You Have to Love Yourself

Q. Hi Dr. Cruz, can you tell me how to feel more loved and less judged by others and myself?

A. - This question is one of the main themes of our lives. The answer ultimately is in shifting your perspective. So let’s look at this concept called love, what it is, and why we want to feel it, and ultimately, need to feel it if we’re going to have a healthy life. And more curiously, why so many of us look for it in all the wrong places.

Love is defined differently by everyone because of our various life experiences, exposures, and individual perspectives. After 37 years of consciously and unconsciously looking for love, one day I realized that love must start with me. This is called self-love. I needed to create a sense of safety, care, admiration, and prioritization for myself instead of looking to others to provide it for me.

Today, I define “love” as an action that proves “my best interest” is at heart. If my best interest isn’t at heart then how can someone say they love me? They cannot. Equally, if I’m not behaving in a manner that proves I have my own best interest at heart, then I, too, would not be able to say that I’m showing myself love.

Self-love is not superficial. It’s ideally developed from a deeper, positive understanding of our spiritual identity. It’s this spiritual identity that protects our ego from the judgements of others. Without this layer of protection, we will remain vulnerable to the subtle and not so subtle judgements levied against our self-image. If allowed to penetrate our self-image, the opinions and judgements of others will slowly permeate the crevices of our identity. Like a virus on a computer we won’t know it’s there until our self-esteem begins to show its cracks. By then, the words of others will be in our subconscious mind and running the show. They will be living rent free in our heads. Their words, opinions, and judgements will be the puppet master and we the mere puppets. We will have forgotten that it is the “I” in I AM that actually needs to be in charge of supplying your self-love and defining your identity, for it is God who lives inside of you. It is God’s word that gives you authority to rebuke the judgements and condemnation of others.

Repeat after me, “I AM in charge of my mind. I have the power to accept or reject any thought that is not in alignment with the unconditional love I have for myself. I must keep watch over my thoughts to ensure they represent empowerment for continued growth and never condemnation. I love myself in a healthy manner and it’s my job to continue to prove that to myself daily”.

Self-love developed from positive spiritual underpinnings becomes nourishment for our mind, body, soul, and human identity. Spiritually fortified self-love must be the basis from which we develop our identity if our goal is to cultivate a healthy life. To not, jeopardizes the foundation from which we build our house thanks to childhood cognitive distortions and human limitations. If built on sand, it will begin to crash down at the first sign of feeling judged or rejected. But if our identity is fortified from self-love it becomes self-sustaining and resilient to external judgement or rejection.

Judgment from self or others is insidious. It inconspicuously begins to lay a foundation of deceitful uncertainty. Self-love provides the elasticity required for perceptual flexibility. Judgment is rigid and absolute. Self-love provides unconditional positive regard even with flaws in tow. Judgment tells the lie that flaws are a personal deficit and therefore something must be wrong with you. Self-love is expansive so there’s room to grow and improve. Judgment is constricting and demeaning, often creating a deep reservoir of shame.

So how do we get to the place of feeling more love and less judged. The answer is by accepting ourselves in this moment for exactly who we are (and are not), with all of our baggage and flaws as we journey toward self-healing and continually elevating our consciousness. Simply put: Put your thoughts on higher things. Self acceptance purports that not one ounce of how another person feels about you determines your level of self-worth. You must know who you are and love yourself as you are.

Know that we are all works in progress and even on our best days, we admit that we are not perfect and often in need of radical self-compassion. We use guidance and wisdom to evolve and advance, but even still, we recognize that in this moment and forever more, we are perfectly imperfect.

When I was about 37 years old I was finally able to love myself because I awakened to the fact that God first love me, unconditionally. It was this love that I began to model for myself. I had to tell myself to stop carrying my past into my future. I was already free from it because I had given it all to God; I just had to stop going back and picking it up again. I was already unconditionally loved and accepted, all I had to do was accept it. Could I do it? Could I just accept myself for where I was every step of the way as I continued on my life’s journey to self-improvement?

What about when I wasn’t improving? Could I forgive myself for the 37 years I had lived in oblivion? Could I forgive it all and stop judging myself for all the mistakes I had made?

Could I just fall in love with that little girl who still lived inside of me? Could I remember who she actually was before the world thwarted her personality? Could I heal her from all the negative judgments wielded against her so that she could finally return back to love?

I realized that when I focused more on God’s unconditional love for me and the authority that was inside of me by virtue of the Word of God then I didn’t need other people’s love and validation, and that’s precisely when I stopped begging people to love me. I no longer needed anyone to validate me, at least not in that moment. I would later understand that this new belief system would need to be renewed quite frequently until it was rooted deeply in my soul. I had to rewrite some old subconscious programming.

Suddenly, I was paying less attention to other people’s words and more to their actions. Were their actions exhibiting “my best interest at heart”? And when they weren’t, well then, I learned how to have enough Godly unconditional love in escrow to go about my future smartly. My life was now being sourced from the spirit of God that lived inside me and never again from a person in my external world. In the end, I realized that if someone wasn’t responsible enough to care for my heart without breaking it, then surely they should no longer have access to it.

I became a conscious, proactive advocate for myself. All of those years I just wanted someone to love and care for me, just as you probably want love and care, too. Oddly, it never dawned on me that I could love and care for myself a lot better than anyone else on the planet. The more I practiced self-love the better I got at it, and the more I realized I didn’t need the approval of someone else in order to feel loved anymore.

I had finally freed myself.

But the fact remains that we are still human, and in being so, we are going to periodically find ourselves wanting or feeling like we need the love, affection, and approval of others in order to feel empowered; and that’s okay. It’s because we are social beings and not heartless robots. Just remember to keep sourcing your identity from the unconditional love of God, not other people’s judgements of you and definitely not from that negative voice in your head. If it ever shows up again, be sure to kick it like a football into another galaxy.

So how do we get this self-love party started? By starting with the end in mind. Write out what self-love looks and feels like to you. How will you know when you’re practicing self-love? What can you emotionally release that no longer serves you? What proclamation will you begin to build your life and identity upon?

When we finally realize we have a grander purpose in life that contributes to the greater good of humanity, we realize we don’t have time to entertain the voices of judgment because they do not serve our higher good. Judgment doesn’t take into account that WE ARE ALL works in progress who must learn to crawl before we walk. In fact, it’s the only way. And it’s in this realization that we find the grace to just “be” as we continue our journey into “becoming”.