We often speak of love as a currency; an energy exchange between ourselves and another. Something given and received.
With the love, comes the risk. We all know that loving requires us to welcome and honor that all things change. Not only our experience of love, but our interpretation of it. Just as the love a mother feels for her child is different from romantic love, or the love we have for a mentor or teacher, love is an energy that wears many faces. But the one constant? Love with another may or may not last. And the potential for heartbreak is ever-present.
In the yearning to receive and hold on to love, we can forget that what we seek outside, exists within. We are love. It is our birthright. As my teacher says, “If you want to meet your soulmate, take a look in the mirror.”
But we often forget and do not devote energy and time to access the love inside. Life gets in the way. Hurt gets in the way. Fear, heartbreak, and loss get in the way. Loneliness gets in the way. Self-protection gets in the way. Self-loathing gets in the way.
We’ve all heard people preach self-love as a remedy for our woes, but wouldn’t we love ourselves if we knew how? How do we find the same love inside ourselves that we crave from others? How can we cultivate self-love, when we do not feel loveable?
Habits are formed by repetition. Nerves that fire together, wire together. They form neural pathways that can either be beneficial habits, or detrimental ruts, depending on what they are. These grooves are deeply ingrained. They are protective measures and coping strategies that were established since early childhood, or even yet, they are inter-generational. They may have belonged to an ancestor and were passed to us through nature and nurture.
To form a new groove or a new neural pathway it takes practice. The yogis say it takes 40 days to create a new habit or to shake an old one. A concept, idea, wish or desire needs to reach our consciousness in order to become embodied.
The idea is we practice, and the rest shall come. Information becomes knowledge with practice. Knowledge becomes wisdom and then awareness with practice. Awareness becomes consciousness with practice. Once it reaches our consciousness, it becomes what we think, say and do. Thus, self-loving takes ACTION, even if we have to fake it till we make it, at first.
Practicing self-love supports us both in and out of our relationships with others. Allowing us to find better equilibrium, a stronger sense of self-knowing, a secure attachment style, healthy social engagement, freedom from grasping, resilience during difficult times, a sense of safety, comfort, and agency, just to name a few.
Where do we start?
First, let us look at and define self-love, and, what gets in the way of it.
There’s the saying, “the opposite of love is not hate...”
Love and hate can be seen as different sides of the same coin. Both require an intense amount of our energy and attention. Both keep us enraptured in thinking about and acting out towards whom/whatever it is that we are trying to love or hate. Both hook the emotional body. If we did not love as we do/did, we would not care so much to “unlove.”
“The opposite of love is indifference.”
Thus, the pathway to self-love would be to devote energy towards, care about, and pay attention to the self.
Sure, we can take bubble baths, go on a retreat, or have a spa day. These are great self-care practices, and we need these too. But they require time, money, and something from the outside in order to experience. They feel good while they are happening, but they are short lived.
Let’s define self-love as doable actions that support attention to and radical acceptance of self in the present moment. Or, removing the interference from what gets in the way of that.
How do we put the idea of self-loving into action?
1) Resourcing: connect to present moment, accepting whatever is showing up, without any need to change it.
How much time will I need? 30 seconds
Feel your seat or feet on the ground. Notice how the ground rises to meet you, reminding you that in this moment, you are held.
Inhale and exhale through the nostrils. Take 3 conscious breaths.
Notice how your body feels, are there places that are calling your attention more than others? Can you notice your temperature, any smells, taste in your mouth, sounds? Look around the space you are in. Lighting, colors, shapes. Does anything catch your eyes?
Notice your mood, thoughts, attitude in moment. No judgement, no changing, just notice with curiosity. Welcome whatever is here.
2) Remembering and Replacing:
Re-member: to put the pieces of ourselves back together into one whole again. Already Whole. Already healed. Already love.
Re-placing: swap out a harmful feeling or thought about self with a simple doable helpful action.
How much time will I need? 30 seconds, tops!
Create a quick and simple affirmation or mantra that you can repeat when you find yourself beating yourself up for something you are/have done/when feeling lonely/etc.
My favorite is the Hawaiian Ho’opono’pono prayer:
“I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you”
3) Repeating: do this one-minute practice for forty days in a row.
Example: I am having one of those moments, feeling heartbroken or alone, beating myself up for all the wrongs, or feeling worthless. I stop, feel the ground, and breathe. I go into body to locate where the feeling lives. I notice the feeling lives mostly in my chest. It’s hot and feels like broken glass. I put a hand on my chest, and I internally say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you, I love you.” I repeat the mantra two more times. I open my eyes. I look around my room, noticing one interesting and one beautiful thing that surrounds me.
I continue my day. I repeat this practice daily for forty days. That’s it!
If we stay open and curious to the process, maybe over time we will notice tiny shifts and changes. And, if nothing happens, then we have only “wasted” one minute a day!
with love & respect,
Below are some other examples of self-love in action I have tried over the years in relation to the five love languages. These may take more than one minute but are fun to try!
mirror mantras (words of affirmation)
write little love notes/affirmations on the mirrors in my home. Read and repeat several times as I wash my face, put on makeup, brush teeth, etc.
folding laundry (acts of service)
when I fold laundry, I remember a time I wore that article of clothing that I appreciate. I recall who I was with, what the weather was, what I was doing, etc. If I cannot remember any, I find something to love about it (texture, color, warm, function, etc.). As I fold, I fold in love/appreciate/gratitude. The next time I wear it, I will be wearing that love/appreciation/gratitude
moisturizing hands & feet (Physical touch)
Touch releases oxytocin, the love hormone. So, as I moisturize, I do so with aware, loving touch. Reminding myself all the beautiful things my hands have held, and all the places on earth my feet have stepped. Note: the body brain does not know if the touch is coming from you, or someone else.
Set alarm for two minutes earlier than I normally do (quality time)
Spend those extra two minutes in the place that gives comfort: petting your cat, on the couch sipping coffee, nurturing your plants, on your deck outside, stretching on the floor. Do nothing else for the full two minutes, besides check in with your body and breathe.
Wrap somethings I already own and love to re-gift to myself- a gift I received in the past from someone I love, something passed down from a relative, or something I bought. Take my time wrapping, making it beautiful. Add a love note. Go to the post office and mail it to myself or leave it by your bedside to open when you’re having “one of those days”. If I shop online, choose to have them wrap it as a gift & add a love note.