For many of us, love is easy to give. We love our parents, our friends, our children, our cat, our neighbour etc, etc.
We give our love away freely, and often to people who don’t deserve it. We give it to people who use and abuse it, betraying our trust. A lot of the time we continue to give it to these people even after they have broken our hearts.
We often find it hard to love the one person who matters most in our world. Ourselves.
We ignore our own desires, our needs, our wants. We betray ourselves by doing the things we say we won’t do anymore, be it food or lending something to an unappreciative sibling. We don’t do the things we know we should, like say no or exercise.
We don’t honour and love ourselves, because society teaches us it is wrong to love ourselves. If we get a shred of self-esteem we are told not to be ‘up yourself’ or ‘full of yourself’.
We don’t know ourselves, because society tells us that being alone is wrong, that there is something wrong with people who would rather be on their own. That you have to be popular and spend heaps of time with people to be happy.
I personally struggled with self love. Every time I looked in the mirror I hated what I saw, wishing I was different. Wishing I had this face, or this body, or this hair. I didn’t even like who I was as a person.
Then my awakening journey lead me along the path of self-discovery and I realised a lot of things about myself. I didn’t love myself, because I didn’t know myself. I had spent the last 2 decades trying to fit in with everyone else and to be like everyone else that I no longer knew me.
I also discovered the truth in the saying ‘to love another, you must first love yourself.’ I realised I had never truly, deeply loved my boyfriends, my friends, even my own family. This may in part be because I’m an empath, and we feel emotions way more intensely (an idea I can verify through personal experience), often leading us to shut our emotions down, but I don’t think it’s the whole reason. I didn’t know how to love, because I didn’t love myself.
So, as I followed this path of self-discovery I found a few ways that helped me to build a relationship with myself and learn to love myself:
- Learned my love language and practised it on myself: mine is quality time and affection. So, I started spending ‘quality time’ with myself. This included writing, reading, watching TV, exercise. I mustered the courage to take myself out on a movie date and a lunch date, which eventually lead me to taking myself on a holiday! This quality time allowed me to get to know myself as I would another person and I gradually began to love the person I was. So, find your love language and start practising it on yourself.
- Practised Self-love: this is about learning to love the physical you, as well as the emotional. Many of us will say ‘I love my personality’ or ‘I love my intelligence’, but few of us can say ‘I love my body’. I have found this is because we don’t know our bodies. We haven’t explored them the way a lover would. We have to learn to make love to ourselves. This the main idea I took from an amazing book, Unleashing the Sex Goddess in Every Woman, by Olivia St. Clair. Along with advice about how to unlock your special potential in the bedroom, she says that one of the best ways to understand what you like, is to find out for yourself with yourself. I discovered that the more I made love to myself, the more love I felt for myself. So, the next time the urge takes you, don’t see it as a means to an end. Rather, explore yourself, your body, be present with you and make love to you.
- Exercise: this is how I learned what my body was capable of and to appreciate what it could do. I never thought it would take me the 20k round trip from my house to the beach, let alone on a 3 day hike up the Andes!! But it did both of these things, and more. Now, I practice yoga and ride my bicycle often, not only because it makes me happy, but when I get up that hill, I can appreciate myself and love my body more. I also practice yoga with intention: my personal mantra is ‘strong body, strong mind, strong heart’. I am definitely learning how strong my body is, and how strong my heart is. So, find what you love doing and do it! Have the intention of it building the relationship with your body and your self and it will.
- Energetic hygiene: as I said before, I am an empath and part of the reason I didn’t know myself was because I had so many other people’s emotions and ideas floating around inside of myself. So, if I was going to sponge other people’s emotions, they better be good ones, right? I made a decision to surround myself with people who uplifted me rather than pulled me down. This was often hard, because I truly did enjoy the company of these people. The day finally came when I had to call it. As usual, I had hung on for way too long, but I had to learn the lesson to be ruthless with my own well-being in this way. I now love myself enough to be ruthless with what I put inside of my body, both physically and energetically.
- Practise integrity, especially with yourself: you have to be honest with yourself first, and then with others. This second one is hard, because I never want to hurt people’s feelings, but I’ve decided that my feelings are more important and, as long as I’ve delivered what I need to with tact, how they react is their issue. I need to be who I want to be in all areas. When you practice integrity, you start to be the person you want to be and this fosters personal love. I am not sure how it works, but it did for me. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Remove that mask and practice what you preach.
- Stop comparing yourself to others: this one sounds pretty obvious, but I found this one quite difficult to do. We are constantly bombarded with advertising that shows us who we could be if we had something we don’t already have. The truth is, we already have what we need, the rest is aesthetics. I had to stop comparing my life and myself to others, because it was making me depressed. Why didn’t I have the husband and the kids and the fancy house and car and holiday home? Why was I single in my 30s, still renting, with a car that is almost as old as my youngest sibling? The truth is, this is my life. I have made decisions based on what matters most to me. Other people have done the exact same, it just so happens that our core values are different, nothing more. I accept responsibility for where I am now, and not in a bad way because I am very blessed with a lot of freedom and independence. I learned to appreciate what my life is, and learned to love myself in the process.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways you can love yourself more. It is merely what I did, and still do on a daily basis. As usual, take on what feels right for you and leave the rest. If one of these strategies helps you to find self-love, then I am happy.
Just remember, it is an ongoing process. We will be faced with challenges along the way (as I have very recently), but we need to remember to come back to ourselves and spend time alone to reconnect with us for it to have any lasting effect. We need to remember to keep practising those things that made us fall in love with ourselves in the first place. Like any relationship, it doesn’t just develop on its own, you have to put something into it. That being said, the relationship you have with yourself will be the one that never ends. 💖😇🕉