unconditionally is what healed me and brought me back from the brink of death. During workshops and speeches, I often tell the audience to “love yourself like your life depends on it,” because it does.
Being at the cusp of death taught me that my purpose in life is to be who I am and express my authentic self fearlessly. But I also learned that I could never fully express myself unless I was able to accept and love myself unconditionally. The extent to which I am fearless about expressing my authentic self is in direct correlation with how much I love and accept myself.
If you are anything like me, you probably feel that it is one thing to know the importance of loving ourselves in theory but quite another thing to effectively put self-love into practice. Most of us come from cultures and societies that do not promote or even support self-love. We often feel judged if we love ourselves, value ourselves or put ourselves first.
It almost seems as though we live in an upside-down world where we are taught the opposite of what would really help us in life. Perhaps this is the reason why so many of us are struggling through life — we are brought up to believe in the opposite of what would really help us. And when we inadvertently stumble upon the truth of how to live our lives joyfully, we are judged for practicing it.
Below are some common myths that people seem to take as truths and which I believe hold us back from living our lives fully.
Myth #1: It is selfish to love yourself. To dispel this myth, just look at its opposite: What does it look like if we do not love or value ourselves? We feel unworthy, undeserving and unlovable, and the person we become is one who is needy, with a void that needs to be filled by others because we believe that it is selfish to fill it ourselves.
This is the person I used to be. I was needy — and a people-pleaser — because I needed the validation of others in order to feel worthy. Now, I can see that when we love ourselves, we do not need the approval of others in order to be who we are. Instead, we are able to bring our fully realized, joyful self out into the world — someone who others want to be around — instead of a self that is needy, with a hole that needs to be filled from the outside.
Myth #2: Loving yourself means needing constant self-care, which could make you high maintenance. Many have expressed to me that they believe loving and honoring ourselves is about making the time in our busy schedules to take care of ourselves. For example, it might be taking the time to meditate, go shopping, get a manicure, get our hair done or get a massage — basically, spend money and give ourselves a treat. Some people say, “I must already really love myself because I do that type of stuff for myself all the time. But my life still does not work.”
Although I do think it is important to do those things that bring us pleasure, this is what self-love means to me. It means loving myself even when I fail, even when I am down and feel as though I have nothing left, and even when I feel that everyone on the planet is against me and does not understand me. I need to be able to look myself in the eyes and say, “No matter what anyone else thinks, I will not let myself down or forsake myself. I will stay by my own side.”
Myth #3: Loving ourselves means being in denial of our weaknesses. Many believe that loving ourselves means denying our seeming failures and only talking to ourselves with affirmations. However, this is not the case. It is not just about constantly praising ourselves and talking ourselves up.
Rather, it is about loving the human “us” — the us who have feet of clay, the us who come undone under criticism, the us who sometimes fail and disappoint those around us. It is about making a commitment to ourselves that we will stick by ourselves, even if no one else does. That is what loving ourselves means.
Myth #4: It is important to always stay positive, regardless of external circumstances. Although it is not a bad thing to have a positive attitude in life, I started to become fearful of having negative thoughts due to the many books I read that advocate positive thinking and the notion that our thoughts create our reality. Whenever I had a fearful, insecure or negative thought, I would deny it, suppress it and push it away, believing that it would contribute toward manifesting into a negative physical reality.
It was only after almost dying of cancer that I realized that I had been suppressing many of my thoughts and emotions for fear of being negative and putting negative thoughts out there. Ironically, this suppression only contributed to my illness. I then understood that it is not my thoughts that create my reality but my emotions towards myself. That is, the more I love myself, the better my external world will be. The more I love and value myself, the more I allow positive things to come into my life. The less I love myself, the less I feel worthy of allowing positive things to come into my life.
If I constantly suppress certain emotions and feelings within myself, judging them as being negative and forcing myself to have more positive thoughts, the message I send is that my thoughts are wrong and I should not be having them. Basically, I am denying who I am and what I am feeling. This is not a loving thing to do and neither is it healthy to have all these feelings and emotions bottled up inside. I have since realized that it is more important to be myself than it is to be positive. And as a result, when I am positive, it is genuine and authentic.
Anita Moorjani is a speaker and author of Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing. AnitaMoorjani.com.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 34, Number 1, February/March 2015.