One of the most important messages of my near-death experience was to love myself. It took me many years to learn this lesson more deeply, but I know that more love for myself has allowed me to love others to greater degrees.
Be Your Own Best Friend
As simple as it sounds, I had no idea before I encountered the unconditional love of God during my NDE that I could be my own best friend. I didn’t have to judge myself, feel shame for the things I had survived, or believe in the warped, often inaccurate, perceptions my fellow human made about me. They were only operating from their wounds and disconnection from love.
God loved me in a way I had never imagined possible. I felt healthier, happier, freer, and more alive in the presence of the divine light of God, and I knew that one of the most important things I could do throughout my life is to hold on to that love, even if all I could hold onto was a sliver of it.
Self-love makes us fiercely independent and wholly available for a true and honest connection with another person. Anita Moorjani writes that when we feel “…unworthy, undeserving and unloveable” we become someone “…who is needy, with a void that we believe needs to be filled by others because we believe it is selfish to fill it ourselves.”
I would also add that people who don’t fully love themselves can create BIG DRAMA in the attempt to manipulate others into loving them. Some people will go so far as to create a make-believe world (often on social media) where a garden-variety sex addict is fashioned into his or her “soulmate/twin flame.” I say this without judgment, but I say this because it is the truth.
Other people will fixate on others in unhealthy ways because they don’t have a clue how to love themselves. I’ve had stalkers and those who have fixated on me, and in retrospect I see this might be more because they loathed themselves and wanted what I had—self-love. We are our own connection to light and to source. Other people can dance with us in this life. They can choose to journey beside us and be our companion, but we can’t force others to give us a connection to source.
What is Self-Love?
Self-love is not arrogance or bragging. I’ve witnessed the types of people who brag, and in the past, I sometimes mistook bragging for a high self-esteem. We don’t see this trait in women as frequently, so it can sometimes be forgiven in them; however, in both women and men, bragging is usually a sign of an unstable identity which requires a lot of bolstering from their own words or the words of others. Every great comedian knows that making fun of oneself is the key to greater comedy. Those who don’t take themselves so freaking serious are much more likable.
Self-love looks like a conundrum from the outside. When you are deeply in love with yourself, you are not lost in ego or pride; rather, you care for yourself deeply. You can empathize with your sorrows, setbacks, and emotional pain. You can rejoice and celebrate your accomplishments. You do not berate yourself inwardly for not doing a better job, you simply take that energy out of the equation and do better in the future. Self-love allows you to grow; it allows you to embrace life and enjoy it. It also allows you to love others in this way.
I’m still learning lessons about how to effectively love myself. Take this weekend for instance. I sprained my ankle. Not a huge issue, and I felt blessed that I have a loving partner who helped me to a safe place to sit down, a partner who ran up several flights of stairs to get the car to take me to a clinic for an x-ray. As I waited for him to get the car, I wondered how I would handle this moment if he wasn’t by my side. I chatted with kind families who offered to stay with me as I waited for him. Many people offered to call an ambulance for me. Wonderful people are all around us, and we often forget this. We are a human family, and though there are many who don’t care, pay attention to the ones who do care. Bless everyone with your good wishes and kindness whenever possible. In those moments, you are contributing to a better world.
Throughout the process of dealing with physical pain, I observed my thoughts. At first, I wanted to berate myself for clumsiness, but accidents happen. Sprained ankles happen to those playing sports and to those who stumble off a sidewalk. I chose not to berate myself and to have empathy for myself and for every other person with an injury or illness. I chose to send healing, loving, compassion to my ankle. I chose to send love to everyone hurting for any reason. I also chose to move forward in my life and embrace more of my journey.
When I was a 22-year-old senior in college at the University of Texas, I was in a car crash that left me with three shattered vertebrae, a fractured ankle, and internal injuries. I had no insurance, no money, and it was only through the kindness of a young female spinal surgeon that I was taken in for spinal surgery after waiting strapped to a board for seventeen hours without painkillers. I bled to death on the operating table and that is when I experienced a profound, life-altering near-death experience.
At that time, I didn’t know fully how to love myself through that process in the ER, but I knew how to fight for my life. I knew how to beg and charm my surgeon into operating on me even though she had been on duty for over 40 hours. I overheard nurses say that another surgeon was going to stay on the golf course because I didn’t have insurance. I knew that my life was important whether I had health insurance or not. I knew that the lives of others are valuable. Whether they are rich, poor, middle-class or destitute; every person deserves to be treated with respect.
If only we could each have more love for ourselves and for others, this world would be a much better place. I hope near-death experience stories, which often describe encountering and all-loving Divine Light, teach us all that lesson. More kindness and more love is a motto that everyone can embrace, regardless of their spiritual beliefs, cultural conditioning, or political affiliation.
Loving the world around you is not always easy, but it is an admirable feat, and intimate relationships are the great test of how much love we can give and anchor in our lives. They challenge us and ask us to rise to new levels of acceptance, peace, gratitude, and openness to love.
Self-Love is Many Things
Self-love is being able to get out of oneself enough to give love to others. Self-love is knowing that you are o.k. no matter what you experience. In the afterlife, I realized that we don’t take our riches with us. Our love and our kindness is our legacy and true wealth.
There is no reason to suffer or take a vow of poverty in your life, but there is absolutely no reason to cause harm or be hateful to others for any reason. Self-love opens space to be a much better person in a relationship. You are not operating from a place of manipulation when you love yourself. You are operating from a place of love and that makes all the difference.
Self-love is seeing yourself as priority and worthy of health, healing, and goodness. It is seeing others as worthy as well. As Anita Moorjani aptly says, “Love yourself as if your life depends on it; because it does.”
Tricia Barker experienced a profound near-death experience during her senior year of college, and this experience guided her to teach overseas, in public schools, and at the college level. National Geographic and A&E’s I Survived: Beyond and Back covered Tricia’s story. Currently, Tricia teaches English and Creative Writing at a beautiful community college in Fort Worth, Texas. Tricia’s memoir in-progress, Healed, chronicles the moment of her accident, her near-death experience, and other moments of trauma that affect many women. The book focuses on being of service to the world as one way to heal from trauma. Tricia’s poetry has been featured in The Binnacle, The Paterson Literary Review, and The Midwest Quarterly.