The term self-love is tossed around a bunch in memes on social media and self-help communities but what does it actually mean? How do we begin the journey of falling in love with ourselves? This is a short list that I use when working with clients in order to deepen their relationships with their own heart and soul.
Pay attention to how you speak to and about yourself: The voice inside our heads is sometimes hard to notice because it's a constant background noise, but training yourself to pay attention to it is very important. It is full of internalized messages we received from our families, our culture, and our own disappointments with ourselves. For many of us, it's a continuous loop of depreciation and criticism. Does any of this sound familiar? "I should have known better." "I'm not (fill in the blank) enough." "I always fail." "I'm fat, I have no willpower" "How did I end up here? There is something wrong with me!"
If it's difficult for you to notice the "inner critic" you can pay attention to what you
say about yourself out loud. That inner critic tends to get externalized when we talk about problems and/or challenges in our lives. The other day one of my clients said to me, "I'm such a loser." She was talking about not getting her to do
list done. It was heartbreaking. The amount of contempt a vibrant, caring woman
had for herself.
Once aware, you have the power to not buy into the trash talk about yourself. These criticisms are NOT helpful. Notice, thank your inner critic for sharing and
love yourself by giving yourself the message that you aren't going to take those thoughts seriously. Consider how you would speak to a child you love about the situation and speak to yourself that way.
2. Surround yourself with people that inspire you and feel good to you! Train yourself to gravitate towards people and situations that uplift you. Although it can be a learning experience to spend time with those that have different perspectives than you, It's an act of self love to keep your inner circle full of people who share your values and appreciate who you are authentically.
3. Find activities that allow you to get to know yourself better. Life is so busy and fast paced that we often have to spend chunks of our lives on autopilot. Slowing down enough to register how you are feeling or what you truly think about something is so valuable and a beautiful act of self love. In my coaching practice, I call this "turning your attention inward." Most people don't have a lot of practice with this but there are many ways to cultivate it. Journaling a few minutes a day. Talking with a coach or a therapist on a weekly basis, walking or driving in silence- no music, podcast or audiobook.
4. Practicing long term fulfillment versus short term satisfaction. A conclusion that almost every client I work with comes to realize is that happiness and fulfillment are not the same. Exercising our muscles for fulfillment is an immense act of self love. This can show up in many ways. Perhaps it's not buying that coffee from the coffee shop and instead putting that money towards an experience that aligns with your values. Maybe it's going to bed early so you can enjoy feeling rested for an important event the following day. It's a discipline, but when employed in service to what you truly love and value, and practiced, it becomes a joy.
5. The little things. Any small thing you do to make life a more pleasant experience can be seen as self-love. Organizing your space, eating well, getting enough sleep, setting a boundary, exercising, trying something new, investing in a coach, therapist or healer, buying a clothing item that feels really good on your body, basically, anything that increases your quality of life! The key is to log these experiences in your psyche as acts of self-love. In this way, you give your nervous system the message that you are well taken care of.