What Does Self-Love Actually Look Like?
Self-love is a modern day theory that emerged from the self-help world and dances across therapeutic settings, workshops, and literature. It’s weaved into yoga classes and coaching websites. Over the past decade, it seems to have become the answer to just about everything that ails people. If you can just love yourself, then your life will be better.
Although that may sound trite or over-simplified, I also believe it’s true. I believe your life actually will become better if you embody self-love, and as you read on, you will discover concrete examples of what this actually looks like. But before we get to that, let’s take the abstract and make it tangible. Let’s take a concept that tends to elicit a sense of disconnect or “not there yet” feelings, and start to understand it on a deeper level so you can actually work with it and apply it in your life.
Self-Love in Action
Self-love applied as a practice births feelings of greater inner-peace, harmony, and joy. It’s your trusted ally in dealing with thoughts of not being good enough, important enough, or even attractive enough for who or what you truly desire. It’s the antidote to your inner-critic and medicine for the over-active critical thought patterns. It feels like placing a soothing balm over tender skin.
Contrary to how it’s frequently thought of, self-love is not something we have or don’t have. It is something we do. Self-love is a verb. It’s an action. It’s a practice. And just like anything we want to become good at, we faithfully keep at it, even when we are wobbly or uncoordinated.
Self-love is about how we are being with ourselves in every moment. It’s not about what we think or feel, it’s about how we respond. This is because everyone has a pain story. Everyone has things they wish were different about themselves. This is a part of being human. We cannot control our human mind’s tendency to be a jerk every once in awhile, but we can control how we react to it. If we can become a loving responder, we instantly embody self-love. We shift from identifying with the itty bitty critic committee, and step into our role as the loving and strong presence that transforms pain into purpose.
Recognizing Your Own Patterns
If our pattern is to think critically of ourselves, then self-love meets this with curiosity and tends to it with compassion. Rather than condemning for our perceived faults, we lean in and listen with an open heart. We do not fight the thoughts. We do not deny the thoughts. And we also don’t identify with them and let them take us down. Instead we find the part inside of us that is unconditionally loving. If you cannot find this place, use your imagination. It works. It really does. Respond to your judgements with the same tenderness as you would if a 10-year-old was telling you all the reasons she was not enough.
Would you be able to see that her own story of who she is, was actually created from how she internalized how other people responded to her? Would you recognize that her opinion of herself wasn’t accurate because her mirrors where either absent, abusive, or didn’t know how to love themselves either? Would you see that if she could just see herself the way you saw her, she would finally see the truth?
We are no different. We are all needing to be this unconditionally loving presence for ourselves. When we become adults this is our responsibility. It’s not the responsibility of our friends, family, or partners. It’s an inside job. We are responsible for how we treat ourselves, which includes what we tolerate from others. We are always responsible for our reality, inside and out. It’s never our job to fix anyone else, and it’s always our job to honor ourselves. As you are learning to apply self-love, it’s normal to wobble and this is reflected in what you tolerate from others. However, as you continue to simply practice it, imperfectly, you will find that you become more consistent and grounded in it. It becomes a habit.
Respond to your judgements with the same tenderness as you would if a 10-year-old was telling you all the reasons she was not enough.-Lesley Wirth
If self-love is still feeling like it’s not something important to work on, I invite you to feel into the following scenarios:
- You are going into a job interview that you really want. You have spent the past six months beating yourself up for “never getting anywhere,” and your nerves are shot because you feel like you won’t be able to emotionally handle it if you get rejected again. If you don’t get it, you spend a week in bed, totally depressed believing you are a “failure.”
- You are going into a job interview that you really want. You have heard the judgments that come up based on the challenges that have unfolded over the past six months. But you have showed up for yourself again and again. You have sat with non-judgment and applied the medicine of an unconditionally loving presence. You have been able to transform your daily experience by applying care and uplifting sentiments to this part of you that is simply afraid. You have softened and are not holding yourself with such rigidity. Although you are nervous walking into the interview, you know that you will be able to show up for yourself afterward if things don’t go well. You know that ultimately getting the job or not has no relation to your value and worth as a person. At worst you will have to deal with some disappointment and try again.
Same scenario, two totally different experiences. Every single day leading up to this interview could be awful, or it could be a time of coming to know your actual worth. Dating and relationships same thing. Picking up the pieces after using, same thing.
The question is not whether or not you are actually good enough, attractive enough, or worthy enough, it’s whether or not you believe it. And the path to believing it starts with practicing the application of self-love.
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