How different would our lives be if we loved ourselves in a WHOLE way? Where mistakes can exist, where fear isn’t debilitating and where vulnerability isn’t a weakness.
Antuan Magic Raimone gave his first TEDX Talk in March of 2018 and is an advocate for PAVE (Promoting Awareness | Victim Empowerment). He speaks against sexual assault/abuse and volunteers with Live Out Loud of NYC as an openly gay role model to LGBTQ+ Youth. He has also performed on Broadway, both in Hamilton and In the Heights and has performed at Radio City Music Hall and The Grand Ole Opry with the Rockettes.
Antuan’s website: www.thesoldieroflove.us
The Power of Loving Yourself
How different would our lives be if we believed in the power of loving ourselves? How would it impact us? These are questions I’ve been asking myself a lot. I don’t have all the answers and I’m content in knowing I may never. This curiosity started 10yrs ago, after I acted as an emotional arsonist and set fire to what had been one of the most vulnerable relationships I’d been in. I was dating a man who respected me and cared for me in ways I didn’t believe I deserved. I allowed myself to be more vulnerable with him and in doing that, began to learn there were people in this world who would respect those parts of me. Unfortunately, I wasn’t secure enough in knowing I was worthy of love. My own lack of self worth would be the spark to ignite the embers that would spread like wildfire and decimate the relationship.
There are times when both parties can be responsible for the ending of a relationship. This wasn’t one of those. I take full responsibility. I had prayed and asked for someone to come into my life and see beyond physical attraction. Someone that would get to know my heart and my mind. Someone who respected my passions, even if they didn’t share them. I was beginning to find it in that relationship 10yrs ago. What I forgot to pray and ask for, was the belief and knowing I was worthy of receiving all those things. I looked to the outside world to soothe an internal ache I’d felt much of my life. And I know I’m not the only one to seek my value from others.
Somewhere in our young lives we are taught to believe we aren’t enough and then we spend much of our adulthood looking for ways to fill that void. We try to find peace, contentment and meaning from our personal relationships. We pursue the best education, jobs, and look for the best candidate to be our spouses. Many of us put so much time and effort into finding ways the world will make us happier, richer, and more content, we neglect to put that same time and effort into our own emotional health.
But how can we do that? What is the one practice we can find for ourselves? What is the shortcut!?! There is no shortcut. There is no one way to do it and there is no direct path to it. It’s a daily habit and practice. We have to choose, each day, to put ourselves first in some way. And if you blister at the thought of being selfish, try to see that word in a different light. We’re taught it’s bad to be selfish. The word is used as an insult and weapon of shame. An actual definition from Wikipedia defines it as “(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.” That is an incredibly disempowering definition. What about when being selfish is the only way for someone to survive a threatening situation? To put it in its simplest terms, I’ll share something most of us are familiar with. Flying on an airplane. It’s probably been months since any of us have flown, but anytime we board a plane we are instructed to always put your mask on first before helping others.
Let’s take a moment to think of the responsibilities we have in our lives.(beat) How many of you have yourself listed in even the top five? Going back to that oxygen mask, if you don’t take care of you, how can you expect to take care of anything else in your life with any kind of consistency? I don’t know what your version of putting your mask on first will look like, but I’ll share mine with you. Every morning after I wake up, I open the blinds to allow the sun to flood in and paint the walls of my 400sq foot NY apartment. Then, before I’ve turned on my phone for the day, I read a passage from a book that was a gift from a friend. The name of the book is “A Year of Positive Thinking” by Cyndie Spiegel. It was the source of the reading I did at the beginning of service. If I know I won’t wake up in my apartment, I bring the book with me so I can read it first thing in the morning, wherever I am. It doesn’t take much time to do and it’s something that is for me. The point I’m making is putting yourself first doesn’t mean you shut out the rest of the world completely. It means you find small, repeatable and fulfilling ways to prioritize the remarkable, deserving human you are.
For so much of my life I felt powerless to others, because I believed I could only feel love when it came from an external source. I searched for love in my friends. I chased love in the applause from an audience when I performed in my first musical in high school and would keep chasing it throughout my 22yr career as a performer. And I longed for love in so many of the relationships I had, even though I didn’t know how to receive it or express it to someone else. It would take hours and months of therapy, that started in 2010, to even begin to chip away at the barricades I’d built up since I was eight years old. I needed to look inward and as I did, I saw my strength, I saw my vulnerability, I saw my compassion, I saw my faults, my fears, my courage, my hope, and my faith. I saw me as a WHOLE person. That’s how I found the power of loving myself.
As I finish, I’ll leave you with two gifts. A takeaway and a call to action.
*YOU ARE YOUR GREATEST SOURCE OF LOVE. You are worthy of loving and being loved. You don’t have to look to others to find value in who you are. You carry that value alone and anyone in your life supports that, they are not the source of it.
CALL TO ACTION:
*For 30 days, while you are in the shower, say to yourself “I am Love. I am Loved.” Why in the shower? Because I want you to have as few distractions as possible. You can say the phrase as many times as you need to hear it, just do your best to do it for 30 days.