I remember the first time I read about the “need” for people to love themselves...
"Loving yourself? Self-Love? Could there be anything more cheesy?" I scoffed.
The notion seemed so completely ridiculous and pompous that I had the idea totally wiped from my mind within a millisecond. Looking back years later, I realize that -- more than anything -- the idea of loving myself seemed impossible. After all, such a thing was only possible through being worthy of love. And if there was anything I was certain of in those days, it was that I was not worthy.
It was years of misery and suffering which led to that belief. And it took three times as many painful years to take that belief back. Pushing myself to change was easy. Holding myself to higher standards was simple. Convincing myself that I could do better came naturally. But loving myself? I wasn't even willing to go there.
But I finally did. And yeah, it was exactly the kind of sappy mushy love story that I was so fiercely adamant on avoiding. I sobbed, and I burned letters to myself, and I fed myself chocolate ganache cake for dinner (okay, breakfast too). And it was great. And it completely and utterly changed my life.
There's still much I have to learn in this new realm of love, but these last few years have given me some life-transforming lessons. One of the best lessons has been learning to identify my greatest needs -- and to gift them to myself daily. So, without further adieu, here's a peek into my Self-Love ideology. If you're struggling to love on yourself just like I was (and sometimes still do), then I hope this can inspire "new love" for you.
Ditch The Self-Hate
Most of us have a subconscious mind that’s programmed and primed for self-loathing; 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. And while this kind of persistent and unrelenting commitment is certainly admirable, this is precisely where such effort does not pay off. Self-loathing absolutely has got to go.
We have this inherent idea that hating on ourselves is somehow honorable and necessary, but it’s really just a complete and total buzzkill to our drive and self-esteem. Criticism and nit-picking is over. So over. What’s in is self-compassion, support, and encouragement. It’s also about 100,000 times more effective than the self-bullying alternative. At least!
Take Time Off (As Long And As Often As Your Soul Requires)
The mind is constantly analyzing, contemplating, forecasting, planning, and processing. This incessant live streaming we know as “thinking” can be an exhausting process in and of itself. And it’s getting zero help from our go-go-go culture that pushes us to go nonstop 24/7 -- no excuses and no matter what. But even though the modern world swears by this model of “success,” anyone with a frazzled mind and ignored heart isn’t as likely to experience happiness and achievement so much as, say, alcoholism or psychosis.
Productivity isn’t about how much we do, but how effectively we do things. If we’re feeling overloaded or bogged down, that’s a red flag that something’s wrong. What is wrong exactly won’t often be clear at first -- and that’s okay. Clarity requires insight, and that happens by taking a step back for a good long ponder. Be it a night out or time home alone; a few hours or a few weeks; 16 hours of sleep or a weekend yoga retreat -- we need time off so that we can get ourselves back into that peak state of mind.
Squash Fear With Bravery
We’re afraid to open up because we don’t want to be vulnerable. The big irony here is that fearing vulnerability makes us CRAZY vulnerable, which is like travelling through life by hiding in the shadows and only running in the darkness of night. This is guaranteed to take forever and sure to involve us getting lost, hurt, or caught up in a disaster on the way. The quickest and safest way to get somewhere is to seek the best path and to know when, and where, and how to use it. Sulking around in fear can get us through it, but strength, courage, and wisdom will turn the journey into an exciting and bold adventure (and one that will surely win some honor). We need to stand for ourselves and do a damn good job of it.
Should fear ever paralyze you, remember the wise words of Swami Sri Yukteswar; "Look fear in the face, and it will cease to trouble you."
Own Your Emotions (And Support & Validate The Hell Out Of 'Em)
Unhappiness feels terrible. It’s the worst! But, ironically, that mucky feeling may be one of the greatest feelings we can have. When we’re unhappy or discontent, it’s a sign that something is wrong. And this is a great sign! Because when we can recognize that we’re unhappy and dissatisfied, we can figure out why. And when we figure out the why, we can make changes to bulldoze out life’s crap so we can make room for something newer and better. Of course, most of us get to the step of feeling dissatisfied, and then we just stop. We stew and simmer in our discontent, never stepping beyond the surface of our thoughts and feelings. That’s just dangerous. Because if we don’t ever understand what’s provoking our emotions, then our feelings can evolve into a painful unhappiness that follows us to the grave. Don’t do it.
There’s no one way in pulling this off, but for me, I’ve found the trick is in letting my emotions be. I wait for them to un-kink and process. And all the while, I own absolutely everything I feel and ponder how my feelings came about. This process may take anywhere from a few hours to a few days or a few weeks. However much time I need, I give myself full permission to wait until I get hit with that "the knowing." This process has only ever been fruitful for me.
While I'm waiting for things to unfold, I load myself up on self emotional support. I swear by using essential oils for clarity and peace of mind. I rub them into my heart chakra (for love and upliftment) and my throat chakra (to help me to speak my truth). Then I spend my evening listening to stand-up comedy and YouTube talks, ignoring absolutely every unnecessary obligation, and treating myself to a bottle-sized glass of wine. I give myself absolutely anything and everything I need so that I can clear my head and get to feeling good again. Which goes against convention, but spoiling myself when I need it most has only gotten me the best results. Try it.
Be Who You've Always Wanted To Be (And Nothing Less)
I grew up believing I wasn’t smart enough, pretty enough, capable enough, and <insert adjective here> enough. When I would spend time with people beaming qualities that I admired, I found myself feeling more insufficient than inspired. Even though I had a deep appreciation for these admirable people, my interactions with them caused me great pain. Because I would compare myself to them and see where they excelled and I lacked. Then, I would beat myself up for not being as intelligent or friendly or generous as they were. Such a drag.
These days, if I’m doing any sort of comparisons, it’s comparing myself as I am now, to myself as I was “back when.” I’ve realized that I can’t be other people, which would be a waste of a life and the most dissatisfying lie, and discovered that my ultimate goal in life is to simply be better than I was yesterday. When I meet great people with great traits, I see them as a source of inspiration. I take note of the things I enjoy about them, and then I make a conscious decision to cultivate a similar quality within myself.
Treat Yourself The Way You Want To Be Treated
When was the last time you asked yourself, “What do I need?” Do you know what you want to feel? To hear? To experience? How you want to be treated? Do you know how you want to feel about yourself?
Some of us are itching to feel attractive or successful. Others are aching to feel smart and important, or spiritually fulfilled. Then there’s that burning need for appreciation... Whatever the needs may be, it’s time to take action. If we need a dose of smartness, we can cozy up in front of the TV science shows and documentaries; switch Facebooking for reading; or vamp up our time doing mindless house chores by listening to TED talks and podcasts. Whatever we want to experience, we can make it happen simply by tweaking the ways we’re using our time. As Gretchen Rubin says, “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in awhile.”
Find Fulfillment (And Never Settle For Anything Less Than Fulfilling)
We grow up implanted with this idea that happiness comes from owning stuff and making money, but the “great American dream” has many of us sleepwalking. Read up on the personal lives of the world’s “wealthiest and most “successful” people and you’ll see people plagued by drama, depression, broken relationships, substance abuse, troubled families, and on and on. So as nice as money and accomplishments may be, they’re not the secret to happiness.
But what does “fulfillment” look like? Well, that will be different for every beautiful person and her wonderful fantastical needs. Fulfillment is seen in all the moms going back to school to take care of all their family’s needs and their own. It’s seen when a woman calls off her relationship so she can finally follow her heart and soul. And when she takes those dance and art lessons she’s wanted since Kindergarten. It’s doing that thing her mother laughed off while her heart was screaming, “Do this!” It’s doing what she loves. Because that’s the secret to loving what you do.
Bring On The Love (And Make It Extra Gooey)
Yeah, this sounds like cheesiness with extra cheese, but no person is complete without giving herself plenty of love. Virtually everyone is on a quest to find that “one person” who will love them and complete them, but that search is in vain. As long as we’re convinced that we’re not lovable, we’ll never find love and understanding in another. Even when it may be staring us in the face, we wouldn’t be able to recognize it or understand it; nevertheless appreciate it. So, we’ve got to give ourselves the unconditional love and understanding we crave. Even though we may feel like we don’t deserve it, it’s exactly what we need. Because feeling hopeless can never get us where feeling hopeful will.
To me, love is a deep appreciation and unconditional understanding. So when I talk about self-love, I’m proposing that we develop a sincere appreciation for ourselves. We accept the numerous and eccentric aspects of ourselves; the peculiarities, the embarrassments, the quirks, and even the things we’re not so happy with. But, above all, we acknowledge that there are great things about ourselves like make us the wonderful and unique people that we are. And in doing this, we realize that we’ve got some pretty great potential. Which is so great. Because once we see we have potential, we finally have reason to rise to the occasion called “Life.”
Believe In Yourself (Like You Wish Others Would)
Back in the day, my idea of happiness and success followed a “hard work and sacrifice,” “put in your dues,” and “no pain no gain’’ ideology. Basically, success couldn’t come without pain, inconvenience, and an ungodly amount of time. And I was 100 percent convinced that success was something I was inherently incapable of. All lies, as it turns out, but I believed them all.
What is true, is that we’ll never accomplish anything we don’t attempt. And we’ll never want to do something we don’t think we can do. So ditch the stories and attachments and judgments, and choose to have new beliefs that actually support you in living the life you want.
If we’re not living wildly and passionately and hungrily pursuing our greatest interests, then we’re wasting away the most precious of gifts; Life. Live it and live it well. <3