4 min read
By Janet Chui, author and professional artist of The Self-Love Oracle
When The Self-Love Oracle was first created, I received some skepticism and teasing about its title. If I had thought oracle cards were a new thing for most people, self-love seemed an even more unknown thing. If someone’s thoughts didn’t immediately jump to the gutter, I was asked if I wasn’t encouraging narcissism by encouraging self-love.
Thankfully I’ve had time to recognize my younger, former self in these questions. The L-word (“love”) had been somewhat taboo in my upbringing, during which the common wisdom was that affection and praise made children soft. Spoiling them was universally known to make them lazy—so, by popular agreement, what children needed to learn was gratitude, submission, striving, and productivity. These lessons were emphasized by our authority figures and in our moral fables and textbooks, even practiced in the rituals of conversing with one’s elders. If anyone was scolded, punished, shamed, or deprived, we were told it was for our own good. To be loved, I had to become the good child.
It was also in this environment that self-loathing and self-denial took an early hold. Children like me learned that our worth was directly tied to how much we could please and provide to others. If this provision was at our own expense, then it was even more praiseworthy. Showing “disrespect” earned censure and the withdrawal of what already little love was shown. This ever-present threat of “no love” was employed to shape us a certain way, and it took me a long time to see the damage.
It’s no wonder to me that more of us might have grown up with self-loathing than self-love. Especially if we saw that emotions (even positive ones like affection) were treated as weakness or taboo. I learned to feel shame when I started developing chronic health issues (ie. more signs of weakness) by the time I was 12. And I was blamed because I was “too young” to be sick, and my issues were probably “psychosomatic” and not real.
Now I know that children’s needs are complex, but I was one kid against all the adults I knew, and I had not yet earned the chops to argue for my own emotional and developmental needs, not to mention my mental health. Instead, I learned to hide everything I was, including the inconvenient problems I presented. Also, to be an artist, I heard repeatedly, was the dumbest thing I could aspire to be.
If we were taught to reject ourselves as children, to feel shame in what we took delight or pride in, or if we were expected to display adult behaviors and comprehension when we were not developmentally ready, we probably learned to hate these “wrong” parts of ourselves. But, in reality, we were not lacking or to blame.
The Self-Love Oracle had its beginnings in a time I didn’t yet know what self-love was. I didn’t have many outlets for my feelings, but paper and pigment were silent and relatively safe (as long as I could keep my paintings hidden, so I thought). Now, releasing many of these heartfelt paintings to the world, I realize these paintings were a record of my own journey from self-loathing to self-love. The drawings and paintings were the language of my hidden self before I learned how to accept and verbally articulate my emotional experiences. I also needed to unlearn shame for being a feeling and sensitive person.
Healing and the journey to self-love are one and the same, and it’s going to require us to unlearn a lot of false wisdom that we were taught, as well as to feel, understand, and know ourselves. In my own journey, I also needed to learn, and accept the science, of how our bodies, nervous systems, and survival mechanisms work. I learned to listen to my body and its needs and what it was trying to tell me that I needed to change in my own life. It meant I needed to listen to my feelings too, not just to paint them!
Our sensitivity is not only part of our wholeness; it’s one of the tools we need on our self-healing journey to give to ourselves what we need. Unlearning shame and regaining our innate self-worth is also required so that we know deeply that we deserve to be happy and loved.
So, what is self-love? It is so many things; it is a verb, a feeling, a skill that accepts many tools and approaches. It is a way of living, being, and healing.
Self-love is a practice. As we learn to love and to express this powerful and transformative energy in endless variations, let’s not exclude ourselves from it.
Janet Chui was born in Singapore. Since childhood, she found refuge and expression in drawing things both real and imagined. She is a professional artist who has created fantasy, spiritual, and mythological paintings over her lifetime, and in 2009 she was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist.
Janet has a bachelor of arts in journalism and is currently studying counseling psychology. She has experienced motherhood, divorce, Tibetan Buddhism, healing, and the supernatural, all of which encouraged her to help others heal through self-acceptance and creative expression. For more about Janet and her work, visit: www.janetchui.com.
Start your journey to self-love today with Janet Chui and her card deck The Self-Love Oracle.Available now: https://beyondword.com/products/the-self-love-oracle.
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