The Sacred Self, The Sacred Vow, and 8 Rules of Self Love

Annah ElizabethLove, Marriage, Self loveLeave a Comment

“My vows are sacred,” I said thousands of times during my marriage, one that proved to be more toxic to my own well-being than it was healthy. That expression was but one of the many beliefs and goals that kept me “fighting the good fight” and staying in an unhealthy union, and it was not until I extricated myself from the ongoing traumas and hurts that I realized what “…for better or worse, in sickness and health, ’til death do us part” had been doing to my psyche and soul.

“My life is sacred,” Renata, a woman I met in a divorce support group, said to me several times during our private conversations. That expression is one of the realizations she had shortly after fleeing an emotionally and physically abusive marriage, on the eve of the last time her spouse, who had also spoken those sacred vows to her, would hit her.

One day, as I paced a two block section of my neighborhood, so as not to lose phone reception while talking to her, she stated her realization, again. This time, however, I had my own sort of Aha! moment, Neighbor. You see, I was reeling and ranting about some of the lies and fractional truths that were being told about me to my attorney and the courts, and was lamenting to her how I could not understand how someone could do that to a person they had vowed to love.

“I took those vows seriously; they were sacred to me,” I had said, earlier in our conversation.

“My life is sacred,” she said. “Your life is sacred. Every life is sacred,” she finished her sentence.

“Oh, wowwwww…,” I exhaled as her last words seemed to shake open a greater awareness within me. I paused in my tracks and breathed in the essence of what had just cracked a part of me wide open.

You see, the day my then-spouse threw many of his belongings into his van and left in a fit of rage after I asked him what a separation might look like, I found myself, unwittingly, on a quest to uncover what self love meant and what it looked like to me. Though I continued to read about relationships and go to therapy with him in an ongoing desire to heal our marital wounds, for the first time in a long time I found myself in a position where I could make many daily life and home choices without fear of him alienating or being angry with me. In Fear’s absence, I slowly began to realize just how invisible and unempowered I had allowed myself to become in trying to keep some sense of peace in the home.

“I never realized, until right now,” I said to Renata, “that all those years I had put my sacred vows ahead of my sacred self. If it weren’t for this conversation, I might not have been able to articulate that that was the choice I ultimately made when I recognized that my soul was going to die if I stayed in the same place I had been; for possibly the first time in my life, I was choosing my sacred self over my sacred vow.”

Eighteen months have passed since that epiphany, but the work did not stop there. I delved even deeper into what self love meant to me, some of the ways my previous actions had reinforced that previously unrecognized belief, and I did a great deal of self reflection and study on how to change the patterns of behavior I was bringing to the proverbial table and contributing to my own unhealthy sense of Self.

I have reflected long and hard on creating my own meaning and interpretation of Love, and I have come to better understand what “Self love is not selfish” and a host of other platitudes and inspirational quotes mean to me.

Below are eight truths I discovered about love, insights that not only helped me navigate divorce, parental alienation, and a much needed, cataclysmic change in every aspect of my life–the academic, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual facets–they enabled me to slowly, but surely, heal the brokeness I felt and to step into a healthier and happier Me.

8 Rules of Self Love

  1. Love is a verb.
    We tend to treat love as a noun. This is why some say “love is not enough.” A noun simply sits on its laurels, so to speak, whereas a verb requires action. What actions can you take to love yourself, Neighbor?
  2. You can love yourself above all else, without forsaking all else.
    When you love yourself first and fully, you have more energy to invest in others AND you are more likely to do so without building resentment. This leads to healtheir relationships and puts you in a position to serve and support others even more powerfully.
  3. Your life is sacred.
    No matter where or how we enter this world, each of us is born sacred. Treating the Academic, Emotional, Physical, Social, and Spiritual Facets as such is a healthy approach.
  4. A strong, compassionate and loving intrapersonal (internal) connection is paramount to experiencing healthy, interpersonal (external) relationships.
    When you listen to what your entire being needs to feel whole, others are more likely to listen to you, too. What do you need right now to feel whole, Neighbor?
  5. Adapt the old adage “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” to “Do unto myself as I would have others do unto me.”
    When you treat yourself the way you want others to treat you, you are not only loving yourself, you model how you want to be loved by others.
  6. Remember what Maya Angelou said. “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”
    Be aware when giving others the benefit of the doubt is simply a way of putting their needs ahead of yours. Example: You join a dating site. An interested party argues with you when you kindly let them know you are not interested. They then come back, calling you “Darling” and “Babe.” If someone disregards you this early on, believe them when their actions show you that your thoughts and desires do not matter to them!
  7. Identify your “deal breakers” and stick to them.
    Lisa Bilyeu, co-founder of the social brand, Impact Theory and author of Radical Confidence, talks about how she told the man who would become her future husband that if he ever cheated on her, the relationship would be over. Period. No discussion. No explanation. Deal breaker. Done.

    Another example is a recent interaction I had with someone as we got to know one another and explored the possibility of dating. His acknowledgment that he wanted a partner who also lived a similar vegan lifestyle and my recognition that such a drastic change did not feel right for me at this time allowed the two of us to part in a friendly manner and saved both of us from a future fallout that may likely have occured if we had tried to convince ourselves, or one another, to ignore those personal values and choices.
  8. Love is not conditional, nor is it created equal. Choose the love that is right for you.
    I had an early epiphany when I decided I had to exit my former circle of interpersonal relationships. It felt like many people around me lived a co-dependent way of life: they needed to take care of others to feel fulfilled. When I advocated for autonomy, I often felt ostracized and, as the years went by, found myself being pushed further and further out of that unit when I would not conform to, let alone agree with their many dysfunctional -isms. Those who did not buck the system they had in place were left in the fold, while other independent thinkers, like myself, were excluded from outings and decisions and were often the brunt of ridicule.

    I realized receiving their kind of love meant forsaking what I wanted for myself–being respected as an independent thinker–and that I no longer wanted their kind of love in my life. Furthermore, as someone who has always advocated that people can separate from a place of love, rather than hate, I knew I could respect the way they chose to show love AND I could choose that I did not want that form of love in my life.

I invite you to share how any of these lessons resonate with you, as well as what “love” means to you, Neighbor!

I see you. I feel you. I believe in you.

Yours in hope, healing, and happiness,


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