Toward the end of 2016, I suddenly felt a strong push to go within and further explore my spirituality. There was no subtlety involved, no gentle flow towards remembering the divinity within myself and others. Although, now that I think back, perhaps I missed those early, more subtle nudges toward awakening. Instead, obvious signs were now being hurled in my direction. So, I
was forced decided to listen. Finally. What I began to experience is certainly worth sharing, but because I am still just the fool on the fool’s journey, I will hold off on writing about it. For now, however, I feel compelled to brainstorm a little about ways toward achieving or strengthening self-love, which is one of my own weaknesses and something that my revived spirit has been called to contemplate. It’s kind of funny, but when I first started my spiritual exploration I thought it would be more about loving others and showing compassion to others, and it is about that. But, surprisingly, I feel the Universe urging me to truly learn to love myself first. I’ve come to understand that loving oneself isn’t selfish; it is necessary in order to be able to give one’s best self to others, to love others. With that in mind, I’d like to share my thoughts on working toward achieving self-love.
Develop your awareness.
A good place to start, whether you are just beginning your journey toward self-love or you just want to do a little fine tuning, is to develop your awareness of your inner critic. We all have one, it’s just that some of us allow our inner critic to have a little too much control from time to time. Simply becoming aware of how your inner critic operates can teach you so much about yourself, and it can help you recognize negative patterns that are ultimately detrimental to your own sense of well-being. Does your inner critic shut down your ideas before you really have a chance delve into them? Does it cause you to second guess yourself more often than not? Maybe your inner critic likes to replay conversations and moments from the day in a way that distorts them from what they originally were, causing you undue worry about things that have already taken place. Quite often, we are so accustomed to hearing our inner critic that we think we are tuning it out when we really aren’t. It’s similar to having music playing on low volume in the background — we may not be paying full attention to the lyrics, but somehow we start humming the tune. Creating a healthy balance whereby your inner critic is beneficial rather than destructive is the ultimate goal here, and that begins with awareness and recognition.
Stop giving away your power.
This is a big one, but let’s start by focusing on small adjustments that will allow you to hold onto or reclaim some of your personal power. Somewhere inside you, you already know who you are. You know what you think about things, you know what you like and dislike, and you know what you want and need. These aspects of who you are contribute to your overall sense of personal power, and when you stand in your power you stand in your truth, and vice versa. Yet, because we are social animals and we want and need to interact with other people who also have their own personal power, we understand that we must sometimes compromise. Compromise in itself is not a negative thing, but when we compromise ourselves too much for the sake of pleasing others or to be loved and accepted by others we send a direct message to ourselves that we are less important than others. This can occur in seemingly innocuous ways. For example, do you ever find yourself apologizing for feeling a certain way or for saying something even though it is in alignment with who you truly are? Do you feel you must clarify or explain your beliefs and actions to other people despite the fact that, inwardly, you know these beliefs and actions are true to who you are? You may be thinking, sure, this is how we get along with others, or you may even think, sure, this is how I make myself more palatable for others. While there is some truth to those points, the thing to remember is if doing this makes you feel as though you’re not being authentic or if it leaves you feeling as though you’ve been taken advantage of, then it is time to reclaim some of your personal power and defend it. You will gain more self-respect, which will aid in strengthening your love for yourself.
Be your own best friend.
Yes, I realize how cheesy this sounds. That’s OK, though, because I acknowledge and embrace that I have a cheesy side to my personality! But, in all seriousness, I couldn’t be more serious. It is absolutely vital that you start cultivating a loving relationship with yourself. Start today. Start by listening to yourself, by showing compassion for yourself, by being fair and having reasonable expectations of yourself. Chances are, you wouldn’t think twice about listening, showing compassion, and being fair with one of your good friends, so why does it seem so strange to provide that sort of support for yourself? If you think about it, you are the one person in your life that you know the best, and you are the one person that will ALWAYS be there for you. Don’t you think it’s about time to start acknowledging and embracing who you are on every level, the light and the dark? Seeing yourself as a friend, as someone who brightens your day, expands your mind, makes you laugh, and reminds you that you aren’t alone will most definitely make you fall in self-love!
Take a little time each day to care for your physical self.
Developing self-love can often keep you so focused on strengthening aspects of your mental and emotional self, your inner world, that you may forget to include your physical self. Showing love and care for the physical body is key in your quest for self-love, and you can begin with the simplest of acts. For example, take some time to enjoy soaking in a hot bath. Really feel the water enveloping you, softening any tightness or tension in your body. Massage your knees, play with your toes, or rub your belly; be childlike and just enjoy the feeling of your own skin, your own touch! If a bath isn’t your thing, maybe make time for a long stretching session (when was the last time you stretched out on your back and just sorta melted into the ground or floor?) or just close your eyes and massage your scalp for a moment to get the blood flowing. Such simple acts show your body a little kindness, a little appreciation for all it does for you. I have found that when I give my body some little extra show of affection I feel more alive, more present.
Acknowledge perceived physical flaws and then move along.
This final bit of advice relates to both the mental and the physical. Stop focusing on your physical flaws, perceived or otherwise. I know you’ve heard it before — so have I — but that’s because it’s important and true, and it’s good to be constantly reminded. We ALL have flaws. Many of us will, at some point, focus so intently on them that they become magnified and distorted in our own minds. There is nothing — NOTHING — beneficial about devoting even a few minutes of your precious time to remind yourself about your flaws. But, because I’m a bit of a realist, I realize that you, me, and nearly everyone else will eventually engage in good ol’ flaw focus at some point no matter how hard we try not to. So, rather than feel bad about not being able to resist the behavior, simply allow yourself to acknowledge. Acknowledge that you perceive flaws, but don’t get dragged down in over analyzing. Remember the overly chatty inner critic from earlier in this post? Don’t let it take center stage. You’re in charge! Remember, your energy is precious, and you don’t want to waste it on dead-end thoughts. Instead, use that energy to shift your focus. Can you change the flaws? Yes? Great, focus on working toward positive change! Can’t change the flaws? Then there’s no need for you to continue devoting your thoughts to them. Believe me, you have many other wonderful attributes that DO deserve your energy and contemplation.
Even if only one word or phrase resonates with you, I hope you take it and expand upon it in your own life or that you will be inspired to seek your own pathways toward self-love.