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Why Self-Love Must Come First

I have often written about the characteristics on what makes a successful person, or boss, or entrepreneur, but have never offered any practical advice on how to get those “characteristics” in the first place. Well, this post will go into what “steps” you can take to develop and practice self-love. Why is this important anyway? Well, essentially having self-love means you have the capacity to love others and be more aware of how you effect other people and the world. Essentially, in the first step I state "you cannot give to others what you do not give to yourself first." If you are not honest with yourself, you cannot be honest with others; if you are fearful, you will make others fearful; if you are courageous, others will gain courage through you; and so it is with love. If you do not love yourself, you can never love another. And we do NOT intrinsically know how to love. It is a learned art, something too few of us have ever mastered. Still, it is the single best coping skill you will ever possess, and most successful people have taken great pains, either deliberately or through trial and error, to develop a deep self-love. I hope these 14 Steps help you discover the power of self-love and how you can then give it to others for yours and their success.

1. You Cannot Give to Others What You Do Not Give to Yourself First
This may sound so counter-intuitive. How can you be selfish first and expect to give to others? Well, that is not the way to look at it. Love, in its purest form, gives power and freedom to other people, but you cannot give something you do not possess yourself. If you do not have any money, you cannot give it to others; if you have no affection, you cannot be affectionate; if you do not have humor, you cannot make others laugh (at least with you). So if you want to love others, truly, deeply, completely, you need to learn to love yourself first. This may be the single hardest thing for people to understand about love and self-love. Self-love is about development of an ego, confidence, and the ability to love that you realize that it is not about you, but about everybody else. When you truly learn to love yourself, you discover your capacity to love others increases exponentially. You realize that you are so full of love that you can give that to others without hesitancy or concern, for once you learn how to truly love you can never really get hurt. As you fill yourself with love, your cup overflows to others.

Think of it this way: Love is a jewel we manufacture. Some of us who have learned to love ourselves and, in turn, have mastered the art of loving others, make diamonds. Others, who are into themselves or have not worked on learning the art form that is love, make worthless pieces of glass. No matter what you make, when you love someone you are essentially giving them the “gift” of “jewelry.” The value of that gift does not come from the person receiving it, but from the person giving it, and once it is given it cannot be taken back. The problem is everyone wants diamonds, but very few people know how to manufacture them internally. First know that true love comes from your ability to love yourself and is limited by you and you alone, not by the person you love. You first have to learn to love yourself before you can shower others with the diamonds of love. And even then, you may end up throwing pearls before swine if you are not careful about the people you associate with.

Also, we do not intrinsically know how to love, and actually have to learn how to, just like practicing in the martial arts. Yes, we may know how to be kind or generous or nurturing, but love is not something you just pick up. Love is an Art form, very much like self-defense. The more you stay at it the better you get at it. It can be learned, and the best way to do so is through practice. It can both protect you and make you strong. It gives you balance and strength. It both soothes and stresses. It is a cosmic force and an inner peace. Training for Love will eventually yield huge dividends. Love takes practice and therefore demands action. If you want to be a master of love, you first will have to master self-love. Now ask yourself, in the most important “sport” of your life, how much practice, coaching, and training have you done to increase your chances of success then change your behavior accordingly? The first step is realizing that the Love you first must cultivate is within and about you. The gifts you give are only as good as the ones you possess.

2. Surround Yourself with Positive People
Of course, in any close relationship: with your spouse, partner, and family members, you want to feel lovable, likeable, and secure about yourself and the relationship. But incredibly, the major obstacle a person has in learning to love themselves is with the people they hand around with or associate with the most. If you want to learn how to love yourself, associate with people who have mastered that skill already. If you want to be a winner, do not hang around with losers. Winners cannot make winners out of losers, but losers can make losers out of winners. So it is true with people who understand the art and skill of love. As Ben Glass notes, “You are the average of the five people you hang out with the most,” so if you are not where you want to be, look at the people you hang around with, and 1, 2, 3 or 5 of them may be blocking your path to success and self-love. You have to get rid of negative people. You have to get rid of people who just want to take from you. You have to get rid of people who are cra-cra (crazy) and only bring drama and chaos into your life. I have seen it numerous times that a person with the potential to be a winner is associating with a cadre of losers, and they are stuck in the loser twilight zone. As Dan Cotter states, “Winners make sacrifices, losers make excuses.” Your sacrifice in learning how to love yourself will be jettisoning those losers.

This is the area where most people tend to talk themselves out of doing. They feel like because they have known someone most of their life or they are their parents or have lived with someone for five years or are married, they have no way to control the chaos and the drama. This could not be further from the truth. Once you begin to identify those people who are blocking you from your abundance of self-love, you begin to recognize this dysfunctional behavior and remove it from your life. It starts with establishing a boundary which the toxic people cannot cross and drag you into emotional chaos. Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You cannot stop someone from pushing your buttons if you do not recognize when it is happening. Sometimes you will find yourself in situations where you will need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you should not be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so. But remember, in the end, your destiny lies in avoiding these emotional vampires for they suck the life force from you and keep you from truly discovering your self-loving soul.

The most important thing you can do is to have joy in your life and not let others limit yours. Unfortunately, if your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from the opinions of other people, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent and mature people feel good about something that they have accomplished, they will not let anyone’s opinions or derisions take that away from them. the maturity comes when we practice self-love, that is outlined in this text. While it is impossible to turn off all your feelings of what others think of you, you do not need to be thrown into that emotional slippery slope of self-doubt, insult or hurt. In being able to understand your true self from self-love, you learn how to always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what toxic people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within and you are always at bliss not matter what.

It is also critical to realize that others notice whom you have chosen to associate with, and they will inevitably judge your character by the character of your associates, colleagues and friends. Why? As Ben Glass said, “You are the average of the five people you hang out with the most.” Inevitably, we become more and more like the people we surround ourselves with day to day. If we surround ourselves with people who are toxic, mean spirited, selfish, dishonest and willing to cut corners to get ahead, then you will surely find ourselves following a pattern of first enduring their behavior, then accepting their behavior, and finally adopting their behavior. If you want to build yourself up, do not associate with people that can do nothing but tear you down. As I like to say, “Winners cannot make losers winners, but losers can make winners losers.”

Finally, while getting rid of toxic people is important, since this may be virgin territory for you, it is vitally important that when you jettison negative people at the same time you need to associate with other positive, self-loving people and learn from them. As Anthony Robbins says, “If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you'll achieve the same results.” At first, finding and being able to associate with a person who demonstrates good self-love will not be easy. But one thing most people who have good self-esteem demonstrate is the natural act of giving. Successful givers, yes there are unsuccessful givers, give only to other givers. These givers, if you ask them for help, will most likely will help. But if you act like a loser and begin to just take and not offer anything to them, you will quickly find yourself on the outside again. When you approach successful people, tell them your plans and long term goals (and one of them better be to be helping develop yourself into a loving person who wants to help other people succeed), and you may be surprised how quickly you are given entry into the winner’s circle.

3. Deal with Your Past Hurts and Fears (They are Ruining Your Future)
One of the biggest things the screws up your future is your reliving your past dysfunctional relationships and the hurts and disappointments they caused. You cannot let the past fuck up your future. In most cases, people who cannot love themselves have never dealt with the baggage they are carrying from the horrific relationships they had with their parents, or siblings, friends, or spouses. Yes, the past makes you what you are, but it does not have to dictate what you will become unless you keep carry that baggage around with you. Believe it or not, it is your past fears and insecurities are what is keeping your from truly loving yourself and realizing the greatness and success in your future. These fears are usually caused by your upbringing and the relationships you had and the residual “resentment and bitterness that build the cage that only punishes ourselves.” The only way you get past the resentment and bitterness and accept a new joy and happiness into your life is to make space for it. If your heart is filled full-up with pain and hurt, how can you be open to anything new?

The first thing you have to do is make a conscious decision to let it go. Things do not disappear on their own. Not thinking about something is not the same as consciously letting it go. You need to make the commitment to get past the past. If you do not make this conscious choice up-front, you could end up self-sabotaging any effort to move on from past hurts and just continue to have a self doubt and self-loathing, which prevents self-love from forming. Making this decision comes with the realization that you have a choice to stop reliving the past pain, to stop going over the details of the story in your head every time you think of the other person, and to release the emotional content associated with these past situations. Think of them as the albatross around your neck, a curse that will not allow you to progress any future until the work of letting go and forgiving is done.

Of course, in dealing with anything in the past, you are going to experience a lot of pain and insecurities, and the one thing you have to do is own and express this pain. You can either express the pain the hurt made you feel, whether it is directly to the other person, or through just getting it out of your system (like venting to a friend, going to counseling, writing in a journal, or writing a letter you never send to the other person). Just make sure you get it all out of your system at once. Doing so will also help you understand what specifically your hurt is about and begin the healing process of being able to respect and love yourself.

Part of this recovery means you have to stop seeing yourself as the victim and blaming others. Oh, yes being the victim feels good. Being a martyr is like being on the winning team of you against the world. But the world largely does not give a fig, so you need to get over yourself. Yes, you are special. Yes your feelings matter. But your feelings do matter that much to anybody but you, and they are just one part of this large thing we call life, which is all interwoven and complex and messy. So if you want to learn to love yourself, get over yourself! You know you are successful when you get to the point that you no longer care one way or the other about whatever past hurt, upset, or setback you had. When that vessel of pain is empty, your albatross has fallen from your neck and you can continue to grow. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it and allow you to finally live fully in the present.

4. Live In the Present
Are you worrying about the future or remembering the past? Stop! They do not exist. Focus your thoughts on the present. One of the main tenets of self-love is to focus on the present, the here and now, and developing your joy in the moment. What does it mean to live fully in the present moment? It means that your awareness is completely centered on the here and now. You are not worrying about the future or thinking about the past. When you live in the present, you are living where life is happening. The past and future are illusions, they do not exist. As the saying goes “tomorrow never comes.” Tomorrow is only a concept, tomorrow is always waiting to come around the corner, but around that corner are shadows, never to have light shed upon, because time is always now.

“Fear is caused by the uncertainty of the future. Sorrow is caused by the remembrance of the past. Try to keep your thoughts in the present, for the future we will never know and the past we may never understand.” You cannot work on yourself now if you are thinking about the past or future all the time. Now is the time to let go. Let go of the past, and stop reliving it. Stop telling yourself that story where the protagonist, you, is forever the victim of some other person’s horrible actions, or some bad situation, or some mistake you made. You cannot undo the past, all you can do is to make today the best day of your life. When you focus on the here and now, you have less time to think about the past or worry about the future. When the past memories creep into your consciousness (as they are bound to do from time to time), acknowledge them for a moment, but understand they do NOT dictate where you have to go. Find the strength to let go. We feel uncomfortable letting go of things and memories that we are emotionally connected to. This connection makes loving ourselves very difficult. We feel responsible for keeping certain things (gifts from our relatives of friends) and holding on to memories. Over time it leads to enormous amounts of clutter and huge emotional baggage that does not let you move on in life. When it comes to gifts, keep only the most important mementos that mean a lot to you. We do not need things to remember our loved ones; we just need true and pure memories of them.

Realize that your emotions do NOT control you, you control your emotions and thinking about anything other than the present means you have to keep control of those emotions. THE PAST IS THE past, it is gone forever. Never to be rewritten or revisited. It has made you what you are today, but you do NOT have to drag it around with you alike some albatross around your neck. When you truly learn how to love yourself, you will be able to forgive all the wrongs in the past not because they deserve it, but because you do. And the future, it is whatever you want it to be. It is going to come with or without you, and remember, you cannot predict the future but you sure as hell can create it. With work and effort, and a loving heart, do what you do well and let the consequences arise as they will. Letting go is the best thing.

Nearly half the time we are awake, our thoughts drift to topics unrelated to whatever we are doing. We think about the fight we had with our spouse when we are driving or replay events from a friend's wild party while brushing our teeth in the morning. We text incessantly while watching TV and phone mom during laundry-folding time. And all the while our minds are wandering, even when we might be having a pleasant daydream, we are not very happy, according to a new study published in the journal Science, the frequency of how often a person’s mind wanders is definitely a big predictor of how happy they are. Essentially, the more often we take ourselves out of the present moment, the less happy we are. Well no joke!

Some memories (especially negative ones) can suffocate you. There is no way to change your past but there is a way to change your future. Grasp the moment and focus on living in the present. Yes, they are a part of you. They made you what you are today, but they do not need to define what you will become. Just bring yourself gently back into the present moment and diminish the fear. Sometime you might it easier to do this with a conscious cue, such as saying to yourself, “It is alright. That was the past, and now I’m focused on my own happiness and doing what I love.” There is a quotation from Frank Herbert which is called the Litany Against Fear, from his epic series “Dune.” “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Yes, only YOU will remain. Remember, if you crowd your thoughts and lives with fear, worry and hurt feelings, there is little room for anything positive, and that means there is little chance for you to grow and learn to love yourself. It is a choice you are making to continue to feel the hurt, rather than welcoming joy and love back into your life. And only you have the power to chose, so chose wisely.

And what about the anxiety of living in the future? I know a wonderful woman who used to live in the future. She would work hard to achieve goals and attain them, but they were never enough. She was always thinking about the next trip; the next client; the amount of money that she needed to make for the next bigger house. It turns out she learned this behavior from her mother and it stemmed from an upbringing of not having quite enough money in her household. It was during a conversation with her mother some years back when the light bulb went on. She realized that she was missing out on so much joy and self-actualization by focusing on “the next thing.” Over a period of years this lady worked to actively live in the present. Of course she still plans for the future but it is not at the exclusion of celebrating life in the present.

So, how can you learn to focus on the present? The easy way is to learn how to clear your mind. To just let go. The best athletes have the ability to be able to focus on nothing on command and get into the flow or zone. It is about letting go and just trusting their training and talents. Very similar to Luke Skywalker listening to the FORCE. In essence it is called conscious meditation. The secret is the ability to just believe that letting go is the right thing to do. It is trusting yourself, which comes with self-love, that the training and resilience you have will allow you to perform the task at hand. Just stop thinking, that’s all. Just stop. Do not force it. Just observe and be one in the moment and you will be amazed how quickly you come back to the present as you let go of everything other than the now of being. One way to improve your ability to clear you mind is to stop doing things that dull it to the present, like watching TV or doing social media. This is a form of escapism, and does nothing for self improvement, and keeps you from developing your self-love.

Also, do things that not only engage your mind but your body, activity that encourages you to look around and interact with the world in that moment. Go out, meet people, read a book, start a novel, go dancing, play basketball, ride a bike, anything to get you moving and concentrating on what you are doing in the present moment. Be aware and take inventory for what you have right now: your skills, health, friends, mind, and abilities. Look at your surroundings and realize compared to most people in the world, you are pretty well off. Next, breathe. Yep, take a deep breath and concentrate on it. Why? Because it has a natural calming effect on us, and brings you back to the present. Every now and then just do a random act of kindness. This will help you feel thankful. Trust me, it works. And finally, start developing a sense of cautious optimism. Work on developing a feeling and belief that no matter what today is like, that when you keep doing what you are doing, one step at a time, that eventually tomorrow will get better. When you combine these hints with defining and refining you sense of integrity, you will have no worries about the future, for it will manifest in a way that is more powerful than you could ever hope for.

5. Develop a High Sense of Integrity and Personal Beliefs
Self awareness is the first step to true success, but incredibly, being self aware is incredibly rare. Developing a sense of integrity begins by being brutally honest with ourselves and that takes an unique talent. Our attempts to maintain positive self-views undermine our ability, or willingness, to accept negative feedback from others or even ourselves. We tend to insulate ourselves from having to do any work to truly improve ourselves from within, and instead tend to blame everyone and everything else for our setbacks and failures. From school kids who blame their poor grades on their teachers to employees who blame their poor performance on their bosses, there is no shortage of real-life examples highlighting the default human tendency to distort reality in their favor if it helps them feel good about themselves. This is just delusional. Although the truth often hurts, it is the key to self-improvement and self love, so commit to truly evaluating yourself and seeking constructive, although possibly negative, feedback from people you respect. Ask them and yourself, “What could I do better?” “What am I missing compared to the people I consider the best?” and “What are the worst things about myself?” and take the answers seriously and commit to taking steps to change them. If you want to be a truly loving person, you first have to be honest with yourself.

And you cannot be honest with people if you are not honest with yourself. Integrity is something that starts internally. If you cannot think and act as a person of character, you will never be able to develop a true sense of integrity. Integrity is essential to true self-love, and if you cannot love others if you do not love yourself first. There are also no short cuts to integrity. It takes practice, but it is the linchpin to all other successes you will have towards self-love. When you are honest with yourself, and learn and practice doing the right thing, then you can let the consequences come as they will. You can then rest you head every night on your pillow with a clear conscious. You can build yourself up not by putting others down, but my truly being a person of exceptional character.

Remember, it is not for your father or mother or spouse or partner whose judgment upon you must pass. No, the fellow whose verdict counts most in your life is the one starring back from the mirrored glass. And as Horace Greeley so clearly states, “Fame is a vapor. Popularity is an accident. Money takes wings. Those who cheer you today may curse you tomorrow. The only thing that endures is character.” So make sure that you develop your character every day.

Success will come and go, but character and integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. And when you are working on yourself the only one watching is you. You must be brutally honest with yourself at all times. That means continually evaluating and correcting for your strengths and weaknesses. Yes, we all make mistakes, but a person of integrity realizes this and will take corrective actions to prevent it from happening twice. Developing character takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be. Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose, so never allow yourself to ever do anything that would damage your integrity.

We live in a world where integrity is not valued or talked about nearly enough; where “the end justifies the means” has become an acceptable school of thought for far too many. Sales people overpromise and under deliver, all in the name of making their quota for the month. Job applicants exaggerate in interviews because they desperately need a job. CEOs overstate their projected earnings because they are afraid the board of directors to replace them. Having a true compass of integrity would make these decisions easily. “Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you and act accordingly,” as Thomas Jefferson famously wrote. Yes, personal integrity is about doing what is right because it is right. There is no other reason for it. It may seem like people can gain power quickly and easily if they are willing to cut corners and act without the constraints of morality. Dishonesty may provide instant gratification in the moment but it does not and will never last. Profit in dollars or power is temporary, but profit in personal integrity and character, and ultimately self-love, will help you develop a network of people who trust you as a person is priceless and lasts forever.

Remember, a person’s dishonesty, or yours, will eventually catch up to them. It may not be today, and it may not be for many years, but you can rest assured that at some point there will always be a reckoning. As the saying goes, there are three things you cannot hide: the sun, the moon, and the truth. Yes, a person of low integrity will eventually be found out, so make sure you practice and perfect every day, and if you want to truly know love, you will. And a word of advice on striving for a reputation of integrity: Avoid those who are not trustworthy. Do not do business with them. Do not associate with them. Do not make excuses for them. Do not allow yourself to get enticed into believing that “while they may be dishonest with others, they would never be dishonest with me.” If someone is dishonest in any aspect of his life you can be guaranteed that he will be dishonest in many aspects of his life. You cannot dismiss even those little acts of dishonesty, such as the person who takes two newspapers from the stand when they paid for only one. After all, if a person cannot be trusted in the simplest matters of honesty then how can they possibly be trusted to uphold lengthy and complex business contracts? This is also true with self-love, if you fail in the small details, you most assuredly fail in the large ones.

Integrity is a value, like persistence, courage, kindness, generosity, and industriousness. Even more than that, it is the value that guarantees all the other values. It is the touchstone of how you feel about yourself and conduct yourself with others. You will judge yourself, and be judged, to the degree to which you live your life consistent with the highest values that you espouse and demonstrate. Integrity is the character quality that locks in your values and causes you to live consistent with them. Integrity is the foundation of character, and a good character is the foundation of self-love. This development is one of the most important activities you can engage in. Working on your character means disciplining yourself to do more and more of those things that a thoroughly honest person would do, under all circumstances. If we lie to ourselves, then we lie to the whole universe.

6. Be Mindful of Your Thoughts
When you think, you are actually doing something called Self-talk. Self-talk can be the most corrosive adversary you have or it can be your greatest ally. The choice is yours. There is no more important criticism than self criticism to manifest your greatness. On the other hand, there is no amount of external validation that can undo the constant drone of internal negative criticism, and negative self-talk is hungry for external corroboration. One little voice in the ether that agrees or validates your self-talk or your internal critic is enough to put you in a tailspin.

The remedy for negative self-talk, then, is not the search for unanimous praise from the outside world. That is a hopeless and hollow journey, and one that destroys the work, the work you have to do on yourself. Why does this external influence wreak havoc on your self-love? Because you will water down any praise you get in fear of that outside critic that amplifies your internal one. What is the remedy, how can you silence your negative self-talk? You cannot silence it. The remedy is accurate and positive self-talk. Endless amounts of it.

No, not grasping delusional affirmations or silly metaphysical pronouncements about the universe. No, not wishing for abundance and believing that it will come just because you believe it will. No, the cure for negative self-talk is merely the reassertion of obvious truths, a mantra that drives away the nonsense the lizard brain is selling as truth. Just as you cannot reason with selfish, self centered, narcissistic people, you cannot reason with negative self-talk or somehow persuade it that the world disagrees. All you can do is surround it and smother it with positive self-talk, drown it out and overwhelm it with concrete building blocks of great work, the combination of expectation, obligation and possibility. When in doubt, tell yourself the truth, and when the truth is not enough, make a truth for yourself that is through accomplishment and integrity. As I say, if you like the person you are when you are by yourself, you will never be lonely.

That voice inside your head has a huge impact on who you are and how you live your life. You may not think so, but with practice you can change your self-talk. Positive self-talk uplifts you; it helps increase your confidence, it enables you to attract what your heart desires, it allows you to adopt a healthier lifestyle and it helps reduce stress. But this is something that takes constant practice and commitment. It is easy to have this slip your mind unless you do it regularly. And yes, it might sound and feel ridiculous at first, but if you keep going with your positive self-talk it will become natural to you. You may want to put a reminder on your calendar or post-its in places you go daily, or on your bathroom mirror, on your computer screen, inside of your wallet, in your car, wherever works for you. Bring your awareness to your self-talk when you wake up, when you are driving to work, waiting to be served at a restaurant, exercising, or lying down; use it every day, in all situations.

Self-talk is so important because our actions are inspired by our thoughts. If we can change the way we think, we can begin to change the actions we take. The problem is that once we reach a certain level of comfort, our human nature is to just settle and no longer seek personal growth; whether financially, emotionally, physically or spiritually. Practicing positive self-talk can help us set in motion actions that will bring us greater rewards and bring us onto the path of self-love.

It is important that you identify external negative factors in your life which may be holding your thoughts hostage. For instance, your mental state can become toxic by being around friends who are negative. If you are not vigilant enough, you will start to adopt their thoughts as your own. Hence, be alert to what your negative influences are. If they come from certain friends, limit your exposure to them as much as you can. Refrain from discussing your plans with people who will be unsupportive of your dreams and goals. Instead surround yourself with thoughts and actions from people who will empower you.

From being uninspired and de-motivated, you will begin to feel uplifted and driven to greater self growth. The positive energy that they vibrate will start affecting the self-talk that you engage in as well. You may find yourself daunted by the many things you need to do in order to reach your goals. It just seems overwhelming to become the success that you secretly desire for. Your mind gets caught up in an endless stream of worry. You will need to concentrate on steps you can take in the present. Those little successes that build your confidence and aid in self-love. If you find yourself becoming stuck, stop and ask, “What can I do right now?” Change your internal talk from a future anxiety ridden one to one that is about the more manageable present. As Seth Godin says, “Anxiety is nothing but repeatedly re-experiencing failure in the future.” Yes, failure in the future; you cannot control what will happen in the future but you can take the necessary steps now that will build a better tomorrow. Taking the necessary steps require you to focus your thoughts and inner talk on the present.

Overcoming fear is discussed in more detail later in this article, but fear is often what holds you back from your success. And it is that self-talk about fear that creates doubt, and doubt has killed more good ideas than failure. You are scared of taking chances because you fear losing the false sense of security that you are enjoying now. That inner voice tries to convince you that you are happy in your current state when in fact, you are not. Your self-talk may sound positive in your attempt to lie to yourself. But somehow, there is an inner knowing that you are short changing yourself. To diminish this fear means taking a step-by-step approach in breaking down your fears to see if there is any way round to looking at things more positively. When you confront your fears, you will often realize that the worst case scenario is not as bad as you think. In fact, the benefits of change are worth the risk. Your inner talk begins to change at this point and your self-love is increased.

And finally, it is much easier to have a positive attitude if you focus on the enjoyable moments in life rather than the difficult ones. While there will inevitably be challenges, you need to remember that life consists of ups and downs and the good times are forged through the bad. So choose to fill your mind with positive images and thoughts and your heart with gladness and gratitude. Make it a conscious habit. Simply bring your mind back every time it goes astray in its thoughts. For a start, if you can be grateful for what you have presently, your self-talk will also change to be in alignment with one of joy. A state of gratitude does wonders to your psyche.

In the end with some practice, when you have negative, limiting thoughts about yourself, you will be able to easily dismiss them and move on with confidence, knowing that your past or present mistakes, problems, or failures do not define you but just make you a stronger, better person and one who is more loving when you learn from them.

7. Only Focus on What YOU can Change
Incredibly, most people spend inordinate amounts of time and energy upset, angry, or frustrated by other people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors, or what I call drama. You can complain about the weather but there is not whole lot you can do about it. So why should you believe you can change another person’s behavior, ethics, morals, or thoughts by trying to convince them they are wrong. If you think about it for a minute, it sounds kind of ridiculous on the surface. Yet, time and time again we get drawn into the drama of having an emotional reaction to someone else’s behavior or words.

This is pretty simple really. The only ONE you can change is YOU! That is right, and if you are lucky, you might be able to control yourself most of the time change your behavior a little. But believe or not you probably cannot if you do not love yourself. Most of the time we spend living is in the drama of everyone else, or upset over things we have no control over. Nor should we have that control over other people, for like I said earlier, we can BARELY control ourselves. So the hardest lesson you are going to learn is that you can ONLY control and change yourself. But once you accept this and start practicing it, you will find that letting go is the perfect thing to do. You no longer own other people’s drama, or problems, or sadness, or negativity. When you become a truly loving person, your ability to give those people love will totally amaze them. But more importantly, your ability to leave them alone will amaze you! You will be inured to their hysteria and detached from the drama and craziness they are trying to drag you into. You will finally discover that peace you have been craving all your life.

We often react in this way because we have not yet developed the self-love that allows us to distance ourselves from the emotions of our decision making. We react and respond emotionally to emotional needs of our own, rather than in a logical, rational manner to our long term thinking. Something that developing self-love helps us master. The magic in stop trying to change other people’s behavior begins with developing your self-love. Once you have achieved this state, you will be able to catch your thoughts during those times that used to trigger an emotional reaction, and just let go. This letting go and not owning other people’s drama will be the single most important thing in the development of your better self. You will find you are less stressed and actually feel more powerful. Why? Because you ONLY concentrate on things you can change… YOU. Realize this, and you life will be much, much simpler and stress free. And this brings me to the next topic of taking care of yourself.

8. Take Care of Your Body, Mind, and Spirit
Sir Francis Bacon believed that “A healthy body is a guest chamber for the soul; a sick body is a prison.” Oh, how true this is! But this truth is this might be overlooked due in a large part to the fact that you feel you do not have enough time, or energy, or commitment to do this, but this is something you MUST do, and do every day. You may not realize it, but you might have gotten into a habit of partying, or drinking, eating poorly (prepared meals) or not exercising, and then begin to feel lazy. You might have stopped reading books, or listening to your favorite music or doing the thing(s) that you really love to do. You might feel now that your zest for life is gone, that you are more insecure and that as a consequence you are hanging around a disproportionate number of truly negative people who are just takers. You find that you are procrastinating on things you want to do and even things you have to do (like filing your taxes or ending a dead end relationship). Being able to do an honest self assessment is the first step into getting to that place in your life that you have great self esteem and self-respect.

No matter how good and bad you think you are doing at the moment, it is good every now and then to get a coach. It can be a therapist or a mentor or a trusted successful friend. Whomever it is, this person will help you work through the stagnation you are feeling with yourself. Remember, they can only act as a guide, it is YOU who will need to make the journey. So, how can you begin to take the first steps to change and begin to take care of yourself better?

You have to set aside a particular time EVERY DAY for YOURSELF, PERIOD! Whether it is a workout, a walk, a bike ride, a bath, a hobby, any training you have put off, time to research new interests or jobs, or the time to make a proper meal, take this time for yourself each day and enjoy that time for you, and you alone. It can be as simple as taking a bath, listening to music you like, light candles, cook a good meal, read a book and tell yourself one positive thing you did that day for yourself or another. You will be amazed how quickly your energy and enthusiasm for life comes back, like a potted plant that needed some water and sunlight. This new change will change the way you see yourself and your world and start you on your way to developing a good internal compass of self-love.

It is important that you act lovingly to yourself, even if you do not feel like doing it or deserving of it yet. Do something nice for yourself anyway. We should all be capable of setting aside one hour to indulge in things that enhance our lives while strengthening our physical and inner health. This is not an optional task, but something you have to begin to improve your self-care, your dignity, attention to your health. Living with integrity and allowing yourself a specific time each day to give yourself self-love. And the most important thing to do this is showing up for yourself.

This is such an empowering concept and you should read it again. You have to show up for you. No matter what happens in life, you have to be there for yourself and walk through the fire, the laziness, the procrastination, challenges and setbacks that come day to day. No one is going to be there rooting for you. This is the first giant step towards self-love you must do, for it is for you and you alone. If you want to have those relationships you dream about, you will to learn how to do this until it becomes such a habit that you feel wanting when you miss doing it. Yes, make this task your religion, and you soul, mind, body and spirit will thank you.

This might sound counterintuitive, but by putting yourself first and giving yourself self-love, you can then begin to more fully and completely love others, and begin to live a fulfilled and happy life. This outpouring of love for others will manifest in a positive redirection of affections and kindness towards you. If you are not in a good place physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, then it affects everyone around you. As I say, “You cannot give to others what you have not given to yourself first.” That includes love. So you must take care of your own emotional, physical and mental health first.

What makes this happen is showing up for yourself daily and by committing to physical exercise, eating healthy, sleeping enough, reading, learning, meditation of some sort, positive self-talk and healthy boundaries. “Committing to a goal does not always bring action, yet committing to an action will invariably bring you to your goal,” so make sure you commit to this daily regimen. Failure to practice self-care creates imbalances and disharmony in your life, and this imbalance in turn can lead to unease and disease in your mind, body, and soul. When you wake up be mindful of how you will nurture yourself and do something positive for yourself that day and every day for the rest of your life, this is the first step in living a life of gratitude.

9. Live with an Attitude of Gratitude
As I like to say, “An attitude of gratitude increases abundance and diminishes fear.” So, if you want to love yourself and give yourself freedom and power you have to ask “How are you living your life?” Do you live with bitterness, envy, jealousy, selfishness, sell-pity, negativism and false pride? Being able to change your attitude to being grateful cannot only allow you to love yourself, but also change how healthy you are. If you are constantly complaining about your situation and surroundings, you manifest that within yourself as well. Even if you do not complain, but are neither grateful for anything that happens good in your life and take good fortune for granted and act like an ingrate for all the blessings, beauty, and goodness around you is a form of selfishness. And being grateful ONLY when good things happen to you specifically is not living a life of gratitude. Gratitude is thankfulness for just being alive. For being in the here and now. To truly be a person of gratitude is to be one who sees the blessings and beauty in all things. From the moment you wake up, to every encounter, be it pleasant or unpleasant, to just feeling a oneness with yourself and your surroundings. Gratitude is in the details not necessarily in the greatness of life.

As Melody Beattie quoted, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” This means as we live our lives in gratitude, everything around us gets multiplied, including how we feel about ourselves. Our friendships become stronger, our hurts less, and our love of ourselves and our ability to love others increases as well. Developing and practicing an attitude of gratitude is one of the easiest things you can do to improve yourself and your life. The happiness you create by showing your appreciation for yourself and others has a far-reaching effect, both for yourself and those you come into contact with. The great thing about living a life of gratitude is it is highly contagious, in that the more your give the more you shall receive. To paraphrase Proverbs, “All the days of the afflicted are bad, but one with a grateful heart has a continual feast.” Enjoy the banquet! In being grateful, it will help you enhance your abilities while letting your failings go. In order to love you self well, you must understand the concept of continue gratefulness and realize that some things can be improved (strengths & abilities) and other cannot (weaknesses)about yourself.

10. Maximize Your Abilities and Minimize Your Weaknesses
The one thing that nobody else has is you! You are a unique being in the universe, but do you know yourself, really? Does your sense of self worth come from you alone, or from the opinions of others? Sadly, we tend to value ourselves and our abilities not from our power of strength, but from someone else’s perspective. In learning to love yourself, you will discover that the love you develop and cultivate within you is like a gem that you give to others. When we truly know how to love and love ourselves, we essentially make perfect diamonds, and the value of those diamonds is not dependant on the person receiving it, but on you person giving it. YOU! When you love another, it is like giving them a diamond, perfect and true. When you do not love yourself or understand love truly, you are essentially making glass, although you might value it like diamonds. It is not.

Of course you need to be OK with whom you are, but you also have to realize that you can always improve. You can always better your best, you can always learn to love more, to give better, to expand yourself and your world. Accept your limitations, but do not let those limitations limit your achievements or self worth. “Master yourself, your thoughts and feelings, and you master the whole universe.” This is a power that self-love gives you. You can always go beyond anything you have ever done in the past. The fact you are still here, that you are still breathing means you got some more work to do and you owe it to yourself to finish that work. So that when you get up in the morning you can look yourself in the face and say, ‘Hey, I am living my life on my terms.’

Of course in developing this mastery you have to realize that there is a difference between knowledge, skills and innate abilities. Knowledge is the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. Skills are the proficiencies developed through training or experience and are usually something that has been learned through doing. So, we can develop our skills through the transfer of knowledge. Abilities are the qualities of being able to do something. There is a fine line between skills and abilities. Most people would say the differentiator is whether the thing in question was learned or innate.

Innate abilities are gifts we are born with. That could be a good sense of balance, being tall, having good coordination, a quick wit, or the color of your skin. These are traits and characteristics that no matter how much we try, we cannot ever change. So, you have to learn to live with these constrains and work around them. Some may be perceived as weaknesses some as strengths, it does not matter. If you are 280 lbs and play football, chances are you will not be a running back. On the other hand, knowledge and skills are things that can be learned and honed over time. The trick here is to know what innate abilities play well with your skills and knowledge. Case in point: Maybe you have a great personality and a natural sense of humor, but are not particularly detailed oriented. You may not want to work in accounting, but you might be an awesome sales person. Whatever those are, use them to get you to the next step of self-love: finding your passion.

11. Find Your Passion, and Pursue it Without any Reservations
Passion: A lot of people talk about it, finding it, living it. But why do so few people ever live their passions? The question of finding your passion is not discovering what you like, but what you would be willing to suffer for to keep doing. “We feel our lives are worth living after we discover something worth dying for.” Actually, this might be a bit harsh, pursing your passion is really mastering the art of living. As James Michener states, “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both.” This mastery of living is essentially discovering you passion (most likely it will be changing the world some way), and then doing it. But you cannot do that until you fully develop yourself and give yourself the love you deserve. And that takes practice every day.

You know you have found your passion when you will continue to pursue it despite what it may cost you. Passions are powerful. They burn deep within us, so you would think they should be easy to find, but they are not. We may live and breathe them, but we may give no thought to them the way we give no thought to the air around us or the sun above us. Passions, like the wind, cannot be seen or tasted or held in our hands. Just like the wind, they are felt, felt deep inside you. To find and act upon your passion, your wind – you have to search for what it moves you to do.

And be careful not to mistake things are good at doing for passions. You might be a great writer at your job, but you stay up all night to write a post about school reform. Your passion is NOT writing, but school reform. And this is the critical part in determining your passion. What do you spend hours doing? What are you willing to sacrifice time, money, sleep, friends and vacation for? What can you not stay away from? That is your passion. If your work is not your passion, then your passion is what makes you late for work. It is what makes you rush through everything so you can get back to your passion. Passion is that thing that grips you. it is that thing you would rather be doing that just about anything else in your life. It is like that first time you fall in love. If you are going to going to live them anyway, so you might as well do them for a living.

So how can you go about discovering your passion and start living the life you deserve? First and foremost, begin by following this list of how to learn love yourself, and do it EVERY day. Next, learn to slow down and rewrite the negative stories in your head. We all tell ourselves stories about who we are, what we are capable of, and what we deserve. If we can identify our self-limiting stories then we can begin writing new stories that are grounded in confidence and courage, and map out actions that move us from one to the other.

Also realize that in the whole universe there is only one you, and that within you is a gift that you need to share with the world. We are all here for a reason. No one else has your unique blend of talents, wisdom, strengths, skills, and creativity. We all have something great to offer, and learning to accept and own what makes you unique is crucial to sharing your gifts with the world. And part of discovering that gift is in developing a self-love which then leads to an inner confidence. Of course there is a chance you may fail when we try something new or novel or something to better ourselves, but it will be impossible to succeed if you do not at least try. As I say, “In victory I learn little, in defeat everything.” It is in those defeats that you build the confidence and overcome the fear of failure and doubt. And as stated earlier, it is pushing past that fear that is so critical. It is so seductive to tell ourselves to go after our passion when we have more experience, more security, more money, or more time, but the truth is, that will never happen. The right time to start a thing was 10 years ago. The second best time is now. We must identify these excuses as decoys for our fear. Only when we get clear on our fears and recognize how they are holding us back that we can begin moving forward. And we cannot get clear on those fears until we give ourselves the love we have.

Of course it is easy to focus on the fear, but what a person who loves themselves does, is focus on the fun and joy of their passion. Too often we get wrapped up in the expectations we set for ourselves. We focus on the details and the to-do lists instead of what is most important. What do you love to do? What brings you joy? What makes you smile? If money were not an obstacle, what would you be doing today? Whatever that thing is, when you are doing it, it should leave others wondering if you are working or playing or both?

And finally, in discovering you passions, you may have to be patient. It is said that if you do what you love you will never work a day in your life and as long as you are committed to living your passion, you will eventually succeed. As William Hutchinson Murray states, "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now." When you are following your passions, unexpected doors will open for you. With this new found clarity, you are more likely to spot opportunities that will lead to your success. When you have developed a deep sense of self-love, you will be more able to keep believing in yourself and abilities, especially in moments when you feel stuck, overwhelmed or do not see tangible results. Some time ago, a palliative nurse recorded the most common regrets and put her findings into a book called “The Top Five Regrets of The Dying.” The number one regret was: “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself and instead lived the life that others expected of me.” Do not wait till your deathbed to live the life that you want and do work you love. Carpe Diem!

12. Learn to Forgive Yourself
“When you like the person you are when you are by yourself, you will never be lonely.” This quote goes to the heart of forgiving and loving yourself well. The only person you can control, if even that, is yourself. You have really no or little control in other people. So, in every moment, in every relationship you have that choice to continue to feel bad about another person’s actions, or to start feeling good about yourself. Bottom line, if you want to be able to love yourself, you need to take responsibility for your own happiness, and not put such power into the hands of another person. Oh, and no amount of analyses has ever fixed a relationship problem, be it your parents, spouse, or significant other. Never, not in the entirety of the world’s history has studying a relationship ever fixed the dysfunctions of it. So why choose to engage in so much thought and devote so much energy to a person who you feel has wronged you?

So, what is the alternative? Well, forgive them, and yourself. Forgive them not because they deserve it, but because you do. We do not have to forget what someone has done to us, but if we want to practice self-love, we have to be able to forgive them, and in doing so, we forgive ourselves. Often our pain and our stubbornness get us stuck, and we can never imagine forgiveness. But forgiveness is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it is simply saying, “Until I let the hurt go, I will never truly experience the joy I deserve in my life.” And the most important part of this is forgiving yourself! Sometimes we may end up blaming ourselves for the situation or hurt. If you cannot forgive yourself, how will you be able to ever love yourself and live in a future of peace and happiness? So, the next time you look into the mirror, you might be crying, but just let go of the past shit..and forgive yourself.

13. Less Is More: Simplify and Balance Your Life
While you are this journey of self discovery, forgiveness, abundance, and self-love, one of the things that could derail you is in wanting more. As I often say, “He is richest who wants least.” That does not mean you should not want anything, just that you may want to simply the things you want and not be possessed by your possessions. Acquiring more stuff will not make you happy, but acquiring more knowledge, skills, love, and friendships will. Sometimes doing work you love can mean less money in the bank in the short to medium term. And that is ok if you have prepared to simplify your life. Think cooking at home with friends over expensive dinners out; buy one less new outfit. You might find this purging a cathartic experience and most gratifying. It can unshackle you from long held beliefs about yourself and it pushes you to become resourceful and creative. In simplifying and streamlining, you realize that the pleasures of life are rarely related to money.

So once you begin to simplify your life and jettison things you do not really need, it becomes easy to know if you are leading a balanced life. You will discover that you can enjoy every moment and every second, you can cope with any difficulties, you can be happy without any reason to be happy, and ultimately you can be yourself and love the person you are. Today the world constantly tries to throw you out of balance and sometimes no matter what you do you still feel like your life is going in the wrong direction. At this point simplifying you life might seem like one of those theoretical concepts that nobody can put into practice but in fact there is nothing easier than living a balanced life. It starts will figuring out what is important and what is not in your life. Dramatic, negative, crazy acting people are not important. Things you cannot control are not important. Other people’s problems are not important (unless the specifically ask for your help, and then, you may have to direct them to professionals). The only thing that is important is you, and how you are here to first make yourself into a loving person, and then how you will help others in the world.

At first this takes focused work, but once you get in the flow and discover the simple ways to steer your life in your desired direction you will feel empowered. There will only be little victories at first, but then you will be inspired and energized by how those little victories add up. You will see how your life will be full of amazing adventures and events that will make every day memorable. You will not be wasting your life anymore or spending gloomy hours contemplating about the misfortunes that might have happened to you, which are usually from you owning somebody else’s misfortune. Living a balanced life does not mean that it will be full of only positive people and events that will bring you happiness every moment of your life; not at all. Balanced living is when you can always offset any negative event in your life with a positive one. Learning to love yourself will help you to always see the light at the end of the tunnel. Balanced living is when you are happy working and playing equally. If you picture the love you give and happiness and everything great in your life as a diamond, then any negative things that may happen are just the setting that makes this diamond shine only brighter.

Living in balance is its own reward because your life becomes one of joy, happiness and serenity, and that joy naturally spills out into everything you do and everyone you meet. If you put some time and effort into self-love and turning your life into a balanced direction then you too will live a truly Zen life. As stated earlier, the most difficult part about simplifying life is dealing with emotional attachments and going against social approval. We are so used to a certain order of things and certain cultural rules that we do not even doubt them. This “Keeping Up with the Jones” does nothing but keep us from discovering our own center and simplicity and true power, which is love. So jettison other peoples’ beliefs of how you should live your life, and go live it, with realism and optimism.

14. Practice REALISTIC Optimism about the Future
I have actually met people who believe that having a talisman, like a ring, will bring you abundance. One woman I knew actually bought an abundance ring and believed that just owning it would bring her success, fame, fortune and abundance. Note: YOU CAN'T WISH FOR ABUNDANCE! I know some people think by just thinking of or wishing for or buying something, like an abundance ring, is going to bring abundance into your life. It does not and will not. Having an amulet or lucky trinket and just believing makes as much sense as thinking that a leprechaun will bring a pot of gold to your door.

I am NOT saying that a positive attitude is not necessary to see and realize a better future. But in order to get to the future, it takes work and getting off your ass and developing into some who earns abundance. Yes, sometimes people do get lucky, and good fortune smiles upon them, but it is usually a single event, and before they know it, that “abundance” has disappeared. Because I have met some seemingly bright people fall into the delusionary state of “think it and it will happen” I thought I would put down my thoughts on what it really takes to have abundance in your life. The assumption here is that a person with this “wish syndrome” is lacking in these very important tools needed to truly achieving their abundance.

Of course, people who are optimistic tend to be happier, healthier and cope better when times are tough. So there are a lot of advantages to looking at the world through a positive lens and focusing on the things that are good. Albert Bandura, one of the founding fathers of modern psychology, argued decades ago that optimism is the basis for creating and maintaining motivation to reach goals. And that an individual's success is mostly based on the fact whether or not she believes she will succeed. The results of his findings have yet to be proven wrong.

However, it is possible to be unrealistically optimistic, which on the surface sounds innocuous, but in reality is not a good thing. It is certainly not helpful to put a positive spin on everything or pretend that things are fine if they clearly are not. Certain studies have demonstrated the consequences of unrealistic optimism and have found that greater optimism is associated with less preventive behavior, i.e. that sometimes a more realistic, and seemingly negative, style might lead to being more focused, better prepared, and more cautious. These Unrealistic Optimists, or naive realists, are convinced that success will happen to them almost automatically and that they will succeed effortless. Some of them even think (and hope) that only by sending out positive thoughts the universe might reward them by transforming all of their wishes and aspirations into reality. This is a form of delusion known as pronoia (the believe that all the universe is conspiring to make you successful, the opposite of paranoia).

On the contrary, being a pessimist does no one any good. Pessimists tend to not give themselves adequate credit for successful outcomes. They also have a tendency to view negative events as expected and lasting. Still, whether we are naturally an optimist or more of a pessimist, it is impossible to know what the future holds. As Peter Drucker said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” The best way to create your future is to be a realistic optimist - someone who tends to maintain a positive outlook, but within the constraints of what they know about the world and the drive to make the changes they can in it. And to be a realistic optimist, you have to understand that you first have to give yourself love.

Just to be clear, realistic optimists are vigorously optimistic, too. They strongly believe that they make things happen and that they will succeed. They have no doubt about it. Realistic optimist know that in order to be successful they have to plan well, to access all necessary resources, to stay focused and persistent, to evaluate different options, and to execute in excellence. And the most important thing here is execution.

So in a side-by-side comparison of these personally types, the pessimist complains about the wind; the naïve optimist expects it to change; the realistic optimist adjusts the sails. The difference in the first two and the last one is the last one put something in motion to make the opportunity arise. Essentially, he took steps to create his abundance. As the saying goes, heaven helps those who help themselves. Being both optimistic and realistic, were you are combining the two into one behavioral style of realistic optimism creates a special breed of very successful people. Realistic optimists understand that value of developing the self love within, and stay positive and upbeat about the future, even and especially if and when they see and recognize the challenges ahead of them. As such realism and optimism are not diametrically opposed, but in contrarian fashion of love, they are actually complementing each other in a very powerful manner and bringing you closer to the future you deserve.

So, there you have it. Fourteen steps to guide you on your journey to a more awakened and alive you. One that has learned how to love oneself, and in turn can now love others. One day, you will look back and see how the world you once knew no longer exists. Not because the world has changed so much, but you have.. You have grown in ways too numerous to list here. To paraphrase Isaac Newton concerning this new found wisdom, “I seem to have been but a boy, standing on the beach, now and then finding a smoother rock or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." This new ocean is the freedom and power you give yourself through the love you have developed internally can now manifest itself into intense relationships, deep friendships, and solid long lasting partnerships. Your whole countenance and demeanor will change. You will discover that yes, the one true commandment in the universe is love, but without loving yourself, you were incapable of every understanding or practicing that. Good luck on this quest of self discovery. May you discover the love within you that you deserve and share it with all you come in contact with.


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