How Heartbreak Led Me to Love Myself First

(Photo above courtesy of Kelsey Miller)

Kelsey Miller, of Woburn, Massachusetts, shares how chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo has helped her love herself for who she is.

Six years ago, I felt the air sucked from my lungs when my relationship ended. I was in excruciating pain. So, I turned to my Buddhist practice to get my boyfriend back. I even set a date two months out by when this would happen. I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo a lot each day toward my “deadline.”

When the day came and he hadn’t called, my heartbreak intensified. I’ve done everything I’m supposed to, I thought. Still, I challenged myself to continue chanting and participating in Buddhist meetings, determined to become happy.

Around this time, my mother mentioned words of wisdom from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of the Little Prince, about how true love isn’t two people gazing at each other but two people looking ahead in the same direction. Throughout my relationship with my ex, I had constantly put him on a pedestal, seeking validation from him. I soon realized that I needed to love myself first and believe in myself if I were to attract someone who would offer me the love and respect I deserved.

Fast forward to last year: I applied for a post-doctoral fellowship at one of the world’s foremost medical research centers after earning my Ph.D. in chemistry. While I initially rode high off my achievements, I still struggled with self-doubt. I didn’t fully love myself and didn’t believe that I was worthy of happiness.

I soon realized that I needed to love myself first and believe in myself if I were to attract someone who would offer me the love and respect I deserved.

In chanting for this fellowship, I battled strong doubts that I would get it. It got to the point where I was just begging while chanting to get what I wanted, rather than believing in the power of my own life.

Then it hit me. That experience with my ex six years ago had instilled a fear in chanting for specific goals. I remember feeling so defeated when my boyfriend didn’t come back on the two-month timeline I had set. I remember feeling that my chanting didn’t work, and thinking, How can I trust my chanting for anything?

As I continued to chant and go to Buddhist meetings, this time, I came to realize that my chanting had worked—beyond my wildest imagination. I just couldn’t see it at the time. I thought I had been chanting to bring back the man I loved, when actually I had been developing into a confident woman who could attract someone who gave me the love I deserved. After chanting seriously to meet someone with whom I could share a dream and advance together as equals, I met my fiance, Chris.

I began a personal campaign at the beginning of 2021 with the goal of trusting my chanting and fully loving myself. Then, in May, I learned that I had been awarded that fellowship, where I will focus on cancer research.

I’m still on this campaign to trust chanting, which will be a lifelong journey. I don’t have all the answers, but what I do know is that chanting has enabled me to love myself for who I am. As a result, my relationship is filled with more love than I could have ever imagined. I also feel confident about the career I’ve embarked on in public health to help develop a happier and healthier society.

Trusting myself has been one of the hardest campaigns I have ever embarked on. But by taking this on, I have realized that each time I have challenged something in my life, I have been victorious. It’s about recognizing that every morning I do gongyo, that is victory; every time I set a goal, that is victory; every time I work out instead of eating a ton of chips, that is victory; every time I choose to eat the chips to have a mental health day, that is victory; and every time I make it to my Buddhist meetings even if I’m not really feeling like it, that is victory.

I now recognize that victory happens every single day in lots of different ways; it’s just about recognizing each victory, trusting my chanting and enjoying the journey.

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