It’s February and love is in the air. The most significant love affair is the one we have with ourselves. The question I hear from women is, “how do I make self love a priority?” My sense is that what these women are really asking is, “how do I make time to ‘do’ self love? I don’t have the time and energy for another ‘to-do’ list.” And underneath these questions, lurk the deeper questions, “Am I worthy?” Worthy of the time and effort. “Am I lovable?”
Self love shapes our relationship with ourselves. Self love is about ‘being’ not ‘doing’. Self love means having an accepting, nurturing, and truthful learning relationship with our selves. It’s a daily practice.
Accepting who we are wherever we are in our life’s journey, knowing that we are always in the process of becoming. There’s nowhere to get to. Life is an experiment and like all experiments, some trials are successful. Some aren’t. Every attempt is information on which direction to go or action to take. Self love also means being honest with ourselves when we do mess up knowing that we learn from all our experiments.
Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.
Walker, there is no path, the path is made by walking.
We can only know which path to take by moving ahead. Taking a step. Accepting that we’ll make mistakes. Nurturing ourselves when we do and trusting that we’ll discover the learning in every misstep as well as our wise choices. All the while being truthful about our feelings and desires. Who we are is a continual process of unfolding. Do you feel the love?
Self love generates an endless supply of energy and possibility.
Think about the times you are being critical of yourself. What’s the impact of these great big NO’s? Let’s face it. We can be quite tough on ourselves at times. Especially if we’ve been subjected to messages of not being good enough or smart enough or thin enough or whichever ‘not enough’ is in our psyche. Drained energy. Likely down in the dumps and feeling like nothing we want is possible. That we’re not capable.
I grew up in a critical environment where it seemed I never did anything right. I was always in trouble for one thing or another. As a result, I didn’t feel a whole lotta love for myself. How could I be lovable? Fortunately for me, over the years I met people and learned practices that have helped me nurture a kinder and accepting embrace of me, foibles and all. Nurturing self love is a daily practice.
Compare a YES to a NO feeling.
Remember the first time you rode your bike by yourself without training wheels? Or you helped your child learn to ride a bike. Remember that urge to yell “look at me, look at me, yippee yahoo!!”….just before you toppled over? Then you got right back up and tried again. That’s YES energy. Believing you can do it if you just lean a little more to the left, look where you’re going and keep pedalling remembering to use the brakes if you’re going too fast!
The difference between a critical NO and a nurturing YES has to do with mindset. Think of a continuum with NO at one end and YES at the other end. NO represents a fixed mindset of limiting beliefs and ability. Lots of judgement and criticism. If we don’t get it right the first time there must be something wrong with us.
The YES end represents a growth mindset. A ‘more-in-me’ mindset. The belief that anything is possible. That when we make mistakes we can get right back up using this new information to try a different path or approach. Believing that we have unlimited untapped potential, available to be accessed through our experiments. Life is about learning and when we adopt a YES mindset, our relationship with ourself naturally becomes more loving and accepting. More energy. More accomplished. More joy.
Practice saying yes to yourself. Sounds over simplified however when we say YES to all the parts of our selves and accept that the overarching goal of life is one of discovery and learning, we are nurturing unconditional love. Regardless of how many times we mess up or get it ‘wrong’, we are lovable.
Be present in the moment. Catch yourself when at the NO end of the continuum saying mean things to yourself. Instead say “Look at me! I did that thing again! I did that thing I said I’d never do again. TADA!!” Catching yourself in the act, interrupting your habits and patterns. Shifting to TADA! energy and being wildly fascinated with why you did what you did and what other options you have.
Make note of how you want to be with yourself the next time you’re about to ‘do that thing’. Keep interrupting your habits and patterns and eventually you’ll catch yourself in the moment, and try something different. Keep on practicing with the energy of “TADA! Yippee! Look at me! I just learned something!”
Practice yoga. At its core, yoga is a practice of self acceptance. It teaches us that what’s possible today may be different than the next day. It teaches us how to still the mind, focusing on the present moment as we engage our body in movement. Patience, awareness and consistency bring long term results. You’ll feel the love.
Prioritize – to designate or treat something as most important.
Loving ourselves is connected to our feelings of self worth. When caught in the cycle of accommodating everyone else’s needs – family, friends, clients, community work – we’re often left without any energy for our own needs. And thus the cycle of ‘not enough’ is perpetuated. Beating ourselves up for not doing anything for us – again – or even enough for everyone else. If we flip it around and tend to us first, then we’ll be our best selves when serving others. Self love and self care are connected too. If we’re not attending to our self care – which corresponds with self love and prioritizing our needs – we can end up in a downward spiral of negative thinking and criticism. It zaps our energy.
Self love is a practice. Like any practice, it’s the little things we do everyday that become second nature, add up over time and create a shift. Pick one little thing everyday that represents true love to you. Your unique version of self love. There’s no right way to ‘do’ self love. It’s about how you want to ‘be’ in relationship to yourself. Maybe you look in the mirror first thing every morning and say YES to yourself a bunch of times. Perhaps saying YES to yourself means saying No to someone else. Maybe it means saying No to a client or colleague. Maybe even your kids. Invite yourself to have a TADA! kind of day. Be courageous in service of your self love affair.
Every step we take moves us into a new unknown that can only become known by courageously going there and being open to what’s possible in this new space.
Courageously holding our fears in one hand, our values in the other and trusting the wisdom of our heart centre to guide us down whatever path we choose. That’s a self love affair to behold.