“How could I have said something so stupid??”
“That was so dumb of me!! I should have known better!”
“I will never get it right! Why am I even bothering to try??”
“I wish I wasn’t so clumsy! Why can’t I be more elegant and graceful, like Janet?”
Does any of that sound familiar to you? That was my inner voice, several years ago. That was the voice in my head, constantly nagging, putting myself down, wishing I was different, better, smarter, stronger, more spiritual. Wishing I was anyone but who I am.
The most meaningful lesson I learned from being at death’s door is that unless I love myself, nothing else in my life can function at its best. The amount of depth, meaning, and joy I experience in my life is in direct proportion to how much love I have for myself. The amount of love, kindness, patience I have for others is also directly proportional to how much love, patience, and kindness I have for myself because we cannot give others what we ourselves do not have. And, unsurprisingly, the amount of love, respect, support, and compassion I receive from others is also in direct proportion to how much of the same I have for myself.
Many of us are taught from a young age to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” But what if we don’t love ourselves? What if we are our own worst enemy and our own harshest critic? If we treat others as we treat ourselves, then are we judging everyone else with the same harsh brush that we are using to paint ourselves? Is this why there are more people on our planet obsessed with trying to condemn anyone who is different, instead of learning to embrace everyone who shares our earth and rejoice in our differences?
Learning to love others begins with learning to love ourselves unconditionally first. This seems to be a well-kept secret, which no one taught me as I was growing up. On the contrary, I was encouraged from a young age to put myself last, that it is selfish to love ourselves or put ourselves first. In fact, I used to give and give of myself, without tending to my own needs, to the point that I became so drained it started to affect my health. Continuing in this vein, I constantly believed that I needed to work on myself because I wasn’t good enough as I am. So I continued to work on being “better,” kinder, more “loving,” more “spiritual.” I was always judging myself because I never felt I made the mark.
And then I got cancer. In fact, I didn’t just get cancer, I nearly died from cancer! But my cancer was the greatest gift I could ever have. Nearly dying taught me how to live. My cancer taught me the importance of loving and valuing myself unconditionally for who I am – a perfect being of the Universe, who is worthy and deserving of love, without needing to prove myself, better myself or change myself in any way.
I became aware that I am someone who has a right to express my uniqueness with abandon.
I now also understand that I don’t have to work at being spiritual. Being spiritual is who we are, at our core, whether we realize it or not. It is our true nature, so we cannot not be spiritual! Being yourself and being spiritual are one and the same thing.
Because of my experience, I will never forsake myself ever again. I will never let myself down, treat myself like a doormat, or make myself small so others can feel big. I have learned that this is the biggest gift that I give not only to myself but also to the planet because I paint others with the same brush as I use on myself.
My life is much more joyful and meaningful now, and I have much more love to share with others than I ever did before, which I do unconditionally, and without draining myself. But most importantly, I now understand that if I do not express my authenticity, the Universe will be deprived of who I came here to be.
Anita Moorjani is the author of the bestselling book Dying to Be Me: My Journey From Cancer to Near Death to True Healing.
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Hi Anita, thank you for this. I am learning to accept and be patient with myself and it is a moment to moment awareness of my thoughts that makes the difference. I have some old patterns I am working on uninstalling and learning to love myself as perfectly imperfect is part of this.
Thank you for sharing your story with us <3 It made me feel like sharing mine too..
I am 26 years old,I had a cancer when I was 16 and now 10 years later I start having mental issue due stress, in particular emotional one..and still,I find it hard to love myself, now that I should more than ever before, scared to share my situation with people around me because I think that would be just a reason more to put me aside and label me as "problem" to avoid..life is hard for everybody right..?
But yet my eyes are able to shine like diamond and my heart can feel so much love..I always took in consideration my needs as last thing in the situation but why I still think to be such a terrible person?
This is a beautifully written article, and it has helped me a lot, thank you so much. I have realised I really need to love myself more. That said, I do think you have gone a bit far. Negative self-talk can be very harmful, but we need to be critical of ourselves in moderation (and with self-praise to balance it) if we are to grow and develop. You are right that God is to be found within us, but He is outside of us even more, and we can access His love for us, which is far greater than our love for ourselves, through the great religions. But anyway, thank you for the great article and I wish you all the best on your journey.
Yes these were words ringing with wisdom from a disease that normally brings death! Great wake up call by our heavenly Jesus and his Father.. Ty for sharing.
Bless you and thank you so much for these words Anita.
I have been going through a difficult patch in my life recently and have often felt that friends, the church and even life had left me behind, today at the age of 89 I will take this to heart and try to remember that I am as important as everyone else.
Thank you, I understand this message!
It made me stop and think and better understand. Tks for an eye ? opener!