How do you feel about self love? More importantly, how well do you love yourself? For most of us, loving ourselves is something we may know is important, but often have difficulty actually feeling, expressing, and embodying.
For me, I’ve spent much of my life as a student, an athlete, in business, in relationships, and in general demanding perfection of myself, and of course, falling short and then feeling inadequate on a regular basis. Most people I know and work with have some version of I m not good enough that runs their life, their work, and their relationships.
As we lead up to Valentine’s Day this weekend and think about the important people in our lives whom we love (or the fact that we wish we had more love in our lives), much of our focus tends to be outward and not inward.
Self love is what we’re all searching for in our work, our relationships, and our lives. Sadly, we spend most of our time thinking that someone or something else can give us what only we can give ourselves. To be truly fulfilled in life and relationships, we have to find the love within us and give it to ourselves. No other person, material possession, or accomplishment can do it. It s up to us.
Especially when it comes to relationships, self love is essential. One of the best gifts we can give to the people around us is to love ourselves in a genuine way. As my mom used to say to me when I was young, You can t love anyone else, until you love yourself.
Here are a few things to think about and practice as you deepen your own capacity for loving yourself:
1) Notice your relationship to self love. How do you feel about it, how comfortable are you with it, and what resistance do you have to loving yourself? Being honest about your own relationship to self love is the first step in altering it. Many of us have not been encouraged or taught to love ourselves. We have also not seen many healthy models of self love around us. And, we re often much better at being hard on ourselves than we are at being kind and loving towards ourselves. Based on these and other factors, self love can be a bit tricky. Once we tell the truth about how we relate to self love, we can start to expand our ability to love ourselves in a more real way.
2) Let go of your conditions. When it comes to loving ourselves, if we even put much attention on it, we often do so in a very conditional way. We love ourselves only when we do good things, succeed in specific ways, or take care of ourselves in ways we deem important. While there’s nothing wrong with us feeling good about ourselves in relationship to these and other positive things, truly loving ourselves is an unconditional process which means accepting, appreciating, and celebrating all of who we are, both light and dark. By letting go of our conditions and loving ourselves in the unconditional, like how way we often love babies, animals, or others we have little or no specific expectations of, we can start to deepen our authentic love for ourselves.
3) Start practicing, right now. Do anything and everything you can to express love for yourself right now, not after you think you deserve it. Since most of us have some resistance to loving ourselves, taking any and every self loving action we can think of is important. There are lots of things we can do both big and small to practice loving ourselves. Speaking kindly about ourselves, taking compliments graciously, taking care of ourselves, honoring our emotions, pampering ourselves, celebrating our successes (and failures), appreciating our flaws, and much more are all simple (although not always easy) things we can do to practice self love. Also, be willing to ask for help and look to others who seem to do a good job at this, so you can get the support and guidance that you need. Loving ourselves is a life-long, never ending practice.
Self love is the starting point, not the end game, of our conscious growth and development. For most of us, myself included, it s much easier to talk about loving ourselves than it is to actually practice it. However, when we put our attention on loving ourselves in an authentic way, everything in our lives that is important to us our work, our relationships, our goals, and more flows from there with a sense of ease, joy, and, most important, love.
What do you love about yourself? How can you expand your capacity for self love in a way that will positively impact you, those around you, and your entire life? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog here.
Originally published in 2010