Q: is loving oneself a knowing, or a refreshing feeling in the soul? how do i accept myself? how do i become grateful for my own existence? — debbie, indiana

A: For many people, grateful acceptance of life comes about vicariously. Someone loves them so thoroughly and infectiously that self-love springs up naturally, in balance with love for others.

If you haven’t had this experience of being irrevocably loved, then you face a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. Even if you haven’t received the kind of love that inspires deep self-acceptance, that love is never far from you. It permeates the universe, which is the reason we’re able to offer it to each other – and to ourselves – at all. You can find it in the embracing solitude of the woods, the light in a child’s eyes, the companionship of stars in the night sky: anywhere and in anything that reminds you that you belong here.

You recognize loving acceptance in these sources outside yourself because it lives in you, too. In fact, the gentle tone of your letter leads me to believe that you are not without experiences of this knowing, but perhaps simply crave more. You already realize that this love refreshes your soul and provides you with a deep knowing. These realizations are like flickers of a newly lit fire, which you can fan into great flames, urgently needed to warm our chilled world.

How, you ask? Try using the tools on this website for help. Light a candle every other day in appreciation for any one facet of your life. Choose a difficult facet from time to time so that you can begin to see how pain and joy weave together to make complex and magnificent tapestry of our lives. As this habit of appreciating your life grows, read Brother David’s article Practicing Gratitude to learn ways to strengthen it. And since one way we learn that we are lovable is by loving, try the exercises in A New Reason for Gratitude, which help you reach out in understanding and acceptance to others. Thus you build a network of caring support in which your efforts to love get met by love in return, filling the thirsty reservoirs within you.

With deep regard,
Patricia Campbell Carlson

Gratefulness.org webteam member (2001-2013) and past Executive Director of A Network for Grateful Living