A Beginner's Guide to Self-Love
I'm sure you've heard somewhere about the importance of loving yourself enough. You've probably read articles or books; been told in a webinar; watched a documentary on it, or heard experts expound on the importance of self-love, as well as how a lack of self-love is the root of so many problems, including physical and mental illness.
Why then does it seem so terribly hard to actually do it? Why are we all so quick to criticise ourselves and so reluctant to praise ourselves, or to accept compliments?
First, let's understand what ever-present, insidious self-criticism looks like in daily life. For example, do you regularly say things about yourself, or to yourself, like the following:'Oh silly me,' 'You idiot', 'For God's sake, what's wrong with me?!', 'that's typical of me', 'I've never been good at ...', 'I hate it when I do that...', 'what am I like!?', 'Ugh, I've gained so much weight', 'I've got a great face for radio!', 'I've never looked good in yellow/stripes/skirts...' , 'I've messed up again...', and so on.
Many of us spend many of our waking hours basically apologising for ourselves, or trying to compensate for our self-perceived 'failings'. Always putting the needs of others before your own is a lack of enough self-love. Working yourself into the ground to 'prove' your capable and worthy stems from a lack of enough self-love.
As well, compare how often you find fault with yourself, with how often you say something nice to, or about, yourself, such as: 'I've got a great memory', 'I'm really knowledgeable on...', 'I'm a wonderful cook/ baker/ gardener/ craftsperson/musician/ writer / listener...', 'I deserve some time off this weekend so I'm taking myself to a spa or cafe...', 'I love my hair / eyes / hands...'
Why is this important? Because self-love is the key to EVERYTHING! This is not just about your personal happiness, it's about saving the world! I mean it! More of us loving ourselves, knowing our worth as Divine beings, is the key to solving the climate crisis; the key to ending poverty, wars, inequality and injustice. it's the key to shifting life on planet Earth. How?
Because it is a lack of self-love that drives mean, cruel, jealous, thoughtless, ruthless, selfish, fear-based behaviour. It is when we do not love ourselves enough that this spills out into the world as abuse, submission and oppression, environmental damage, apathy, violence, greed, and more. On a micro level, when we do not love ourselves enough, we feed our bodies 'dead' food like processed sugars, we fill our amazing bodies with alcohol, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, etc. We end up feeling hopeless, lost, despairing, powerless.
We cannot care for others or for the planet if we do not love ourselves first. Love is like a fountain that must be flowing within us before it can spill out into the world around us. If our fountain is flowing with self-hate, then that is what we spill into our world.
When did we learn to criticise, denigrate and belittle ourselves? Mostly in childhood, which is where almost everything is seeded. It comes from our parents and relatives, from media and culture, from teachers and religious leaders. Some of it is learned behaviour that we absorb from our parents. For example, if we saw our mothers belittled or put down by our fathers, we may absorb the belief that women are lesser; women must stoically bear suffering, women are unworthy of love and must 'earn' love through struggle and sacrifice, etc.
How do you get more self-love into your life?
1. First, see it. Notice your self-critical behaviour and start to change it. If you hear yourself chivvy yourself, or judge yourself, say 'no, cancel that, from now on I am kind to myself.'
2. Listen to your language. A sign of subtle self-bullying is the word 'should' and shouldn't. Hearing yourself tell yourself that you 'should' do something. 'I should do the cleaning', 'I shouldn't eat that'. Why should you? Swap it out with the word 'choose' and notice how better than feels. So, 'I choose to do the cleaning because I feel good when the house is tidy' or 'I choose to not eat that because it is not beneficial for my body, I choose to eat this instead...'
3. Forgive yourself for everything in your life that you regret. 'I now forgive myself for all the times I was less than kind, I forgive myself for all my perceived mistakes, I forgive myself for holding myself back, I forgive myself for the missed opportunities, I forgive myself for not being as rich / famous / educated (or whatever) as I hoped to be by now...'
4. Be open to the idea that you can accept yourself as you are: Each day, say, 'I am open to the idea that nothing about me needs to change. I am open to believing that I am already good enough. I am open to the idea that I have nothing to prove.
5. And forgive yourself when you find this hard and fall back into the old criticisms like 'I'm too fat/old/stupid...': Each day, say to yourself, 'I am now walking the path of self-love and acceptance and I forgive myself when I stumble.'
6. Forgive everyone who played a part in your lack of self-love programming: 'I forgive everyone who ever taught me that I was lesser, unworthy, undeserving, inferior, powerless... I forgive them because they were also programmed with a lack of self-love; they were doing the best they could from a place of their own pain. But I now choose to do better than that. I choose to love myself unconditionally. I choose to appreciate myself, I choose to appreciate the gift that is my life, I choose to appreciate my body, my talents, my abilities. I choose to allow myself to feel joy and have abundance in all areas of my life.'
All the very best with loving yourself more! We are all a work in progress on this!
Lots of love, Zoe xx
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