On the eve of my first Valentine’s day as a married woman, I reflect back on an amazing year with a wonderful man who became my husband 10 months ago. It was not love at first sight. It was not the heart-pounding, pulse-racing, boot-quaking kind of “OMG I am in love” feeling when I saw him. No, it was more like, “well,um, he’s kind of cute, I might like to go out on a date with him.” (Or perhaps, truth be told, “I am going home with him tonight.”). How our relationship unfolded from its lukewarm origins, when I thought he was kind of weird, to this steady, unfailing love, is very much similar to how I came to love myself. And I can say my relationship with myself is on much rockier terms than my stable marriage.

My teacher Aadil Palkhivala talks a lot about the relationship with the self, or as we yogis call it, the spirit. He says that in order to really, truly love another person, you first MUST love yourself. And there’s no way around it. He says that we must know ourselves and claim ourselves, and ONLY THEN will we be ready to give, love and participate fully in life. You must love yourself as you are. “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance,” said Oscar Wilde.

Well, this girl is still waiting to give herself the roses and chocolates (and I most certainly do love the chocolates). My romance with myself hasn’t really caught on fire.  I found a wonderful mate who is happy with himself as he is, loves me for who I am, and yet here I am, every day, battling it out with myself. I know I should love myself. There are PLENTY of good reasons. I am fairly smart. I have a good sense of humor. I am kind, compassionate, caring. I am all that good stuff that a yogi should be. So why do I have such a tough time feeling a deep self-love, a connection to my spirit?

Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments. There are glimpses, when I am on the mat, on the cushion, connected to that inner being. But most times, that inner being is covered in all sorts of hate, loathing, fear, jealousy and all of those less-than-yogic qualities that I know are not good, yet they are still present. Still lurking just below the surface. It’s the shadow, my inner 13-year old who is so full of anger, rage and disgust. Then one that gets picked on for being too tall, too big, too fat, too slow to be worth anything. And yet here I am, 25 years later, still dealing with her. After all the yoga, the therapy and finally finding a man who loves me, she’s still there.

Damn that bitch. She’s gotta go.

So now what? I preach to my students, day in and day out, that it’s all about love, above all, self love. I truly believe it in my heart, yet I fail to live it in my own life. I feel like such a yoga fraud (quick, report me to the yoga police. Take my certification away!). So how do I find that self-love, knowing very well I am worth loving? I dig deep. I hit my mat every day and do my sadhana. I meditate on my own inner light, recognizing that when I get out of my head, out of my own self-doubt, into clear belief – THAT is when I will love myself. And so now, to get to work. Because as Rumi said, “”Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”