Any goal we wish to accomplish, be it physical, mental or spiritual, can be fueled in two ways: with a wholesome, peace-driven and compassionate energy or with a sort of grinding, rocky sense of self-loathing.
Either we think that we are not worthy of compassion in some way, or we have learned that habit of poor self-image and never investigated it, but that self-depreciating attitude colors everything in our lives. Interpersonal relationships are rotten from the inside when one or both partners are in that state. The negativity leeches through into shared space and kills the joy of loving, of living. It crushes creativity, health, inner peace and joy. It pushes others away. Children learn it like a deadly, contagious disease. And any goal which we accomplish with that negative energy will inevitably lead to suffering, it will come undone. We truly have to learn to love ourselves before everything else in life can work smoothly.
When people said that in front of me, as a teenager, I felt rage! How clearly, I thought, must they be foolish! Of course I was capable of love. I loved others, just not myself I thought. But that love was hot/cold and dependent on my mood. It was qualified and attached love for the most part. I gave of myself as much as I knew how, but my lack of consistent inner peace wrecked one of the most important relationships in my life.
No matter how toned, tight or tiny I became, at 2 hours a day in the gym, I still had no peace. It was as if my weight were a golf score- the lower it was the better of a person I felt like. I suffered so many digestive problems, and was always so hungry. I counted calories like a tyrant, and was so strict it wasn't real. I'd be so hungry that I'd binge at times, because I was so very hungry and my body was wearing out. Somehow, I realized that I couldn't live like that anymore.
I couldn't tell you exactly how, since I had about 10 minutes experience with Yoga previously, and had said that I had no time for it because my "real workout" took too much time everyday, but somehow, all I wanted to do was learn Yoga. I printed poses off the internet and practiced without knowing anything at all. Within a few months I was moving to Miami and undertook a Yoga teacher training.
Once at the ashram, while studying, and once a few years later, I had an opening, a huge release of past tensions, negativity and blockages. It hit me like a wave of depression, and I had to cry, sob, weep, loud and long. The first time, I felt miraculously relieved right away, and strolled back to the ashram on the beach filled with love, gratitude and light. The second time it was foggier, and took a few weeks or more to assimilate. I beleive these kinds of openings are common at certain points on the path. They help us to burst open and shed our previous skin, leaving behind the mistake of self-loathing, of judgement, of poisonous negativity.
Over the years, I literally had to gain back all that weight I lost so painfully and finally lose it all over again in a self-loving way. I don't know what I weigh anymore and don't care to know. I am happy with my self and my body, I am healthy and that's what matters. But its funny that by my old standards, my body gets better all the time. Once I stopped beating my brains out trying to get it, once I surrendered and finally found some peace, then it came, once I had given it up!
I have practiced dilligently, to the best of my awareness, since then. Slowly over the next few years I was completely cured of my tragic self-image issues. Having a child and recommitting to veganism killed the rest of those negative seeds. Now I have great inner peace. I am content with who I am, my body, and my life. I am not enlightened by any means, but I am on the path everyday, inch by inch, breath by breath feeling really beautiful changes in my heart and life.
I am here to attest that if you don't have self-love or inner peace, make THAT the goal. The body or beauty or riches will come by that path, or by none at all.