What a person believes to be true, and the actions they are willing to take based on those beliefs, shape every decision they make.

When the United States declared independence from Britain, the founders wrote a document that enumerated the founding principles of the new country.This declaration of independence established the ability of the new country to have authority over itself.

Divorce was much like a declaration of independence for me. But independence implies some sort of authority over oneself. I don’t know if it’s possible to establish self-authority or self-authorship (the ability to write your own life) without the foundation of self-love.

What do you believe in, and what do you stand for? Personal beliefs are the soil that surround your seed of self-love, giving the seed a place to safely send down some roots and in time to break the surface, opening up toward the light with bursts of color, form, perfume, and grace. Right now we are all learning how to send down those roots of self-love into the solid ground of what we believe.

Have you ever thought about writing down your own declaration of what you believe? I have! This is my declaration:I believe that we are all created powerful and divine—that each of us has a right to a life directed by our own inner voices, the freedom to make choices about the paths we will walk, and the pursuit of wholeness.

I believe that we all have within us the heart of a revolutionary and the wisdom to construct peace.

I believe that the definition of mother is not that of a servant, slave, or female who is willing to put the desires of everyone else before her own.

I believe that inside every woman is a creative womb where ideas, children, dreams, and spirit rest enclosed in her body, ready to be transformed into life when the time is right. I believe that the depth of love contained in the collective soul of women has just begun to be uncovere —that, as a group, women are moving toward one another and thus toward strength.

I The Courage to Love Again believe that each thought I have has the power to transform my actions and that my actions really can make a difference.

I could go on, but I want you to look into your own heart. Look at your life for clues about what you believe. What do you believe about yourself ? About yourself as a woman? About women—and men? What do you believe about love? Take time to write your own declaration.

Knowing your beliefs is important for your journey into love, because when you are able both to act on your beliefs and to make them a reality in your life, you will be actively loving yourself. I’ll show you how it works.

If I say I believe that mothers are not meant to be servants yet I still act like a servant, then in that area I am not showing love toward myself. If I believe in the collective soul of all women, then I have to live as if each woman I meet is part of me and to open my heart to her accordingly.

If I believe that my thoughts have the power to transform my actions, I better pay attention when my negative thoughts come up.

If my goal is to learn to love myself, then I need to give my beliefs the power they deserve, not doubt my right to have them or try to change them to fit into someone else’s view.

You see, it is our thoughts combined with our actions that create an opportunity to practice love toward ourselves. And so we need to be aware of both actions and thoughts that are not self-loving—the negative thoughts, the self-destructive tendencies, the absence of any time to ourselves.

Once we can see clearly how we treat ourselves, in both belief and action, then it is possible to make changes that bring us closer to loving care for ourselves. For any of us who may be drowning in negative beliefs about ourselves, our choices, our past, our looks, or our career, the process of waking up to our own beliefs is even more important.

Until we can rewrite our beliefs, loving ourselves will not be possible. Sandra, a mother of four, realized only after much time had passed that she believed she deserved the abusive treatment she was receiving from her husband.“It took hundreds of experiences of verbal abuse before I even thought about divorce,” she said. “When it turned to physical abuse we went to a counselor. From the beginning it was never his problem. He seemed to have good reasons why I needed to be yelled at or hit.

The therapist recommended that he join a group for male abusers, but he quit the group after a few weeks. He came home and threw a schedule at me and said it was my turn to go to a group so that I could change my behaviors too. He didn’t pay attention to the fact that he was sending me to an abuse recovery group! At the first meeting, someone gave me a book on verbally abusive relationships: how to recognize when you are in one and what to do about it.

I can look back on this now and am still shocked that I hadn’t admitted to Loving Yourself  myself that I was being abused. On some sick level I began to believe what he said about me, that I deserved it in some way.

I knew I was moody and that I could provoke him, so in a sense I believed that it was okay for him to abuse me, and I put up with it for years.” It is impossible to love yourself if you are allowing other people to hurt you emotionally or physically.

If you have built your belief system on negative messages that you have heard for years, it is time to create new beliefs about yourself.

Many women who have been abused actually begin to interpret the abuse as a form of disciplinary love from their husbands. Don’t be fooled by your past experiences. Make sure your beliefs are rooted in nurturing love, not judgments you may have made in the past.

If you blame yourself when things go wrong, keep in mind that self blame can be a way of not feeling so powerless.

But, it is not a path to self-love. Chances are, most of us have grown up with a lot of harmful messages about what it means to love oneself. Think about the words we’ve heard throughout our lives that describe attention to oneself.

Especially if that self is a woman, the words are all negative: selfish, self-serving, manipulative, controlling, bitchy, and demanding. With these messages, is it any wonder that we may find it hard to learn how to love ourselves?