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“And God said, ‘Love your enemy.’ And I obeyed him and loved myself.” Kahil Gibran

When I posted this quote on Facebook, I got so many likes, I knew I had struck a deep and sensitive chord. It grabbed my attention because I have always felt the Biblical mandate, “Love they neighbor as thyself” (Mark 12:31) is highly misinterpreted. Our culture has a Judeo Christian slant and even if you are not a Christian, we all know it is good karma to love our neighbors, right? We talk about forgiveness and loving the “other” person. Forgive your enemies. Love your neighbor. We focus on loving others.

For women, it is worse. We want to take care of everyone: Partners, children, dogs and the neighbor’s kids. We feel incompetent if we cannot do all and be all to everyone!

How sad! We try loving others out of the fact that maybe we do not fully love our own selves. We become our own enemy.

One really widespread way of making ourselves our own worst enemy is by hating our bodies. You birth a beautiful baby and your belly choses to make a permanent reminder of its amazing capacity to host a sacred living being and you decide stretch marks are ugly. Or you compare your body, or skin tone to the media favorite de jour, and you decide you come up short.

This quote by Kahil Gibran turns the Biblical mandate of love around doesn’t it? How can you hate yourself and think you are actually loving your neighbor? No way! You are your own neighbor. Believe it or not, the hard work of this life is actually to love yourself. As you love yourself, that love overflows and naturally reaches out to other people. Every time to make a harsh statement about yourself to yourself, you are taking a psychic step away from yourself, and your neighbor. When you are kind to yourself and cherish yourself, give yourself a pat on the back, encourage yourself, or smile at yourself (Yes! Smile at yourself!), you take a loving step closer to yourself and to your neighbor.

There are tremendous rewards to loving ourselves. We get very clear on who we are and what our purpose is. We are happier and more content. We are peaceful and the lens through which we view the world around us is clearer and brighter. There are also health benefits. It lowers blood pressure and creates an environment in our bodies that facilitate healing. We all know this.

But here is the rub: It is a day to day, moment by moment thing. It is not a black and white thing: “I love myself or I do not love myself.” No! It is more like: “Today, I only loved myself 40% of the time. Tomorrow I chose to try to love myself more like 50% of the time.” You have to grow and expand your capacity to love yourself. You have to work at it. If you don’t work at it, you will find yourself slipping and losing ground. And, most of all, in the process, take it easy on yourself. That is self-love!

How have you made an enemy of yourself and what is your favorite way of loving yourself? Share and leave a comment below.

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