Most self-help books advise building self-love in order to be truly happy, yet a surprisingly low number of people truly love themselves. The good news is it’s never too late to begin loving you.
When working with clients, I’m amazed at how often there’s a common theme of self-neglect. When I ask them about how they treat themselves, or what they do to care or have love for themselves, often I get the same strange look.
They’ll often say, “but that’s being selfish.” No, it’s not! It’s being selfish not to love yourself.
First, let us dismiss some myths about what it means to love yourself. Self love is not about being arrogant or egotistical. It is not about comparing yourself to others to determine if you are good enough. It is not about always putting yourself first at the expense of others. It is not about always getting your way. It is not about always winning. It is not about “only looking after number one”.
There is no honor in being a self-less human being. One must not strive for an absence of self. You will be happier and more fulfilled when you discover an appreciation of who you are and what you uniquely bring to the world. When you give with an absence of self, it is not the healthiest.
So, what is self-love? It’s not self-exalting or vanity run wild, but rather a deep, quiet, gratefulness for the distinctive parts that make up your whole. How you use your whole and healthy self to give to yourself.
To love yourself is to be in awe of the miracle of your existence. It is to accept yourself as you are – the “light” parts and the “dark”, the “good” and the “bad” – while knowing that the real you is above the perceived duality of the physical realm. It is to be willing to receive as much as you are willing to give and do both equally. It is about knowing your values and your boundaries and honoring them. It is about teaching others how to treat you by showing them how you treat yourself. It is about being kind to yourself. It is about looking after your mind, your body and your spirit; all three. It is about knowing you are worth it, not because of what you have achieved or what you look like or what others think of you, but because love is your birthright no matter what.
“To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don’t wait until you die. If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now.” Alan Cohen
When you find yourself feeling negativity, say YES to the whole situation that evoked it. The word “YES” carries a powerful energy that can unlock the flow of well being inside you. From within, say YES to everything you’re feeling and to all people involved, past and present.
This doesn’t mean that you need to agree with what someone else is doing. This is not at all about them. It is just an exercise for YOU to release resistance, for your own well being in learning how to love yourself. Resisting anything feeds it energy and keeps recreating the same scenario. Saying YES to it opens the flow of love and gives space for the situation to release and transform.
An excellent way to begin to love yourself is to do something loving for you. When you treat yourself with kindness, it makes you feel good. The more you feel good, the more you want to treat yourself with kindness. Each loving act, however big or small, is a brick in the foundation of self-love. I invite you to find ways to treat yourself nice.
While you’re learning how to love yourself, do as many things as you can to nurture yourself on all levels – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. See what draws you and evokes positive feelings … Yoga? Joining a gym? Or you might want to learn to dance, change your eating habits, or listen to music you love more often. Decide to do at least one activity each day that is exclusively for your own self-nurturing and make time for you.
This exercise is a powerful way to learn how to love yourself. Go to a mirror and look into your eyes. Ignore whatever critical thoughts that may arise, and just focus on your eyes. Really look inside that person you see reflected there. Keep looking until you can see your tender beautiful heart. An exercise Louise Hay recommends is looking back into your won eyes and saying the words, “I love you”.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Siddhartha Gautama Buddha
Besides the many personal benefits YOU will experience from learning how to love yourself, there is a gift you’ll be giving to all of your fellow beings: you will be uplifting all of us. It is an obvious statement that you cannot give something that you do not possess, yet so many people desperately love others without having or giving love to themselves. It is little wonder that in time their reserves of love are exhausted and their relationships falter. To give love, you must first have love. To have love, love yourself.
With a Grateful Heart,