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How to really fall in love with ourselves even when it feels wrong.
Almost all of us suffer from an inner conflict that makes it feel wrong to fully fall in love with ourselves.
If just reading that to yourself, you felt a familiar cringe, here’s a story that you might relate to.
I remember running a conference for about 700 attendees. There were multiple class tracks, guest speakers coming in from all over, and staff to organize—thousands of details and I was the only one in charge.
If you asked other people, including my bosses, everything went off without a hitch.
But do you know what I focused on?
That one interview with a big industry name was recorded poorly. It was too late to redo as she was already on a plane to her next destination.
It bothered me for days, even though I kept receiving emails of congratulations and thank yous.
I wanted to forget it, and I didn’t. I kept harping on it, replaying what I could have done, and why had I not prepared enough for it.
I had an internal battle inside over being kind to myself for a small mistake. It reduced my huge accomplishment from 99 percent of the amazing to the 1 percent of not quite right.
For me, it was about shaming myself into not making mistakes, and even deeper, the fear that I would cause something disastrous. Looking in hindsight, I can see how silly it was, but in my mind at the time, shame was the tool I was taught, so I used it.
That’s just one example, and I’m sure we all have some resistance to self-love—at least in some areas.
Why is it so hard to love ourselves?
Because we’re taught not to love ourselves. Even in the dictionary, the definitions include the words selfish or vain. Our culture is good at telling us to serve others and care for others, which leaves us resentful when there is no one taking care of us in the same way.
I’ve found it much more effective to fill my own cup first and then tend to others.
When we are filled up first, we serve with a more open heart and give more generously.
Another resistance is statements that sound like: I will love myself when…
>> I earn that degree
>> I am more in control of my circumstances
>> I get it right
>> I get that job
>> I hit my goal or finish that project
>> I think I am a good enough parent, friend, sister, daughter
The problem is that self-love doesn’t come as warm, fuzzy feelings one night. We don’t wake up and suddenly think we are da bomb.
Self-love is a practice of choosing you, over and over again.
It doesn’t always feel easy or comfortable. Sometimes it just feels hard, especially if you’re doing it right.
Are you struggling with self-love?
Here are some ways we can choose more self-love:
1. Choosing to be more compassionate with our humanness.
The beauty, if you choose to see it, in being human is that the challenge isn’t to be perfect. It’s to see our limitations and be able to accept all of ourselves. “All” meaning the gifts and magic and also the dark and the icky. Embracing all of it offers us compassion and empathy to share with others.
How to: forgive yourself right now for not being perfect, for the past, and even for future imperfections. Allow yourself some grace and speak to yourself like you would a loved one.
2. Choose to shift judgment to curiosity.
Judgment is natural; it is necessary to keep us safe. Unfortunately, our brains are way too good and automatically categorize everything into neat, little boxes so we see everything as what we desire and what we don’t.
If we shift our thinking to being more curious, we can move into more possibility and opportunity instead of staying focused on one perspective that may not even be true. I bet many things and people have qualities that exist in more than one box, even you. Curiosity will help you stay open to see the whole, not just initial snap judgments.
How to: start questioning what we think is true. Is it really true or are we basing that truth on one experience? What else could be true about this? What is there to love in this situation?
3. Choose to be brave and show up for the hard things.
Self-love isn’t always easy. Here’s the thing: love, in general, isn’t always easy. It’s a choice to keep showing up. It often means choosing courage, like being seen and heard. It can mean making boundaries with people we love. Doing the hard things when necessary is how we commit to self-love. It’s how we begin to trust ourselves to do the right thing for ourselves—especially when it’s hard.
How to: when we want to stay true and loyal to ourselves, resistance will definitely pop up. My invitation is for us to work through the resistance. We can sit with it until we are able to choose the thing that is best for us, not necessarily the easiest.
4. Choose to be okay with discomfort.
There’s a huge difference between safety and discomfort. Often, discomfort is simply a request that we grow or stretch. One of my favorite quotes is by Dr. Susan David: “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” If you are looking for meaning, joy, peace, or self-love, discomfort needs to be a friend. It’s okay to be uncomfortable; in fact, there may not be a more “normal” place for us to be.
How to: feelings can be uncomfortable, and they are simply sensations in our bodies. We can make them less painful if we sit with the feeling and not the thoughts or stories we are making up around it. We can focus on the sensations in the body and turn off the thoughts about it. Our focus on our body can take us out of the drama we’re creating in our heads and lessen the discomfort.
For example: “This is sadness. It feels achy in my chest. It feels like I want to curl up in a ball. It brings tears. Sadness is okay.”
5. Choose to create space for your self-love practice.
Having a space dedicated to going within and focusing on loving ourselves can help bring on the energy of self-love. Each time we return to the same space with the same intention over and over it starts to feel like a blanket you can put on to stay warm.
How to: it might be a space by an altar or just a corner of your house that you have all to yourself. Have some items to bring in your senses—good things to smell or taste, soft sweaters or blankets to touch, or music you love. I invite you to create a space your body wants to come back to. Then make the choice to spend some time focused on your intention to love you and how you can do that more in your life.
It’s all about choice, little choices every day.
You’re the only one required to do so.