Of course, to remind another of their full beauty you have to be fully aware of your own. The Baal Shem Tov has a wonderful teaching on the biblical mandate “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” First it is a statement of fact–you love your neighbor precisely as much as you love yourself. For in the end, you can only perceive another’s greatness if you have glimpsed and believe in your own. Self-love is self-perception.
If this is so, then a powerful question arises. How do you love yourself when you know all of your foibles, pathologies and blemishes? Isn’t self-love self-perception? And does not honest perception yield forth all of the reasons why we are not lovable? And yet most of us manage, at least to some degree, to love ourselves. Is it just self-deception? No, not at all. Love is not merely perception, it is a perception-identification complex. Self-perception means that although you are aware of the full complexity of your personae–the good, the bad, and the ugly–you identify the essence of who you are with your good–your good, loving, giving, creative, and generous self.
That does not mean that you deny your beast. It is, of course, critical to integrate all of you into your self picture. To love yourself is to identify yourself as part of the Shechina. Writes the Baal Shem Tov, “To love yourself is to love the Shechina.” Not to love yourself is to send the Shechina into exile. So proclaim the Kabbalists, to which Rumi adds:
By God, when you see your beauty
You will be the idol of yourself.
In your deepest nature you must know that you are the hero of your story. In your deepest nature you are love and grace and strength and splendor. Now you must decide to identify with your deepest nature. Do you focus on your innocence or your guilt? Do you focus on your ever-inevitably dirty hands, or on your ever-eternally pure soul? To love yourself or anyone else, you need to know that your innocence is your essence. That you always remain worthy of love. That your innocence is never lost.
The Mystery of Love
Dr. Marc Gafni
Pages 121, 122