Humans crave love—we just can’t seem to get enough of it. In fact, one of our greatest fears is being rejected by others and ending up alone and unloved—irrational though that fear may be when examined in the light of all the love we have within us and around us.

The problem is, most of us go into relationships with a fantasy of love that is unconditional—a dream that more often than not turns into an absolute nightmare. And then we start daydreaming about what it could be like if things were different. What if we could escape this relationship and have another chance to live the life we missed out on. It’s a daydream that keeps us looking for something outside of ourselves to make us feel complete.

How do we recognize when we are living under the spell of a daydream? Daydreams always contain a contract or agreement that we make with life that goes like this: “When …. Then.”

When I find my true love (or my true calling, or the perfect house, or job. . .) then I will be happy (or successful, or fulfilled, or—you name it). But life does not like these bargains. We begin to wake up from the daydream when we turn the “when …. then” agreement around: When I love who I am, then others love me.

When we break the habit of searching for our soul mate we start to end the dream of unconditional love. The next action we must take is to love who we are, even with that nasty streak.

This is really tough, as we are the only ones who truly, really, know what a screw-up we are. We are the ones who know how many times we turned our back on opportunity, how we cowered in fear when we could have risen in valor. We have mistakenly associated love with approval, and now we need to take ourselves at face value.

And here’s how: Be fearless as you look at yourself. You are what you are. Take a deep breath and accept that for better and for worse, you are you. No one else is going to give you this kind of approval without extracting a sky-high price.

Love that part of your body that really bothers you—the crook in your nose, the extra roll on your belly, the double chin. As you love it, others will grow to love you in your totality as well. Analyzing your childhood is helpful only for a little while. Then you have to muster the courage and determination to get on with life—and with love, beginning with you. Start accepting your flaws and faults, loving every new wrinkle you see in the mirror, and holding everything that happened to you in your childhood and your life as a lesson and a gift.

Then you can stop pretending to be someone you are not. You can drop the mask of perfection together with the mask of the village idiot. Both are false, they are the masquerade we adopt in order to hide from ourselves, and keep the world from seeing us as we really are. Show yourself in all your flawed beauty. Don’t hide anything from the world or from yourself.

To practice loving yourself, cook a scrumptious meal when you are alone. Know that you have a heavenly guest coming for a feast: you! Don’t make a peanut butter and banana sandwich, prepare a healthy feast. Light a candle, set some flowers, bring out the linen napkins, know that you are the one you’ve been waiting for and you are coming to dinner tonight.

Dress as if you love yourself, eat as if you love yourself, forgive as if you love yourself, act as if you love yourself. Unconditioned love is a habit that has to be developed. You cannot get to it by chewing on the reasons why you can’t. You get to it by breaking the habit of conditioned love, which is the kind of love we learned while growing up. You break this habit by loving yourself unconditionally.


This is an excerpt from Dr. Alberto Villoldo’s upcoming book, The Heart of the Shaman: Stories & Practices of the Luminous Warrior.

Click here to pre-order yours today.