This "love" word is so allusive, isn't it? Yet, it's so important. Without love, we cannot live. Love has to start from oneself. It is impossible to give love to others if you have no love for yourself. Everything originates from within and radiates out.
Remembering to love ourselves and be gentle and kind to ourselves "just the way we are" is not always easy to do. Everyone goes through periods of self-loathing in life. Restricting love from flowing to ourselves restricts love from flowing in the world. But how do you give love to yourself if you are not feeling it? This is a very hard question to answer.
One thing that helped me realize how important it is to love myself, was to see that I was also a human being in need of proper care. Sometimes people ask me, "Do you have any children?" Often, I am tempted to say, "Yes, me." I realized that I, just like a baby or any other being, need to be nurtured, cared for, fed, clothed, bathed, exercised, and LOVED!!! This being that I carry around needs to be taken care of just like our children and our family members. If we only love our family, but have little love for ourselves, we are doomed. Everything starts from this person we are with 24-7. This person is YOU. This person is ME.
I used to treat myself terribly when I was younger. I didn't eat properly, I drank too much, I stayed up until all hours of the night, I didn't know how to relax or rest the mind, I had a short temper and was easily angered. And then, on top of it all, I would berate myself for treating myself so poorly.
Eventually, my body and my mind had had enough. I couldn't bare the misery I felt, so I decided it was time for a change. I stopped drinking, started exercising, went to bed at a reasonable hour, took up yoga and meditation, and gave myself all the love and care that this "being" wanted so desperately. It didn't all happen at once, it took YEARS. But I made a decision that it was time to care about myself. That I was important. And, no matter how long it took, I would keep walking in the direction of loving myself.
And I kept walking and walking and walking...and I'm still walking. While I was walking on this path of "love" and "care" for myself, something amazing happened. I didn't feel so miserable anymore. I started to feel GOOD!! I had more energy, I felt healthy. My "being" was in good shape. People started to point out that I looked different. They asked me if I'd changed my hair style or gotten a facial. Nope. None of that.
While caring deeply for myself, I also noticed that I had more than enough energy for me. So, I started radiating all that I had in me outward. It wasn't something I decided to do, I just did it. It was natural, I felt it in me so I let it out. There was more than enough for me, so now I could share it. As soon as I started to radiate this love outward, love started coming back. I wasn't looking for anything. I wasn't searching for someone to love me. I LOVED ME. I gave myself the love I needed and that's how it happened. That's how love started flowing back. More love than I could ever imagine.
Some people might think that loving yourself is selfish. It is not selfish; it is essential for your survival. I'm not talking about inflation of the ego, I AM TALKING ABOUT LOVE. It starts with YOU. Once you decide to really love and care for yourself, then you will find that there is nothing more you need in life.
Love is still the answer. I am sure of this.