I think it was a bit more than two years ago that I really realized that I wanted to learn to love myself fully. I had noticed this term being said many times, but I wasn’t really sure how to go about it, and I definitely heard my inner dialogue being very self-critical most of the time. This is the fourth part of a series where I share and unravel what helped me along on my journey towards self-love.
Ingredients: A seven-month journey through Europe - Selling everything - Loving companionship
If you had told my 25-year old self that in my mid thirties I would sell everything I owned – including my home – and embark on a solo travel throughout Europe, I think it would have scared my younger self like crazy. And I must admit that my mind did have its own tantrum to the outlook of a (once again) very open and unknown future ahead. The only thing that was certain was that I was about to give up everything: what had been my home in Thailand for a year, my apartment in Denmark, most of my physical possessions. However I believe this is a normal reaction from our mind that likes to feel in control. Once the wave of discomfort passed through me, and I actually undertook the actions, I felt utterly light and free.
It took me about a month to go through all my stuff, sell it or give it away. In the process many memories from a lived life appeared, feelings of attachment to certain things amazed me, but most of the time I just felt like why on earth do I have so many things?! I used to love things, and connect a lot of my identity to the things I possessed. Now it felt like a physical weight I had to carry around weighing me down.
What does this have to do with self-love you might ask yourself? What I realized was that once I was just me with a backpack, there is not much to hide behind. It’s like scraping of all the layers off - and there you are left with your raw self. How does it feel to be with yourself like that?
What surprised me, I guess, was how free, strong and light I felt. Empowered by my own ability to let go and choose what felt like a true calling. I think that when we really listen and honor our heart’s desire then that is the biggest act of love towards ourselves. It’s so easy to take on what we think we should do, or what is the ‘normal’ way to do things – and maybe that is aligned with our own dreams, and that’s perfect then – but when it isn’t, and we fail to listen to ourselves for whatever reason, then I believe we neglect and signal to ourselves that we are not really worthy of love.
I set out on a journey through Europe with an intention to visit old and new friends. My travels would take me to Zurich (Switzerland), Sundance Camp (Turkey), Barcelona, Valencia (Spain), Brussels (Belgium) Copenhagen (Denmark), Fife (Scotland), London (UK), Berlin (Germany), Caudiel, Sevilla, Valencia, and Granada (Spain)
Looking back I see that the common thread throughout the journey was that of witnessing and being witnessed. I would be invited into people’s lives, meet their families, friends, and we would spend time discovering their country, living, sharing. It was very heart opening to share life like that. One thing is to meet with friends for a dinner or coffee, spend some hours together and then part. But when you live together and spend most of your waking time for a period of maybe 5-7-14 days it’s different. You see them and they see you entirely. Sometimes stuff comes up. Personality clashes. Moods. Fears. Emotions.
At one point I was in Spain staying with a newer friend, and on this particular day we had been out hiking, enjoying nature, joking a lot and having fun. As much as I love to laugh, joke and can be quick witted and sarcastic (thanks Danish humor!), I’m also a sensitive person, and somehow the jokes and energy of my friend felt quite aggressive to me. By the time we came back to the house and were preparing lunch together we had a small encounter that made me burst into tears. I cry easily; it’s a natural part of my emotional response, and what is often perceived as very dramatic is actually very undramatic to me. How do you explain that to someone you don’t know very well? Part of me just wanted to hide my feelings, but it’s kind of impossible when your tears won’t stop rolling down your face. I ended up explaining what was going on for me, and that lead to a deeper conversation about parts of ourselves that felt challenging to share with others. By opening up and being honest we could mirror each other, which lead to a stronger connection and some deep personal insights.
When you take the risk and show the sides of yourself you might usually try to hide, you are one step closer to embracing it all. I realized that as I allowed others to be themselves and tried to understand their vulnerabilities, I also allowed myself to be myself fully with my own vulnerabilities. There is a great power in being embraced and acknowledged by someone else, which supports your own connection with yourself. And the power also lies in seeing and recognizing our common humanity including dreams, talents, aspirations, emotions, fears, longings, relations and struggles.
Next time you spend time with a friend I invite you to open up, show yourself and connect from a more vulnerable place.