Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Devil in the Mirror: A Story of Self-Love

Growing up in a large family I was always encouraged to be who I was. That freedom allowed me to be completely free in love towards my siblings, friends, my passions, interests and most importantly myself. I was like any other four year old: confident, loving, energetic and innocent. I loved who I was and believed, as everyone should no matter where they are in life, that I was beautiful. I was quite the tomboy but I also always imagined myself as being a Disney Princess. 

The confidence and self-acceptance that children have is so inspiring to me, it's one of the things that I absolutely love about children. They haven’t yet been conditioned by society to believe they are unworthy, unlovable or less than perfect. They live with their hearts and souls rather than their mind and body. Each one of us are born knowing nothing but love, it's who we are. Somewhere along the way, during the process of growing up, we get hurt and fall down and lose that will to love, replacing it with self loathing and the belief we are not good enough for love. With children the innocence is still there, their capacity to love themselves completely is so beautiful. As adults we can learn a lot about self-love just by observing a child get to know themselves, play make believe and explore. in the eyes of children, loving oneself is not yet a foreign concept, it’s just a way of life...until it isn't.

One of my earliest memories as a child is one where my conditioning began. I remember, one day as I was playing with my hair and admiring myself in the mirror my dad came up to me and said, “You know, Krysta, if you stare at yourself too much the Devil will come out of the mirror and take you.”

I assume he had noticed me looking at myself in the mirror a few time prior and - as a well meaning father who was conditioned by his parents, taught that loving yourself is a bad thing - didn't want me to to get full of myself or big headed. So rather than telling me I was beautiful and sweeping me into his arms to get me away from the mirror, he told me the Devil himself would come after me.

He said this with his best intentions as my father is truly a great man, he just didn't know any better. He was simply passing down what he was taught. He was only trying to avoid the risk of his young daughter becoming a narcissist - I wasn't suppose to love myself too much. I mean, look at our culture today; self-love is a foreign concept let alone an acceptable one so we categorize it as being selfish, narcissistic and conceited. I completely understand why he said what he said to me. However, as a four year old, I believed my Dad knew everything and, needless to say, I was absolutely horrified. What!? The Devil will come and get me?! I was shocked and felt my whole world was crashing down on me. I'm sure he could see the fear in my eyes and he went further into explaining, telling me a story about a girl who was taken by the devil because she stared at herself too much in the mirror. I walked away from the mirror that day vowing never to look at myself again. 

What my father and I did not realize was, as I consciously made the effort to stop looking at myself in the mirror, I was subconsciously creating the idea and belief - a negative program- that I was ugly, unlovable and undesirable. From that moment on I associated seeing myself in the mirror, which a loved to do, with the Devil. Something so innocent can create such chaos, especially when you're four years old and so impressionable. Why would my father lie about something like that? As I look back I think it’s ridiculous that someone would tell an innocent child a story like that out of fear they will become vain. However it has allowed me to understand where self-hatred has come from. Everyone has a story like this; something was said to them, or they saw something as they were growing up that changed and created their current perception of who they are. Changing from a love mindset to a fear mindset through the process of human conditioning.

I want to make it clear that a young child loving who they are and admiring their beauty is hardly something that should be reprimanded or ashamed of. There is nothing wrong with self-love. Self-love is not selfish, it is not egotistical, nor is it narcissistic. Self-love is the understanding of who you are, what you're worth and honoring your mind, body and soul without needing the approval from anything or anyone around you.  We need to begin celebrating the strengths, beauty and confidence in ourselves so that we can then inspire those around us to love themselves as well. Once you lose the fear of rejection, judgements and not being loved you give yourself the permission to follow your own bliss, your passion and see where the love you carry takes you. By loving yourself and allowing yourself the freedom to be authentic you are, in effect, loving those around you because no longer will you want to change and control those around you to fit your mold of perfection, rather love them for exactly who they are. 

The fear of mirrors didn’t last long. Thankfully I was a smart and very intuitive little child. As time went on I slowly worked up the courage to test the Devil and see if it would come and get me. After a few tests I was both disappointed and relieved that the Devil did not show up to take me. This did however cause me to question my Dad’s credibility. Maybe, just maybe he was wrong, I thought. Or maybe, I thought, I wasn’t staring long or hard enough. That's when I had an idea. I ran into my bedroom and grabbed one of my Barbie dolls along with the small pink and white vanity my Grandma had made for my Barbie’s. I brought them into the living room and behind the rocking chair, in the corner of the room, I sat my Barbie doll in front of the vanity. I was testing my Dad's theory, and quite brilliantly if you ask me. My Barbie will stare at herself all through the night, I told myself, and if she was still there in the morning, then what my Dad told me about the Devil was not true; if she is was gone then the Devil came and took her and I would never look in the mirror again.

You can imagine my delight when I woke up the next morning to find Barbie still sitting on her vanity behind the rocking chair, admiring herself in the mirror. I was free from this perpetuating fear of being taken by the devil from something as simple as looking and admiring yourself in the mirror. And although my Dad’s theory was proven wrong there was always a sense of shame or fear when I looked into the mirror from that moment on.
I told you this story because as a tribe, a society, community, family, etc., we have no idea how far the necessity for self-love reaches and how essential it is to our own health and happiness. This memory has stuck with me my entire life, and I see it as a blessing. It has served as a metaphor during the process of change, growth and the discovery of my own self-love and worth. When I notice that I'm shying away from acknowledging or celebrating my greatness I remind myself of the Devil and the Mirror story and ask myself: "Am I going to let the lies that I've been told throughout my life (I'm worthless, I have to settle, I'm not good enough, I am unlovable) hinder me from accepting and celebrating who I am? Or am I going to test these theories and create my own reality based on my own experiences?" I always chose, and continue to choose, to create my reality based on my own experiences, my own truths. 

We have to let go of this paralyzing fear of vanity, narcissism, conceit and selfishness and move into a place of love where those around us are allowed to love themselves however they feel is appropriate, without judgment or ridicule. Self-love and admiration is not vain, narcissistic, conceited nor is it arrogant.  Self-love and self admiration is a truth that so little of us embrace. Self-love is generous, humble, compassionate, aware, innocent and so powerful; it is understanding the core of who we are and honoring that. If it's not then it is not generous, humble, compassionate or aware, then it is not self-love rather a defense from lack of love. Selfishness, vanity, conceit, narcissism and arrogance are a result of lack of love, or lack of self-love. Remember: We can't ever truly love someone else if we fail to know how to love ourselves.

Imagine what a wonderful, peaceful and loving world we would life in if we allowed our children, our parents, siblings, friends, everyone!, including ourselves, to believe they are beautiful and encouraged them to walk with their heads held high. What a beautiful feeling is would be if we all came together to help each other discover and embrace the love for who we are without condition. Loving others is so much easier when you love yourself and are confident in the belief that you are beautiful and worthy of love. 

When you love yourself, you will celebrate the success and admire the beauty of others without questioning your own for what you see in another person is also within you. Change your awareness. Put your effort into encouraging others and loving them for who they are. Try this: Find something beautiful about another person every day and sooner rather than later you will find yourself looking in the mirror and finding all the things that make you beautiful rather than those things you think are flawed.

The below videos are amazing TED Talks on self-love, self-esteem and what’s really important in life. In the first video, “Dying to be me,” Anita Moorjani spoke about the five biggest lessons she has learned in life after she died and came back to life. The first, most important, lesson was that of love and self-love. 

Anita Moorjani’s 5 Life Lessons to Focus Awareness on:

1. LOVE. Anita explains that one of the reasons she got cancer is because she didn’t love herself. When we value ourselves, we teach people how to treat us. When we love ourselves we find no need to control or bully other people. 
2. Live life fearlessly. Most of us are brought up on a diet of fear. Anita used to fear everything from eating the wrong food, cancer, saying the wrong thing, being misunderstood or unloved. Fear does not keep you safe. Love keeps your safe. When you love yourself and other people you are insured safety.
3. Humor and laughter and Joy. We are born knowing this stuff. The child's heart. We are born this way, however we are conditioned otherwise. 
4. Life is a gift. Most of us live life as if life is a chore. Only when we lose something we value do we realize it's true value. It's up to you to realize it before it’s too late. 

5. Most important thing is to ALWAYS be yourself. Be as you as you can be. Shine your light as brightly as you can. Embrace your uniqueness. Get to know yourself, LOVE YOURSELF. 

All my Love,

Recommended Reads:
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