One day it hit me, hard and fast.
I had been jumping from dysfunctional relationship to dysfunctional relationship for a better part of my life.
What was even more dysfunctional about this was that I had become almost addicted to them. I lugged my emotional baggage around with me to each one, and the same hopeless patterns replayed themselves again and again.
Each relationship seemed to have a shelf-life of only a few months, or it was an endless, exhausting train of back-and-forth with one person over the course of years. I would leave each one feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and with a hefty bruise to my self-esteem. I would tell the same damaging story that I was, at the end of the day, simply unlovable, unworthy, and incapable of maintaining a healthy relationship.
Of course what I wasn’t taking into account was that there was a supremely important key ingredient missing: I was not totally in love with myself.
I was seeking love and validation from my partners, and when they failed to give it to me, I’d become needy and co-dependent. I’d also try to cover up my feelings of inadequacy with defensive behaviors and actions, pushing my partners away and alienating them emotionally.
Something had to change, and fast.
It became essential to fall in love with myself, both for the sake of living a full, abundant, joyful life, and for the sake of one day being able to give and receive love in a healthy, peaceful, cooperative way. I realized that if I didn’t love me, no one else would either. Not to mention I’d spend a lifetime failing to notice and appreciate my true beauty and worthiness.
My failed relationships prompted what would be a paramount, life-changing pursuit: Project Self-Love.
I needed to have a crazy, incredible, heady, healthy romance with Me. I needed to devote myself entirely to finding the love within myself that I had forgotten.
From my heart to yours, here are some things we can all do to insure a life-long romance with ourselves:
1) Shift the Focus.
We’ll always feel a void within us if we rely on our partners (or anyone else) to validate us and fill us up with love. No one can possibly do that for us all the time, so we’ll always end up feeling incomplete.
The void can only really be filled by a hearty sense of self-love—rock-solid, relentless, and unconditional.
I spent so much time relying on my partners to gratify me in this way that I nearly stopped providing it for myself. I needed to seriously shift gears and stop waiting for external validation and start finding it within me.
This may be the most difficult part of the journey, but once we begin to acknowledge how much we may have been desperately seeking this love outwardly (and not enough inwardly) we set the wheels in motion.
2) Forgive yourself and let go of the past.
It’s so easy (believe me, I know) to unknowingly drag around our emotional baggage wherever we go.
We re-open old wounds, resurrect old patterns of thought, and hang on to things we feel we’ve done wrong in relationships or in other areas of life. But, we are all beautifully flawed, imperfect, and will always be students in this thing we call life, growing wiser and stronger with each misstep.
Forgive yourself for any area of your life in which you feel you’ve fallen short. Life isn’t about being perfect—it’s about growth.
You know that saying ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life’? Repeat it to yourself again and again as you gracefully let go of any ideas or beliefs you’ve held onto about yourself that no longer serve you. It’s okay to start over.
You’re worth it.
3) Punch that inner critic in the face.
It’s amazing how many thoughts (and therefore energy) I was devoting each day to negative thoughts.
It would begin in the morning upon the first glance in the mirror—I’d find flaws all over the place. Sometimes, it was an endless train of insults to myself, and it became habitual. I was so used to finding flaws in myself, it was almost a reflex to begin pointing them out.
What if I were to treat a lover in that same manner? They’d of course leave me in the dust. It was time to begin treating myself as I would a lover, or a best friend. Appreciating my quirks. Finding beauty in the little things. Taking notice of what makes me uniquely lovely.
4) Tell Perfection to f#@% off.
Let’s be honest—perfection is boring.
Sometimes we hold ourselves to impossible standards and lose sight of the greatness we already possess in the desperate search for something more. Instead of constantly grappling to be something we aren’t, why not try to appreciate what we’ve already become?
Perfection is an ever-moving target—holding ourselves to a standard of perfection will always leave us feeling depleted. What feels a little better (a lot better!) is loving what we’ve got while still being happily motivated to accomplish our deepest-held dreams and desires.
Write yourself loving, adoring notes and post them on the mirror for you to see the next morning.
Gaze lovingly at your own reflection in the mirror and tell yourself in a passionate, fervent voice that you’re a badass, spectacular supernova (It’s true.) You may feel a little silly at first, but after a while it will start to feel really wonderful. Then you’ll start to believe what you tell yourself, and all of those lovely affirmations become imbedded in your soul and radiate from every inch of you.
6) Take yourself out on dates.
In order to really romance yourself and fall in love, you’ll need to spend some time alone. Go all out—court yourself.
Buy yourself flowers. Spend a glorious day doing whatever makes your soul sing.
Go to the art museum and stare at a painting that moves you for as long as you’d like while sipping on a cappuccino.
Go shopping for used records and then go home and have a wild, solo dance party in your bedroom (feel free to accentuate the wild here). Have an awesome picnic in the park with your favorite grub. Go on a hike. Or, just spend an evening in your pajamas and a good movie.
7) Nurture yourself.
Treat yourself—mind, body, and soul—with the utmost respect and love.
Feed yourself healthy foods and eliminate processed crap. Surround yourself with things that make you feel really, really good and don’t feel bad about getting rid of anything that doesn’t. Read things that uplift your spirit. Take some time to move your body. Start an exercise routine. Get your hair done. Watch an uplifting movie. Do whatever you can, as often as you can, to give yourself a little extra lovin’. You deserve it.
8) Listen to yourself.
Take some time to find out who you really are, and what you really want. Forget the logical part of your brain—what is your intuition telling you? What are your instincts saying?
Somewhere inside each of us in a powerful, intuitive force that we can use for guidance. The key is remembering how to access it.
Think of your intuition as a muscle—the more you trust it and use it, the stronger and more well-defined it becomes. Then, once you exercise it enough times and begin to really trust its power, you will be perfectly guided to the situations, events, and people that are the best match for you. Instant happiness booster, and self-love strengthener.
(After all, how cool is it that inside of you, you beautiful being you, there is a infinite, universal intelligence, just waiting for you to access its power?)
9) Focus on the positive.
Write lists of all the things you find cool about you. Write a list of your accomplishments (big or small) and post it on your fridge. Every morning when you wake up, or every night before bed, make it a habit to list all the blessings in your life and the things you have to be appreciative of. It’s amazing how many more blessings and wonderful things flow into your experience when you take time to acknowledge all those that already surround you (like magic).
The journey to great self-love is an incredibly noble and worthy pursuit.
For me, it’s taken supreme dedication to do what it takes each day to insure that this love grows stronger and becomes more deeply rooted. When I began to show myself unconditional love and respect, and give my soul a little TLC, my ability to give and receive love from others became natural, easy, and unencumbered, too.
So, as the Buddha so wisely said, “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Now go get busy falling in love.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renee Picard
Photos: used with permission by the author