The other day I read something that was purportedly written by Charlie Chaplin back in the 1940’s. Although his authorship of the poem is sometimes disputed (some say it was written by a woman named Kim McMillen), the fact remains that it is very moving and inspiring.
Here is the text:
“As I Began to Love Myself”
As I began to love myself, I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know this is “AUTHENTICITY.”
As I began to love myself, I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today, I call it “RESPECT.”
As I began to love myself, I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today, I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE.”
As I began to love myself, I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today, I call it “SIMPLICITY.”
As I began to love myself, I freed myself of anything that is not good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today, I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF.”
As I began to love myself, I quit trying to always be right; and ever since, I was wrong less of the time. Today, I discovered that is “MODESTY.”
As I began to love myself, I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today, I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT.”
As I began to love myself, I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today, I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART.”
We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations, or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today, I know “THAT IS LIFE!” (end)
I’m struck by how every sentence begins with “As I began to love myself” because it isn’t meant in the arrogant, unhealthy way of thinking you’re better than other people. It means beginning to have a healthy respect for yourself and to understand that you have a purpose in life and a potential to do good in the world.
He reminds us that our mind is a powerful thing. If we don’t learn to control it, it will control us. But if we make use of its awesome power, there’s almost nothing we can’t accomplish.
He also illustrates how we are all growing and learning in this life. How when “stars collide” it’s just part of life, part of the journey. Good things are on the other side of what appears to be bad at the moment.
So, no matter where this poem originated, the message is poignant and the wisdom is timeless and real: We are all learning to love ourselves and we all have lessons to learn on that path to self-love. We just need to understand that, and take joy in the journey.
And as I “begin to love myself,” I will remind myself to listen to my heart, and not just the voice of my ego. I’ve decided to take one stanza of the poem each week and use it in my writing and in my life. I think it will be a great catalyst for self-exploration.