We are in the midst of a self-love revolution.
From meditations and mantras, to Oprah and Deepak Chopra, the notion of self-love as the foundation for a happy and fulfilling life is well established across psychology, pop culture and spirituality.
Falling in love with ourselves seems to be imperative to healthy relationships, healthy minds and healthy bodies.
It sounds simple enough and the rewards sound amazing, so why then, is it tricky for us to master?
The catch is—we aren’t sure what it really means to love ourselves, let alone how we are supposed to go about doing it.
Like many modern day women, I have expressed self-love by treating myself to massages or manicures, buying myself flowers or making time for a long, luxurious bath once the kids finally fall sleep (and chocolate—lots of chocolate) but it just doesn’t seem to be enough.
We need something deeper and to find it we need to really think about what love is, why it is important and how we can best express it, receive it and give ourselves the same levels of love, respect, gratitude and compassion which we so easily lavish on those around us.
I decided to ask some of the amazing women and men I work with.
Here are the five questions I asked about love.
1. Why is love important?
We tend to take for granted that we “just know” why love is important, yet to love ourselves deeply, it really helps to understand what love actually gives us.
We all crave love.
It feels good, we know that it is good for us (when expressed healthily) and we organize our lives around it in so many ways, but why?
While everyone’s answer was unique, there were several common threads—love allows us to heal. Love allows us to transform. Love gives us safety. Love gives us freedom to be exactly who we came here to be.
2. Why is self-love important?
Building our own awareness around why love is a gift, we then reflect on why it so important to be able to love ourselves meaningfully.
Despite the fact that many of us find it challenging to love ourselves in the same way we love another, we were all clear on this one—we will struggle to love another fully or receive their love with grace and ease, until we hold a healthy level of love for ourselves.
We all want to live our best life and shine our brightest light—to do that, we need to cultivate within, the type of love which provides the essential elements to thriving—freedom, healing, safety and transformation.
3. What is the greatest gift of love someone could ever give you?
We contemplated our perfect “love gift.”
What is the best way another could express their love for you?
The depth of emotion this question aroused was amazing and one answer resounded through the room—presence.
Every single person expressed, in some way, that the greatest gift they could ever receive—the one thing in the world that would make them feel most loved—is having someone be deeply present with them.
We feel most loved when we are being deeply seen, deeply heard and deeply received for exactly who we are—the magnificent and the crappy.
We feel the greatest love when we are being held gently in a deep container of safety from which we can express our deepest thoughts, desires, needs and emotions.
4. How do you give yourself your greatest “love gift?”
So, this was where things got interesting!
Having identified that we feel most loved when we are experiencing deep presence with another, we asked whether this was a gift we have ever given to ourselves.
To be honest, most of us weren’t sure what this would look like. We are often encouraged to look after ourselves by eating healthy, exercising or taking time out for a a massage and time with friends.
These are all highly valuable activities, but we seem to have overlooked the game changer—simply sitting with ourselves and truly being present to our deepest, most fragile emotions, needs and desires.
We reflected on the way we mentor, support and nurture our partners, children and close friends through times of distress or confusion and contemplated why we aren’t programmed to give the same gentleness to ourselves.
5. How do I give myself the gift of “presence?”
If the greatest act of love we can give each other is deep presence, it’s time for us to develop our skills in being present to ourselves.
How, you ask?
This will look different for everyone—start by simply being aware of feeling distressed in any way, big or small—just pause and recognize that we are feeling something uncomfortable.
Take a breath and ask yourself, what would you say to your best friend, your child, or a colleague if they were feeling this way right now? Then take another breath and quietly, gently, express that same level of care, support and nurturing that you would give another.
Be deeply present with that part of you who needs a loving hand. Imagine that this feeling of discomfort is like a small child standing, nagging, waiting for your attention as you make dinner, finish a conversation or type an e-mail for work.
Yes, you’re busy with all this other stuff that needs to get done, but notice how she calms as soon as you turn towards her, acknowledge her presence and ask her what she needs.
The reward is much greater than the effort.
She just wants to be seen, heard and received without judgment. It might take some practice, but over time, you will truly become your own best friend.
I encourage you to take a moment to sit quietly and reflect on these questions for yourself.
Consider what love really is to you.
Think about how self-love can meaningfully expand your way of being in the world.
Ask yourself what is the greatest gift of love anyone has ever (or could ever) give to you and figure out how you could give yourself the same gift. Then commit to gently growing your awareness around the power of being deeply present to yourself.
This simple act of self-love is truly transformational.
May your journey into deep presence with yourself be beautiful!
I look forward to hearing about your experience.
Author: Sasha Moss
Volunteer Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photo: courtesy of the author, flickr