September is a month to celebrate love! But I’m not talking the romantic Valentine’s Day-type love, nor am I talking about loving others. I’m talking about a time to celebrate self love. It’s become a trendy little thing on the internet over the years, and it’s even got its own little hashtag, #selfloveseptember, that will lead you to posts, photos, quotes, videos, and articles across various social media platforms. But on a serious level, should you choose to partake, it’s so much deeper and more important than simply a trend of throwing yourself into a sea of beautiful things.
I first got into it last year as an event in The Witches Realm, a Facebook group run by Cyndi Brannen. This year, I am actively participating, but one thing that I think it’s important to realize is that self love is not an easy path. It can be a dark one that’s closely tied to shadow work, at least it has been in my case. Before I get into that, though, I want to take a step back and talk about why that is. And let me start by reminding you that not every experience is the same. My journey to self love may not be the same as yours.
Death shows up a lot in my life (not literally, though that’s happened plenty of times, too). So much so that my life has been rather cyclical in a death-rebirth sense. (Speaking of Death and self love, there’s a great self love article by Martha Kirby Capo on this topic). From childhood age, there were a number of trials, many of which were circumstances out of my control, that were forced upon me.
With Death, things fall away, things change, and it leaves something in its stead – oddly enough, for me, many times for the better, despite the fact that it rarely feels that way at first. I wrote about this in an article that ties this into my practice with Anubis. It’s a beautifully orchestrated design, I feel, that the main deity that I have chosen happens to be a god of death (Anubis). It certainly wasn’t intentional, but it’s absolutely fitting and I am as grateful for it as I could possibly be. I have a guide for this theme.
Death showed up again at my doorstep at the end of last year in a very brash way, and Hekate stepped in to join Anubis on my journey. It came through, stripping away everything, and certain people, as well, that were no longer serving me. I found that everything in my life was turned upside down and thrust into a completely new direction, in a bigger and more challenging way than I had ever imagined. It felt like Death on steroids.
But removing the bullet from a wound leaves a gaping hole. There was more work to be done, but this work is different. This work requires that you dig deeper than you had ever imagined you’d be doing before. For me, this was work that I’d ignored for so long that it was like an infection that spread through the wound, keeping it from healing. And no matter how much you may want to bottle it back up yet again, sometimes your higher self is simply telling you that it’s enough and that the time is now. Do it.
Some of this gunk I’d ignored for so long, I’d gathered from my youth. I grew up in a pretty rural area of the Midwestern part of the United States, where being gay and pagan were not exactly welcomed. Hearing from everywhere around you that your life is an egregious sin that should bear eternal shame leaves one seeking to hide these parts of themselves. It leaves you with a sense of guilt and shame, and even of hatred of yourself that, no matter how much you think ignoring it solves the problem, will continue to rear its ugly head.
Hearing it from the community around you is one thing. Sometimes, in my case and that of many others, it can also come from immediate family members, not to mention from news, media, and from other sources. Add to that bullying and mental illness to contend with, being an overweight teenager with a poor self-image, and it’s a recipe for a whole hell of a lot of negative self-talk and a weak sense of self.
And over the years, I’ve come to terms with all of the external factors – people, places, situations – that were troublesome to me. I’ve felt, I’ve dealt, and I’ve healed from many of the hurts that I dealt with. I’ve forgiven those who hurt me. I’ve come to terms with my sexuality and spirituality and learned to embrace them. However, what remained through all of that was internal, personal, and hidden.
Negative self-talk, doubts, fears, and a poor self-image are things that no one sees, at least not directly. It’s all of those inner “shoulds” and “you aren’t ______ enough” and “you shouldn’t have said/done that”. It’s all of the names you call yourself, the times you think you’re doing it all wrong. It’s the things you cannot forgive yourself for. It’s all ugly, painful things to deal with, and as a result, you find crafty, though foolish, ways to hide them from the world and from yourself.And the harder part is that we tend to believe a lot of it. Even if we know it’s wrong, it’s easy to believe what that inner critic is saying because that’s the voice that we carry with us every moment of every day. When no one else is around, you are your own company. And letting that company tear you down can keep on going for weeks, months, years, or even a lifetime.
And this is where I finally get to the point of this whole story. The path to self love is not bombarding yourself with beautiful things. Those will only give you immediate gratification and, to be quite frank, do you little good in the long run. The path to truly loving yourself, at least what I have experienced in my own life, is through the muck – all of those ugly thought patterns and false ideas of who you are that you’ve held onto for so long.
This journey around, I’m participating in this beautiful tarot challenge that Geology of the Soul has put together. The team at GotS has put together a question prompt for each day, all revolving around the theme of self love. These questions are reflective tools to really help you think about the different facets of yourself that may pose as a challenge, and what areas that you can be focusing on by incorporating a tarot message each day.
I’ve worked in higher education a decade, and much of what I do is to work with faculty members and coach them on strategies for improvement. And one thing that has always been a part of my coaching practice, and in my own teaching and learning as well, is reflection. I think reflection is an important step in any growth process. You need to be able to understand the problem in order to then turn around and face it to improve it. And so in this particular scenario, I am choosing to apply that to my own life and my own problem.
I am also eagerly participating in this year’s self love September event in The Witches Realm. Cyndi also just published a beautiful article on Self Love September with practical steps, correspondences, journal prompts, affirmations, and so much more. This is another great resource with practical, useful ways to engage in self love September. And there are so many other articles, posts, and videos out there that I wish I could include in this.
Dealing with shadow work is never done. If you think you’ve conquered your shadow for good, well…I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. Learning to tame your shadow, or to work with it (whatever terminology you wish to use here) is an ongoing process that you continually return to throughout your life.
Finding room for thoughts of self love is, similarly, not going to be a one and done process. You can’t throw yourself into a room full of kittens and expect results (I mean, you can, and that would be an incredibly enjoyable experience, but it’s not going to solve the real problem). It’s going to take time and persistence. But what you will hopefully find along the way is confidence, courage, esteem, and acceptance.
In no way does this mean you have to change who you are. No. Learning to love you FOR WHO YOU ARE and not what you’re not is the important piece to this. But taking the steps to transform negative thought patterns and behaviors is also important. Those are not who you are. Those are masks behind which we hide and falsehoods we learn to accept. Remove the masks and throw away the falsehoods to let love grow and shine.
And so, with tools at my side, a team of spirits that have my back, a bountiful amount of strength (my power word and the tarot card I most closely associate with), and a great deal of gratitude to Death, through the muck I go. As you go along your path to finding your own path to self love, I’m going to give you a simple quote that resonated with me today:
“Love yourself. Enough to take the actions required for your happiness. Enough to cut yourself loose from the drama-filled past. Enough to set a high standard for relationships. Enough to feed your mind and body in a healthy manner. Enough to forgive yourself. Enough to move on.” – Steve Maraboli