We’ve all heard it before. It isn’t a secret that a good amount of self love can change how we see the world, the people we share it with and, most of all, ourselves.
Before you can live in a state of love for everything you represent and stand for, there are a few blocks that are worth clearing out of the path.
To love is to enter the space of vulnerable learning. That means entering the arena not knowing if you will be strong, quick, smart enough to win. It means investing in yourself without any guarantees but one - it might not be easy, it might not be perfect, but it will change you.
Here are some of the blocks you might want to consider removing when embarking on the adventure to the darkest corners of your soul.
1. UNCLEAR EXPECTATIONS
What do you think loving yourself looks like? The world teaches us that self love is about learning to manage ourselves so that we can do everything perfectly, look great, never make a single mistake. We think that being in tune with who we are is knowing our every instinct, maintaining the calm demeanor and staying as cool as a cucumber while the whole hell is breaking loose. Does it sound familiar yet?
The truth about the world we live in is that it is filled with unsolicited opinions about what we should look and act like, how we should feel, what we should say.
Who are you trusting to set the standards you follow? This isn’t about the collective, this is about you.
It might just be the perfect time to reevaluate and adjust your expectations. Regardless of where you are at right now, remember that love is not to be assessed but cultivated. The more you support the environment that feeds it, the more love grows - it is no different for the love we have for self.
Decide what self love is exactly. What do you want it to be? When will you know that love is present in your interactions with yourself, with your problems and your wins? What would it feel like to love the skin you live in and all the extra bits that come with your busy mind and imperfect cooking skills that you might be showing off on a daily basis? Do you beat yourself up when things don’t work out or do you love the quirky mess you have made of dinner?
What will it feel like when you finally love the person you are?
Once you know that - you have an idea of where you are headed.
Set your own expectations and don’t change them every time when your mood takes over and you’ve had enough of the world.
There will be time for adjustments, this is not forever. But you’ve got to start somewhere. Take the first step. You can always go back and update the first draft later.
2. LACK OF COMPASSION
Have you ever written a “thank you” card? You might have sent one to all those lovely people who generously showered you with gifts on your wedding day (triple “yay” for all the toasters you received… or is it just me?). Maybe you sent someone flowers to say “thanks for being there” when you hit a rough patch in the past.
Or maybe you’ve expressed concern for a friend who was dealing with a failed project or money lost in the silliest of ways. Did you ever tell anyone not to take it too seriously, that things will turn around, that it’s not their fault… ?
I am absolutely positive that this does not sound unfamiliar at all. We tend to care and support the ones we love. We want to make sure they are just fine, and we have no intention to judge them based on one silly mistake or a bad investment. We understand - things just happen… it’s not the end of the world, am I right?
Well then, put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Start taking yourself seriously, start taking this love you want and need, and crave seriously. Show yourself the kind of compassion you spread across your world to make sure everyone else is okay.
When you fail, when you’ve just had enough, when it gets to be too much, too soon, too late, too lonely… give yourself a hug. Talk to yourself like you would to your best friend. Sit down, get a notebook or a piece of paper - you don’t even have to read it when you’re done. Write. Tell yourself how tomorrow will be different, how it’s not the end of the world and how failures are simply stepping stones to success - it is not a big deal… (we’ve discussed this, haven’t we?).
3. NEGATIVE LANGUAGE
When you are all cosied up with a book and a hot chocolate (or more likely - a bottle of wine - the choice is yours, of course), having that friendly chat with yourself… What words do you use?
Do you tend to say : “You didn’t mess this up that badly” or “You’ve done great, I am impressed with what you’ve achieved today”? Maybe the project isn’t finished yet, maybe your deadline is long overdue and haunting you in disturbing dreams about … I don’t know… a snowman trying to swallow you up (?) - the point here - it is what it is. Just that. So let it be. You can’t change what you can’t change but you can plan to do better next time.
Remember that the things you have power over are extremely delicate. The world will classify them for you - without even thinking you might have already decided that not finishing your project on time was bad, not good enough, a reflection of your shortcomings. Frankly, I don't know whose voice you are replaying in your head at that point - but what I do know is that the only voice you should be hearing is your own - compassionate, proud, committed to doing your best tomorrow - voice.
Stop saying “that’s not good enough” and replace it with “I commit to doing better tomorrow”. Decide what “better” is, what the measure of sufficiency in this case is. What criteria determine whether you are heading towards a win.
Gently love the person that is learning to love herself. Send her a “thank you” card or if more appropriate a “get on track soon” card. Whatever you do or say to yourself don’t bully the only soul you have.
Choose your words consciously, make them sound sweet and sticky, make them sound delicious so that you can come back to them again and again and let them feed you, let them help you nourish your beautifully sprouting little self love.
4. PLEASER MENTALITY
If you are one of those people that have a problem saying “no” to projects that make them want to vomit… because you can’t say “no” to your boss, or the pay is good, or it’s your mother-in-law that asks for help and this will not end well if you bail… well… you are just like the rest of us. Don’t sweat it.
What you can do instead is practice saying “no” in the nicest, kindest, most loving way.
The thing is - whether you agree or disagree with the decision you’ve just made about doing or not doing the favour or project, you are giving, and at the same time withdrawing love. The question is - who is receiving the love and who will need to go without?
I think it’s clear by now that you are the number one priority here (who is the star of this show?I ask...) - the most important ingredient required for this movie to keep on going until the happiest ending - is reaching the bliss of being you, regardless of the circumstances or judgments that might land in your space, invited or not.
Every time you say “yes” to something you don’t want to do, you disregard your beliefs, your feelings, your right to have an opinion that is not based on what the society told you should be done in this case - but on your own belief of what will serve you and your interests best.
Every time you say “yes” to those things and people that drain your energy you are saying “no” to yourself. You are giving your love away and reaffirming to yourself that you haven’t got any left to feed on.
Let’s make it clear once and for all - Who do you really want to love? Yourself or your mother-in-law?
It might be hard - but hey - any new skill takes time to master. The point is - if you can do it, if you can enter the space where you make decisions that serve and nurture you - magic will start happening, literally, straight away…
You will suddenly feel stronger, bigger, brighter. Something inside of you will settle a little and you will give yourself an extra dose of the potion that makes anything feel possible. You will immediately remember that you have a choice. In absolutely everything you do, and most of all, how you feel about what’s happening. You will start stepping out of the grey zone, where fear leads the way.
So things happen… we’ve established that. Some days are brighter than others, some even have a rainbow to top off the amazingness of whatever is happening. The important thing to remember is that those days will always be available to you and as you get more skilled at loving the beautifully imperfect person you are, you will be able to design them that way.
For now, when the storm hits, when it feels uncomfortable, when you feel defeated... Don’t exaggerate. Don’t make it bigger than it is (which pretty much translates into ; don’t make yourself smaller than you truly are). Look at the situation in front of you and with some imaginary distance, assess - what is actually happening here? Have you lost a job - or has your world ended? Describe it to yourself as you would to your friend in need - and use the beautiful words you learnt when you practiced compassion towards your unrealised ambitions.
Don’t waste your time calling the angriest person you know to open up a stage for your own negativity and dismay. Don’t invite any more of the black cloud to your world. Don’t multiply the ugly emotions boiling up in the soup of disappointment.
Name it for what it is and decide to learn something new as you assess the damage. That is all you need to do. As long as you learn, you are progressing towards self love.
The secret lies in understanding what loving yourself actually means. Shake off whatever you were told by the perfectly slender model on your tv screen or your grandma - who although probably incredibly sweet - was shaped by a different reality.
Self love is not pampering your body until your nails sparkle with glitter and eyelashes touch the ceiling. Self love is not another shopping spree, enforcing an unrealistic diet or going on vacation you can’t afford, because “you’re worth it”.
Self love, my friend, is recognising what serves you best, deciding on steps that you feel will get you to the person you aspire to be and then working at it day after day until it becomes an effortless priority.
Self love is holding your own hand when you are putting all that you’ve got into changing a habit that no longer serves you. It is a compassionate conversation with the part of you that failed yet again.
It is gathering new tools, fresh energy, all the strength left in your bones to go at it again tomorrow. And letting it be imperfect.
Strive for progress not perfection. And for heaven’s (and your own) sake, be kind to your beautiful self.
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