Self-Love. Is it just another new age thing that's hyped up, or is it a valid thing? Do you hear everyone going on about self-love and wonder what that really means?
I'm going to share my perspective, what I have learnt about self-love, and the practical how to's of how I practice deeper levels of self-love in my life.
Just like filling up your empty tank with gas, cultivating true self-love is what fills up that space within you that feels empty, isolated, lost and lonely inside. As adults we are often running around with empty, depleted tanks, looking everywhere we can for a drop of love, here and there to satisfy the innate hunger and thirst we feel inside.
The strength of your love for yourself is not measured in the moments of success and when life is going well. It's measured in how you treat yourself in your deepest moments of pain.
It's relatively easy to like yourself or feel good about yourself when when you close that business deal, lose some weight or achieve a goal that you've been working towards. But what about when you gain weight, lose that deal or you're struggling with your health or emotions. Do you still like yourself and feel good about yourself in those moments?
Many of us don't. And our love (or like) for ourself is highly conditional on circumstances that we judge as making us feel worthy and successful.
If you do not feel valuable, worthy and good enough in all circumstances, then your ability to love yourself is based on tightly controlling the conditions that allow you to feel good about yourself. And when you encounter circumstances and times in your life where you don't have control - suddenly you're feeling terrible about yourself and as if everything is out of your control - because it is when you need to rely on outside circumstances to maintain your foundation or point of balance.
You could look at self-love like the foundation of the house. You must create a solid, strong foundation from within yourself to hold everything else in your life up.
I'm sure you've heard the expression - you're looking for love in all the wrong places. That's what many of us are doing. Looking to our partner, or our job to provide us love and satisfy that unsettled feeling inside, or food and addictions to fill the hungry unfulfilled void within our soul.
As the great poet Rumi says....
"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".
So what does self-love mean?
Real self-love is so much more than baths, manicures and massages - though these things are totally divine and you should absolutely adore yourself and do those too!
But if we strip it right back, to love yourself means to accept yourself.
As you are now. Warts and all.
To accept the wonderful and weird, the gifts and the quirks. To appreciate your wholeness and imperfection, because there is no such thing as perfection.
It is unconditional.
A moment to moment choice. To choose to be kind, loving and respectful to yourself. It is not something you one day achieve perfectly. It is a daily practice of awareness from which you then have the power to choose love in each moment.
You are the boss of your life. You get to choose to love or not. If you choose not, you'll continue year after year to find and cling onto happiness fleetingly outside of yourself.
Easy said, but how do you do self-love?
Discover what works for you. There is no right or wrong way to love yourself. I'm simply sharing my experience and practice around my journey to cultivating a loving relationship with myself.
Know and understand yourself
Get to know who you really are, beyond your ego and personality. Life is a ever evolving journey of self-discovery. When you know and understand yourself better, when you know what lights you up and what doesn't, then it's so much easier to accept yourself and make choices that are best (and loving) to you.
Practice daily self appreciation
Start with developing appreciation for yourself and who you really are. This is just like turning your focus from looking downstream at what you don't like about yourself and your short falls, to turning your focus and attention upstream to see the wonderful and miraculous being that you truly are at your core.
From my personal experience and my clients, this can be challenging initially if your normal default pattern is to see and focus on your faults. That is why it's a daily practice. Soon you'll feel better about yourself because you're making a new choice to see yourself from a new more loving view point.
Make a decision to be there for you and fully support yourself
Self-love is built when you make a commitment to meet and support yourself in your deepest moments of struggle.
In moments of disappointment, shame and pain. Self-love develops when you are no longer running away, abandoning and rejecting the painful parts of yourself that you don't like. Any time you criticise, judge yourself, numb out with food or addictions, you are abandoning yourself. You are not meeting your innate core needs, for love, support and acceptance.
It requires you to RISE strong. To take charge and become the nurturing, loving parent to the painful, hurting parts of yourself that are calling out for loving attention.
Which opens up the space for compassion.
Invite in self-compassion
Choose to be as kind and soothing to yourself as you are to others.
Imagine if a small child came to you crying in pain. Would you criticise, judge and blame that child and push them away, dismissing and invalidating their pain? For many of us this may have happened to us as children, and our basic need for validation of our feelings and therefore love was not met. We then continue this hardwired pattern into our adult lives, not knowing how to fulfill our need for love in healthy ways.
Rather than dismissing that hurting child, I wonder how loving and supportive it could be to soothe them, meet them at their level, hear, understand and acknowledge their pain. Welcome them in with a loving embrace, accepting them fully and loving them without trying to change them or make the pain go away.
The way you treat yourself is either loving or it's not.
Commit to being there for yourself
And practice, through the choices you make and the actions you take each and every day.
Ask yourself - is this choice loving and kind?
If not, you are in a position of power to make a new loving choice.
No one else can do it for you.
Start simply by BEING with yourself. Spend some time connecting with yourself and your inner world each day.
As the foundation gains strength, you can learn to open to yourself and your pain. To love yourself in the moment when you're struggling and challenged and in pain. Make a decision not to run away and abandon yourself any longer....draw on the source/universe/spirit/higher intelligence whatever it is for you, to support you in allowing that loving support for yourself.
This is not something many of us have been taught. So it is not your fault that it is hard and messy and you don't really know how.
Just like learning to walk and ride a bike, you can learn. Just as I have.
Start by simply placing your hand on your heart and affirming I love myself, even though I have no idea how to love myself, I choose love anyway.
Love is a choice you make everyday. Love is an action, requiring your participation.
This article is really just scratching the surface of a couple of aspects around self love. There is so much more depth and layers to this topic, than I have covered in this single post.
If this is something you find challenging, I can guide and support you to shift out of self doubt, judgement and negativity towards love, acceptance and trust within yourself. Find out how you can get further support to create a stronger foundation for feeling good about yourself and allowing more happiness and contentment into your life.
Let me know in the comments your challenges around this and what you've taken away from this post.