This may sound obvious, but I am going to say it anyway: we can’t use self-hate to get to self-love.
And even though you are probably nodding in agreement, my guess is that you try to do it all the time—use self-hate to get to self-love, that is.
I know I do.
This is an important distinction to make in our lives, this starting to see where we are pushing ourselves with self-disdain in an attempt to feel better about ourselves.
Of course, we all have things we need to get done in the day, but if we are using an attitude of self-hate to accomplish our tasks, we will probably start to feel weaker and weaker over time.
For instance, we might say to ourselves, “I really need to go to the gym, because I have been so lazy and I’m getting fat.”
This statement might seem like simple self-motivation.
It might seem like we are just being realistic, because we haven’t gone to the gym in weeks, and the scale is up five pounds, and our pants don’t fit.
But really, we’re being mean to ourselves, and I think it’s time to get honest about it. When we talk to ourselves this way, we’re actually hurting ourselves.
It hurts to be told we are lazy, and it hurts to be told we are fat.
And if we are committed to self-love, then we have to be committed to stopping the endless diatribe of mean things we tell ourselves all day long.
On the other hand, if going to the gym really makes us feel good—if we listen to our music and smile and sweat and feel like a million bucks when we come home after the gym, then maybe self-love does look like motivating ourselves to go to the gym today.
But self-motivation could sound like, “I really want to feel good today, because I care about feeling good. I am going to go to the gym, even though I am tired right now, because I know after I will appreciate the workout and like the way I feel in body and mind.”
We are still giving ourselves a pep talk, but we are encouraging ourselves from a place of wanting to feel good—not from a place of telling ourselves we aren’t good enough.
This scenario can especially apply to our meditation practice.
Meditating is all about re-training the mind. In meditation, we re-wire the neural system to be less reactive and more responsive by choosing where to put our attention.
In meditation, what we “fire” is what we “wire.”
This is why I’m so passionate about using an attitude of loving-friendliness with ourselves when working with meditation techniques.
If we are moving our attention from thought to breath during our meditation practice, with an attitude of, “I suck, why can’t I be better at this?” then what are we “wiring” into our minds and systems?
Self-hate and harshness.
Instead, we want to gently notice where our attention is and, with a feeling of loving-kindness, guide our attention back to the breath, as we would a puppy to its chew toy.
This same teaching is important to keep in mind when considering our attitude toward getting to our formal meditation practice.
Everyone I know is hard on themselves that they “don’t meditate enough.”
Just this criticizing ourselves for not meditating enough is doing damage to our minds and hearts.
If we know meditation helps us, then we can kindly and lovingly encourage ourselves to meditate. If we are finding it stressful to try to fit meditation into our schedule, we can kindly and lovingly acknowledge that we are busy and meditation just isn’t happening right now.
There is no need to be mean to ourselves about it, especially if we have chosen to walk the self-love journey.
Self-care ideally stems from self-love.
We choose activities and experiences that make us feel good, because we love ourselves and want to feel good—not because we think we are flawed and are pressuring ourselves to be different or better.
Becoming diligent about how we speak to ourselves is one of the most self-loving things we can do. Watching our mind-talk and setting a zero tolerance policy on harassing and beating ourselves up is the quickest way to improve the quality of our daily life.
Loving thoughts to ourselves will make us be more loving to others as well, and is there anything else on this human journey we need to do more than that?
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Mateus Lunardi Dutra/Flickr