In the world of personal development, there’s a term that’s thrown around a lot. “Self-love”. I get it. Having it is critical. But I’ve never liked it...the term that is. Reason being…it never really resonated with me. I mean what does that actually mean anyway?? Because I’ve always felt I had a good degree of self-love. I’m a good person. I like me. But on closer inspection, I had to admit…there’ve been many times I haven’t acted in a loving way towards myself. Times where I beat myself up for not progressing as fast as I thought I should. Moments I focused on what I hadn’t yet accomplished rather than noticing all the obstacles I had overcome. Situations where I didn’t believe in myself or didn’t stand up for what I did believe in. Giving more airtime to the inner critic rather than the inner cheerleader.
Now in these situations, I ask myself…what would love do here? What would love say to me? This can be tricky too…because sometimes doing the loving thing may mean demanding more of yourself to do the challenging thing. There’s a fine line between lovingly championing for yourself versus justifying your behavior. Don’t be fooled by this nuance. Self-justification is not necessarily the loving thing to do. It’s what we hide behind so we can take the easier path, or even maintain our feeling of “rightness”. That’s not true love. Neither is indulging in behaviors (as well as inner conversations) that tear us down in some way, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. Engaging in something that makes us feel good for the moment but is destructive in the long run falls into this category.
As human beings, we have an inherent need for connection. We can find study after study showing the risks and benefits associated with human connection and the lack thereof. If anyone doubted this…the pandemic gave some “real-time” results on how important connection is to us humans. I don’t dispute these facts. But what’s so interesting is how often we ignore the most vital love connection available…the one with ourselves.
I’ve heard it said many times that you can’t love other people until you first love yourself…another statement I’ve never agreed with. Of course you can! People all over the planet are doing this daily. For me, a truer statement would be… until you have fostered a deep and loving connection with yourself where YOU can give yourself what you need, you will always be captive to the inevitable ups and downs of your life and the people in it.
What does this mean in practical everyday terms? For all intents and purposes, you treat yourself the same way you would treat the love of your life. You pay attention. You spend quality time. You give praise and speak lovingly. When disappointment comes you gently correct and provide the necessary support. You maintain honesty and integrity. You take care of the body and treat it with respect. You refrain from shaming, blaming, and “guilting”. You point out the things you love about them and keep those in focus. You have compassion. You exercise UNDERSTANDING. You boost their confidence when they don’t quite believe in themselves. AND you repeatedly TELL them and SHOW them how much you love them. All the things you do for the love of your life you should also be doing for yourself. Would you do it to or for them? If not, then you shouldn’t do it to you either. Asking yourself that question is a great place to start.
Some people have a hard time loving themselves... for a variety of reasons. But underneath all those reasons, there’s something common to them all. Loving themselves feels UNFAMILIAR. And we know based on Arrow Tip #4 that the brain and body are NOT comfortable with the unfamiliar. This is part of our survival instinct. Familiar = Safe. I’ve asked many people I’ve coached to begin a simple practice of just telling themselves “I love you” as you would someone you cared deeply for. Many can’t even do that. It’s too unfamiliar to them. If that feels uncomfortable to you then try starting with this…just become your own best friend.
How many deep and loving relationships started out as friendships? The love of your life doesn’t just pertain to romantic relationships. Your pet can be the love of your life. Your best friends can be the loves of your life. So, if you can’t quite get on board to “fall in love with yourself” because loving you feels too uncomfortable…just start with treating yourself the way you would treat your best friend…even if that friend has four legs. In fact, even better! Sometimes we treat our animals with more care than anyone else, including ourselves. And our animals love us unconditionally. Let's learn from them.
The more you treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend or love, the more comfortable it will feel. It’s this repetition that “fires and wires” the brain circuitry together…making the unfamiliar become familiar. You are quite literally creating a new mind with a new SET point.
Learn to give yourself love, comfort, and validation rather than turning that power over to sources on the outside. When this happens you become the master, as opposed to the slave. Then it doesn’t matter what other people do. You still can get what you need. AND when this foundation is solid, not only are you no longer dependent on things outside yourself, but all the other connections become icing on the cake. Much sweeter.
1. Begin a daily practice of telling yourself how much you LOVE you!
2. Notice any areas where you’re not doing the loving thing towards yourself.
3. Make sure all self-talk comes from a place of love and support.
4. Do things to foster and deepen a connection with yourself by spending quality time and paying attention to YOU.
5. When you’re unsure of what to do, or you’re engaging in a pattern of self-defeat in some way, ask yourself “WHAT WOULD LOVE DO HERE?”
*Remember: YOU ARE UNSTOPPABLE!