The go-to technique for opening the heart chakra among Buddhist practitioners is metta, or loving kindness, meditation. The practice begins by offering loving kindness to ourselves and then extending it outward to a loved one; a person we’re neutral about; somebody we find difficult; and finally, toward all sentient beings. The idea of starting with the self is that wishing oneself well is meant to be the easiest. But what if the message of “May I be happy” is the hardest of all to hold?
Self-love is not about selfishness or narcissism, but about sustaining a deep-seated sense of self-worth unconditional upon achievement. This is no small feat in our success-obsessed society, in which we tend to measure our value in money, social media likes, or in our perception of how others see us. We think we will feel good about ourselves if we can just lose five pounds, get a new job, or find a partner who adores us. The catch is that there’s always another goalpost, and to base our self-esteem upon such impermanent outer conditions is to lean our happiness on a house of cards.