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“No matter how uncomfortable, how intense or how inconvenient your feelings are, facing your emotions, feeling them and accepting them for what they are is the best way to heal yourself and live a more balanced and peaceful life.”

—Aletheia Luna

Signs of the holiday season had barely rolled around before I began experiencing the familiar ache in my chest. That incredibly painful sensation that began several years ago. Thankfully, this time, with not nearly as much vengeance as in previous years.

You see, it was almost four years ago on New Year’s Eve that I spent the evening’s dropping of the ball sitting inside a cold, sterile veterinarian hospital on Manhattan’s West Side, listening to doctors tell me that my nearly 14-year-old dog was not going to make it. One short week later, the doctors’ premonition came true, and my earthly angel transitioned into the heavenly realm.

On Jan. 7, 2014, I walked out of that hospital in New York City with an empty dog carrier and a heart broken into a million pieces. So when this time of year approaches, in spite of my tremendous healing and growth, my body and spirit seem to naturally remember that dark and lonely period of my life when all of my past grievances, hurt and disappointments came pouring out with my unexpected loss.

For some of us, the holidays mark a very joyous and spirited occasion. But for many, it is also a time of sadness and even despair as many remember their losses and their loved ones who are no longer with them during the festive celebrations. Christmas also tends to magnify our current struggles and challenges. While on one hand we may feel celebratory, on the other, we’re counting down the days until the holidays are over and we’re ushering in the new year, putting our past further behind us.

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Where you do you find yourself this holiday season?

My greatest lesson in self-love came to me during those darkest moments of grief and loss, when I discovered the power of honoring my feelings—allowing every dark, fearful, lonely, uncertain, empty, crazy and unpredictable emotion to express itself and offering it my sincerest kindness, compassion and patience. I trusted that my healing toward wholeness would eventually come through my commitment to myself and to my feelings.

So that’s what I did, and that’s what I continue to do each Christmas holiday and each day of the year: I give myself permission to feel all of my feelings, without judgment, comparison or the need to appease others. This process has strengthened and empowered me.

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Our feelings belong to us, and each of us has the right to experience them completely. They are the gateway toward our healing. We don’t have to try to repress our negative emotions. We can feel them, hold them, release them and then make a way for love.

Some of the best gifts we receive will come unwrapped this holiday season. This Christmas—or whatever your holiday tradition—can you give yourself the gift of permission? Permission to honor your feelings, your heart, your voice and your desires. They are your birthright. They are your position of power. Whatever you may feel this holiday season, know that it is OK. You can still shine brightly with all the other holiday gifts and baubles under the Christmas tree without being a scrooge.

Our Act of Love No. 4 is to give ourselves the intangible gifts from the holiday season. Maybe that looks like permission to you, or forgiveness toward someone else—or self-forgiveness. Maybe it looks like gratitude or compassion. The truth about empowering our self-expression is that while other tangible gifts will fade and lose their shine and significance, the strength and power we gain from honoring ourselves is what will carry us toward love and wholeness and will buffer us from our challenges with greater ease and grace.

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This holiday season, I wish you grace and love through the joys and sorrows of Christmas. May peace be with you!

The Glow Up gift tip: If you haven’t already joined us for this holiday gift to you, the Radical Self-Love Summit, please visit radicalselflovesummit.com and hear from dynamic speakers from around the world about their individual journeys to love themselves and how love inspires their work. The complimentary replay ends on Friday. You don’t want to miss it!