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LOOKING THROUGH THE LENS OF LOVE
Adapted from the works of Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.

If we pay any attention at all to the world around us, we can't help but be bombarded by red and pink hearts this time of year and all sorts of talk about romantic love. It would be hard to imagine that any human being would find it acceptable to live without some form of loving relationship in their life - whether family, friends, or lovers. Yet, cultivating loving relationships often seems like a huge challenge. When faced with something as daunting as finding love, the best thing to do is to start at the beginning, where all love in our lives should begin - within ourselves.

Cultivating love for ourselves can be an extraordinary experience, for the more love we cultivate for ourselves the more love we have to share with others. Susan wrote:

The most important purpose of my life is to learn how to become a more loving person.

In The Feel the Fear Guide to Lasting Love, Susan guides us: ''When you open your heart, you not only let the love out, you also let it in.'' How can we expect to get love if we can't give it in return? How can we expect to give love if we can't even love ourselves?

In today's world, it is common for many of us to feel as if we aren't good enough and to put ourselves down. We feel like Nobodies and wish we were Somebodies. Self-criticism, like any criticism, can be constructive in small amounts, but when we constantly criticize ourselves we bow under the heavy weight of those negative words. It's hard to cultivate any sort of love in our lives when we are so burdened with the negative talk of our inner chatterbox.

When we give in to the inner chatterbox, we forget to feel hopeful, we forget to experience joy, we forget that life is full of wonderful opportunities. Our chatterboxes make us forget to love ourselves and our own experience of life. Susan often wrote about silencing our inner chatterbox and in many of her books offered tools to tame it. It is only within ourselves that we can create loving feelings and create a love for ourselves.

''Who you are is someone who has the power within to create a Heaven on earth for yourself and to radiate a piece of that Heaven out to everyone whose life touches yours,'' she tells us in Dare to Connect.

Yes, it's hard work, but the rewards can be unbelievable. By seeking to quiet our inner chatterboxes and cultivate self-worth and love, we can begin to have truly meaningful relationships with those around us.

''Remember: You are too important to deprive yourself and others of the power and love you hold within. Sharing ourselves with others gives life meaning and purpose... and a feeling of fulfillment and inner peace.'' Cultivating our love for ourselves is the most important work we can do if we want to be able to love and be loved in return.

To begin nurturing love in your life you must begin by looking at how you feel about yourself. Do you feel as if you matter? Do you appreciate yourself and your contributions to the world? If you answered no to either of these questions, you need to think again. You matter. If you look with a less critical eye, you will see that every day, as you interact with strangers and people you know, you bring joy into the world. You have a lot to contribute. Every day you touch the lives of others, you bring a smile to someone's face. You tell a joke and make someone laugh. You reach out and connect. And by doing so, you are creating self-worth. It's not a matter of just looking at yourself. You must look at yourself through the lens of love. Only this way can you become a more loving person.

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