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In the wake of the Orlando Shootings, the latest massacre of innocent victims, I turn my attention not to the victims, but the shooter. The person who was so filled with hatred, that he opened fired upon unsuspecting human beings who were simply out to enjoy themselves. How does one go from an innocent baby to a mass murderer? How does one acquire so much hatred in his heart that he unleashes his fury upon not just one, but hundreds of others? These are the question we need to keep asking ourselves.

Most can not help but focus on the victims.  They are the ones who suffered.  They are the ones whose families are going through shock, disbelief and unbelievable grief.  It is the same way, I turn my attention towards my son when he has been bullied on and off this year.  It is natural to turn our attention and our hearts to the victims, not to the offender who somehow, someway, turned his feelings of worthlessness, powerlessness, loneliness, self-hatred, anger and self loathing upon others. So why am I focusing on someone who committed such a horrendous act?  Why would I want to help a bully?

It is a not a new saying that “hurt people, hurt people.” And there are a lot of “hurt people” walking around our world.  Thankfully most of them do not unleash their pain on others with semi automatic rifles.  But all we need to do is to look around to see the pain in another’s eyes, the disconnect and loneliness so many people feel who walk upon this earth. Forget loving ourselves, most people don’t even like themselves.  Is this shooter just an extreme example of how many people feel in this world?

In order to stop the hurting, we need to face our own feelings of self-hatred. So many of us search for so much in this life. We search for money, fame, relationships and achievements, yet all of this leads us down a path away from ourselves. So we keep searching and we don’t even know what we are searching for.  And when we come up empty. We drink, we work too much, we become addicted to pain killers, we worry about our weight or how we are aging. We dye, nip, tuck, and hide. And we still come up empty.

What we are searching for cannot be had, obtained or kept. It cannot be stolen. It cannot be taken. It cannot be felt by hurting another.  What we are searching for is love.  More specifically, self-love.

You do not need to be religious or to be in a relationship to understand what it means to feel loved. This is temporary love, the kind that disappears when the person or object goes away. Most never know what that feels like – to love themselves.

What does that even look like?

I saw a post the other day by Anita Moorjani , a woman who became physically sick with cancer, and was given a few days to live. That was ten years ago. The post read, “How well does love thy neighbor as thyself work, if you don’t even love yourself?” How Anita is still alive today? The lymphoma had spread throughout her body, and on the eve of her inevitable passing, she had a near death experience. You can read about it in more detail here, in her book, Dying To Be Me.  Anita defied all medical knowledge. Within weeks her cancer was 50% resolved, and within months, not a trace of cancer found within her body.  The message she received was “Love yourself like your life depends on it, because it does!” She speaks today about the importance of loving ourselves. That is why she is still here.

And I cannot agree more. We need to love ourselves beyond what we think we deserve.  And then when we are spilling over with love, well beyond our expectations, then we give this love away to others, well beyond their wildest expectations.

This is not about becoming self-centered, but performing self-care.  What is the difference? Self-care is about taking good care of our own feelings so we don’t project them onto others, act badly, or cause problems in relationships. Being in touch with our own feelings and embracing them is the healthiest thing we can do. Being honest when we feel jealous, angry or sad. Feel them all and allow them to come and go without lashing out. Self care is about taking care of our hearts, bodies and soul on the deepest level imaginable. Self centeredness or narcissism is an inflated sense of someone’s own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. There is a big difference.

Are we loving ourselves enough?

Enough to find time to meditate so we can feel the rhythm of our own breath?

Enough to feed our bodies nutritious foods?

Enough to find balance between work, play and family?

Enough to say no when we are asked to stray from our truth?

Enough to stand up for what we believe even in the face of opposition?

Enough to come out of the closet?

Enough to set boundaries with others, especially those we love?

Enough to be honest with our how feel?

Enough to speak kindly to ourselves?

Enough to realize that we are good enough, just the way we are?

Enough to listen to our bodies when we are thirsty, hungry or tired?

Enough to say to ourselves what we never heard from another?

Enough to love ourselves no matter what we have done, said, or thought?

We Matter.

You Matter.

I Matter.

If we all loved ourselves beyond our expectations, our hearts would be transformed; our lives would be transformed; our world would be transformed.

This is dedicated to anyone who never felt they were good enough. Even those that pulled the trigger.