“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”
So, what is self-love, you ask. Self-love has become the latest super food for the soul but very few know what it really means.
The dictionary tells us;
Self-love | noun | Regard for one’s own well-being and happiness.
Now that can even seem vague and open to various interpretations. In fact, it’s taken me years to answer this question for myself. I’ve searched high and low, lived in Ashram’s, done six silent Vipassana retreats, travelled solo, lived alone in foreign countries, practiced many different techniques and approaches and I can say this, its discovery of a very different kind. It’s not an experience you are looking for, it’s a relationship with yourself. That can’t be found anywhere but within.
I remember at the start of my own self-love journey when I was asked to make a list of the things that nurtured my soul. I wrote things like a better career, practise yoga 5 times a week, get a manicure, eat cake. As my journey continued I realised it was none of those things. I practised these things because society jammed these ideas of self-care and self-love down my throat and I regurgitated them into my life like yet another chore to tick off the list until I was frustrated and confused why none of these things filled the void, the deep yearning in my life. When I took the time to get to know myself and follow my own unique heart the things that nurtured me on a deep soul level looked very different.
The short answer, if I must give one, is that self-love is a deep appreciation for yourself, its accepting yourself for all you are and all you aren’t. It’s unconditional love for yourself even when you don’t have it all together. It’s a journey, not a destination. It takes dedication, devotion, and practice. It’s about being consistent each and every day. It’s experimenting, learning, reading and discovering yourself.
If you don’t know yourself, how can you expect others to deeply know and connect with you. How do you set boundaries for those around you if you don’t have any for yourself? How do you set an example of the love want in your life if you aren’t loving yourself? Start a love affair with yourself and really get to know your mind and emotions you will start to attract the best energy and experiences from the world around you. With daily practise and devotion for yourself as a human being you will start to attract relationships, experiences and energy that is line with your unique self.
Self-love looks very different to everyone but there are a few basics tools that can help you on your journey.
- Mirror work (Yes, looking at yourself in the mirror daily upon rising.)
Take a few moments to really be with yourself, look at yourself and say, “I love you” or use any affirmation you choose! How do you speak to yourself? Ditch the damaging speech and the negative language or self-talk! Ask yourself, are you externalising your needs, are you looking for others to fulfill you? Dig deep, are you really in touch with your deeper emotions and what is driving them? Look at your patterns and behaviours. Be in inquiry!
This one is extremely hard for most people and it was impossible for me at first. I felt ridiculous and couldn’t meet myself in the eye for months but if this is the only self-love tool you implement in your life, it will make a drastic difference.
- Start each morning with a ritual that’s all about you.
Practise good self-care and really honour your physical body however that looks for you! It can just mean how you shower, shower with intention and be in the moment without rushing and planning. Enjoy the ritual of nurturing your body and taking care of yourself.
- Be aware of your inner voice.
We all have one, that voice that is our constant inner critic chirping away in the background! This will be one of the most valuable tools in your life, learning to redirect and control it. This is a like a muscle that takes practise, hearing it and knowing that it is not in control of you. If you feel yourself on a roller coaster of emotion, then you are letting this inner voice take over. Sit with it and notice it, redirect it. Set boundaries for yourself, don’t dwell in these emotions for too long. Breathe and refocus, what’s happening right this very second.
How many emotions and thoughts that go through a human being’s mind a day? If we grasp onto every one of these, we would go mad! Let them come, notice them and let them pass, but don’t let them become you.
- Be mindful, be in the moment.
If we are living in the future we are living in a state of anxiety. That doesn’t mean we don’t plan -We can make designated times to plan and dream and prepare for our future. But we don’t have to live always concerned about what’s to come.
To live in the past is equally damaging. By living in the past, we are triggering old emotions that are recreating thought patterns and affecting current experiences. The place to keep bringing yourself back to is this moment, now, and now, and now. What’s is happening right this second? Experience each moment as if its new and really be present with what’s happening.
Learn to let go and be in the moment, bring nothing from your past or present into the moment and see how freeing this is.
Start seeing the positive and good in what’s around you. Focusing your mind to find the positives can be difficult, but can have an incredible impact on your thought processes. Be mindful of the negativity that you externalise and internalise in each moment. Stop seeing why it won’t work before it will work! This will shift your perspective of life and attract the positive!
- Community, build a strong and positive community around you.
As the old saying goes, it takes a village! We are all connected, and those around you shape your world just as you shape theirs. We exist together and its extremely important to give back as well as receive. Choose your tribe wisely and be aware of who you spend your time with. Also, be aware of what you bring to the lives of others around you. Be love and you will attract love. Acts of love and service are vital to your self worth.
- Movement, our bodies need movement, choose yours!
We need to find a means of movement that is enjoyable. Exercise may not be our favourite activity, but our bodies need movement to be healthy and function well into our old age. If you hate gyms, that’s okay! You can find something that floats your boat,. Don’t set yourself unrealistic expectations that are impossible to keep. Self-love is not about setting yourself up for failure. Find the things you love to do. Mine are dancing, yoga, swimming in the ocean, bushwalking and riding my bicycle around Southbank. Find things that make your heart happy and they are the things you will stick with and enjoy. Give your body the nurturing, rest, exercise, and comfort it needs to the best of your ability.
Work, partying, studying, life gets very busy. Don’t allow yourself to find worth in busyness. We are more than what we are doing and this is not a marker for how worthy, important or successful we are in life. Society will have us believe otherwise but this will lead to imbalance and in turn deep unhappiness. Honour your body, mind and spirit and find balance in your life, it’s vital for a healthy state of mind.
On a final note, self-love is a remarkable journey that’s worth every bit the effort it takes to make it. It will become second nature and be one of the most valuable journey’s you will ever embark on. Be present with yourself and really go deep and find what makes you you. We are all uniquely incredible human beings and have so much to offer the world around us and that starts with loving and accepting ourselves for the extraordinary, complex and wonderful human’s we are.
Go forward and build a deeply connected and happy life, firstly with yourself. Live, laugh and love!