What is the true meaning, the lived experience of loving yourself? We can talk about caring for yourself, or having good vibes, but what does that actually mean in practical terms, as a lived experience?
This has been the focus of my life, the shifts in my own growth, as well as my practice as a holistic therapist in my work with people. Getting to the sensory grounded experiences and applying these in your day to day living consistently nurtures our experience of self love. We hear quite often that we have to love ourselves first before we are truely able to love another. We have to fill up our own well before we can give to others to drink. Part of you might think this is impossible. But it is crucial to remind yourself that this is a gradual process, where the focus is on wellness not perfection.
How do we love ourselves?
Many of us, don’t feel we’ve had a template for what loving ourself might look like. We might have had a lot of direct or indirect, verbal and non-verbal messages to not love ourself. We may be currently in our own process of unraveling and unlearning some of the behaviours that created blocks to our self love. Consistency enables us to recognise and trust that we’re on our own side, that we are willing to step up and and care for our wellbeing and this is core for loving ourself.
Here are some practical keys you can start to practice for a lived experience of loving yourself.
Key 1 – Respect Yourself
If I’m loving myself, I’m respecting myself and respecting my choices. Respecting yourself is no. 1 as an act of self love. It is making a mental commitment to walking your talk and aligning your behaviours to your beliefs.
Ask yourself these simple questions:
What beliefs do you hold around how you should work, how you spend your free time, how you should live?
What are your deep seated beliefs about what you should eat or drink or not? What are your beliefs around taking drugs, or smoking. How do you feel about these things?
We are all a work in progress. We are all moving in the direction of our beliefs. We can respect that some things can be difficult and they take time to shift and change. As long as you’re being honest with yourself, that you’re not making excuses, that you’re not procrastinating. Making consistent and active steps that you can see instils trust in honouring your beliefs and are foundational for building respect.
Key 2 Being Honest With Yourself
Loving you also means being honest with yourself, but in a kind way. Looking at the choices you are making in your life, and those behaviours that may be more destructive. Addressing these in a way that is kind, that doesn’t shame you or berate you. This takes practice.
Being honest with ourself also means shedding the light of our consciousness onto those aspects of our personality that may need some cleaning up. There’s a part of us that doesn’t want to face anything we perceive as threatening within us. We can be in denial about our shadow side. We want to believe that there’s nothing wrong, that we’re nice, filled with light and only focus on the positive. It’s other people that are the problem. We project what we don’t like out onto other people.
When we own it and say, you know what, there’s this part of me that has these thoughts and I’m not proud of it. Owning them, being honest about them, helps shift them straight away so that they don’t have any power over us.
It’s empowering to recognise when and where we need to ask for the support of a good psychotherapist or social work. To address those troubling, destructive or self sabotaging behaviours, or negative self talk. It starts with you being honest with yourself.
Key 3 – Keeping Your Agreements With Yourself
Imagine cutting down on coffee, or sugar, or certain foods that you eat that you feel aren’t aligned with your feeling of wellness and taking care of yourself. If you start off, but then keep breaking your commitment to take care of yourself there is a disrespect happening there and this will contribute to the feeling of not loving yourself.
The first step is to really make that commitment to yourself, knowing that the underlying belief is one of self care, self love and wellness. The onus is on you to make choices that are good for you. Each time you keep to your decision you builds on the feeling of self respect and empowerment.
Key 4 – Focus on Wellness Not Perfection
Perfection does not exist in the physical world. Just look around you at nature. Nature is magnificent in it’s imperfection. In fact, it’s nature’s imperfection that makes it so perfect. The ego is what drives perfection in ourselves, that can be merciless in comparing us to others or who keeps shifting the goal post. If we hold onto that belief of perfection we can start to beat ourselves up, we can feel very anxious and we suffer.
When we get into comparing we need to remind ourselves that people may seem perfect on the outside, but on the inside everyone’s go issues they’re dealing with, everyone’s got insecurities.
We Are All A Magnificent Work In Progress
Self love is something I’ve been working on in myself for the the past 40 years. It takes patience, compassion and consistency. Sometimes it can feel like one step forward and two steps back. We are all a work in progress. The process of constant shifting and changing and working at things is a sign that we’re alive!
Loving yourself really has to do with dropping the defences and being real with yourself and making decisions based on how you feel your higher self may want you live my life.
Know that it is safe to treat yourself with love, it’s safe for you to drop your defences with yourself and be honest with yourself, it’s safe for you to face your feelings, and it’s safe for you to love yourself.