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The concept of loving yourself might be a difficult one to understand.
Love is both a feeling and in many ways also an intention: a mind-body-energy willingness to soften and open the heart. A daily decision to choose yes to love and no to fear.
Welcoming self-love will truly stop making you feel like a failure if a coworker does not like your work, or the lady at the counter does not show kindness to you, or your ex shows up with a new girlfriend.
Truly inviting self-love will make you resilient (in the positive sense of the term) to potential triggers in your life.
How? I know it does not sound that easy; I have been there.
Here are nine ways to start inviting self-love and truly change the way you see yourself and the world:
1. Watch your inner critic.
Your inner critic is that voice in your head that puts yourself down: “I look ugly today,” “Why did I say/do that? This was just stupid,” “I will never be successful,” “I am lazy,” “I am not loved,” “ I am so lonely and will always be,” and “I am too old for that.”
Or comparing yourself with others: “Look at her body; mine is so fat,” “He’s such a better speaker, writer, basketball player than me. I will never be able to do that.”
Each time you hear your inner critic, your negative self-talk, catch limiting beliefs about yourself, or feel triggered by something or someone just pause and breathe. Catch all those conditions your inner critic put your worth on.
Note that your inner critic is not necessarily your enemy. He or she has a positive intention to continuously come and judge. It could be for you to always strive to be the best version of yourself. So acknowledge that. Try to find an agreement with your inner critic that constantly putting you down is not the right approach.
Simply ask yourself how you feel when you hear all that negative self-talk. Does that lead to you striving for more? Usually not. And usually, all this negative self-talk has an emotional toll.
So your inner critic might agree to relax for a while, finding a new way to operate. Maybe start to change the constant criticism with inner-cheerleading—celebrating your wins, celebrating you more than putting you down.
2. Hold your inner child.
What part of you actually believes the inner critic? What part of you feels hurt and not good enough? How does this part feel? How old is this part? Can you hold her tight? How long have you been believing that you are not good enough? Who took the permission to love yourself away from you? How long have you believed that you needed to fulfill all those conditions for you to be lovable?
Stay there with this part of yourself, enough to feel what is there to feel, to hold her, and give her a chance to be heard, felt, and seen. Then bring the resources you have to her, as an adult version of yourself—what would you say to her? What was she missing? Give it all to the young, wounded part of yourself.
3. Cultivate acceptance (and potentially love).
If you are not ready to love all those unmet conditions about yourself, can you start simply accepting those? Accepting your body the way she is, accepting your emotions as they come, accepting your career just the way it is, accepting that you sometimes need a break, accepting your life, accepting the masterpiece you are with all the darkness and light?
Acceptance is not a complete resignation and does not mean things won’t change. The energy of acceptance is a softening, an “it is what it is,” a long, nourishing breath in and out.
Try it out! Maybe remember a time you truly accepted something. Give yourself permission to soften to acceptance.
4. Recognise your light.
Recognise the things you did well, the qualities you show as a human, a friend, a wife, a partner, a parent.
Bring gratitude to those things every day, training yourself to recognise your light as well as your darkness.
5. Choose and cultivate new beliefs.
Close your eyes, take a breath, and ask yourself:
How would you feel if you truly unconditionally loved yourself? What would you do? How would you walk? How would you talk? How would you show up to the world?
Know that you deserve to be loved. Everyone does. You were born worthy and you still are. So choose to believe it.
Choose the beliefs that will serve your life for the better.
Those beliefs need to come down from a simple cognitive understanding to a full-body agreement; it might take some time. It might take time to look at all the conditions you put on your self-love (such as body, career and success, money, uniqueness in the world), understanding who put those conditions onto you when you were a child, healing the wounded child behind those conditions, and now regaining your power as an adult to believe what you choose to believe.
That truly would add value in your life and the life of people around you.
6. Connect to your needs and express them with love and confidence.
Give yourself permission to take time for yourself, to take care of yourself, do the things you love, the things that energise you.
Cherish your beautiful body by eating nourishing, wholesome foods coming from the earth, moving, exercising the way that feels good for her, and resting and sleeping when she needs it.
If you need help to fulfill those needs (you need your partner or friend to take care of the kids while you go for a walk, for example), give yourself permission to clearly express the help you need.
7. Remove the “masks” you put in different contexts.
Give yourself permission to be yourself in all contexts, to show yourself, to speak your truth, with confidence and love.
>> The achiever mask: understand that your worth as a human is not attached to what you do, your career, your money, your material belongings, or your looks. Your worth as a human is intrinsic; you were born worthy and you still are. See your worth in who you are. Rewrite your success story, new rules to be lovable. Remember that it is less about what you do and more about who you are.
>> The agreeable mask: be okay with a little conflict and choose to stand up for yourself and have uncomfortable discussions, rather than complying and agreeing for fear of rejection.
>> The victim mask: you are not a victim of your circumstances (unless you are truly in physical danger), so stop blaming others for what they have done or not done. Regain control of your four powers: your power of thinking, feeling, action, and words.
8. See the “humanness” in people, the good and not so good, with compassion and understanding.
People love and act at their level of consciousness and you do too. Drop that understanding from a cognitive one to a full-body knowing.
9. Last but not least: show love!
The best way to invite more love into your life is to show love, to speak from your heart, to express love!
A part of you might come and bring resistance here, for fear of your love not being received, fear of being hurt. But let that part realise that by not giving yourself permission to soften to love, you are missing out and you suffer anyway.
You can express your love to yourself, others, friends, family, kids, and people you don’t know as well, the way that feels good to you: say I love you to the people you love, be present, do acts of kindness within your community, smile at a stranger in the street, have a little conversation with the cashier, give an extra hug to your kids or husband.
With infinite love and gratitude.