Self-love is anything but selfish. It’s a tool for taking down our self-sabotaging behavior and limiting beliefs — and a key to creating a solid life foundation
Admit it, self-love can seem like a side dish — a reward at the end of a big project or difficult time, in other words something we deserve only as a result of something else. I never really grew up with the notion of how important it was to care for myself, body, mind and spirit. No, for me, I learned it the good ‘ol fashioned way, with on-the-job training only after some aspect of myself was begging for my attention, which usually came in the form of pain, be it physical, emotional or spiritual.
As a kid growing up in a relatively strict household and going to church every Sunday, I downloaded the concept that ‘holy’ was to put the needs of others before mine. Wasn’t that what was expected of a good girl? To me that was pure and righteous, something to strive for — no surprise I eventually found myself on my ass. Because, without some self-care back-up plan, that is ultimately a blueprint for disaster. All of this ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ disregarded doing unto self! Undoubtedly, being kind, caring and showing up for others in need are admirable qualities.
But wouldn’t we be far greater emissaries if we took care of ourselves first and foremost?
I think this is where most of us get it backwards. We leave ourselves out of the equation all together. We might mingle in self-care practices, but I’m talking deep and meaningful self-love. And for most of us, that requires a little back-peddling and some cleanup.
The truth is that deprogramming those ingrained beliefs wasn’t easy for me at first. They are hidden and disguised as other things. Self-love and self-care innately felt selfish on some level — an indulgent, guilty pleasure. First off, I think we need to take the ‘self’ out of selfish. No wonder we’re confused.
In a recent blog, I wrote that “balance is a myth that only makes us feel worse about ourselves,” and I stand by that statement. However, there are times when we need to strike a balance within our lives — and I think this is one of them — a balance between giving to others and the world, and receiving love from self. Fortunately, today we live in this information highway with access to an abundance of powerful self-help resources from a burgeoning (and much needed) self-empowerment sector. Clearly, there’s a reason that its growing…we need it now more than ever.
Look, it’s irrefutable — when you are on top of your game, rested, making time for yourself — your coffers are filled. From this vantage point, you are so much more joyous to be with. Others are uplifted by merely witnessing your energy. In tending to ourselves, of course, things can go askew and we run the risk of getting equally lost in our own self help bubble, ignoring the world around us, becoming desensitized to the needs of others. So how do we strike that balance in the sweet spot between the two?
As the famous cliché goes: You can’t pour from an empty cup.
When we care for ourselves — and I’m not talking shopping sprees and other external indulgences (although those too, can come with their own delightful merit). I’m talking internal self-love and nourishment…and sadly, you can’t find that at department stores. Trust me, I would’ve found it there by now!
As warm and fuzzy as ‘self-love’ may sound, it actually makes most of us uncomfortable at first. Could you pass by a mirror first thing in the morning and say, “Hello beautiful” or “Hey, you — yeah, you in the mirror. I’m talking to you. I love you”? Take your pulse on that one for a minute. Does that seem silly or trivial? If so, examine why. Louise Hay wrote an entire book about the power of mirror work. I can tell you that I spent 15 years looking in a mirror every day working as a model and it didn’t matter how much professional hair and make-up I had, how good the lighting was — I rarely liked what I saw. And it didn’t matter what anyone else said. It didn’t matter how many glossy magazines my pictures appeared in.
When you don’t like what you feel on the inside, you won’t like what you see on the outside.
Eventually, all of that limited thinking anchors us some place we don’t want to be and before we know it, we are stuck. One pitfall is becoming addicted to our own stories. Martyrdom is a good example of that. It’s amazing what roles we can assume. When my life fell apart I went straight down the path of victimhood, feeling sorry for myself, telling myself it was justified and eventually stepped into martyrdom. It felt like a comfy place to lick my wounds — it’s seductive that way. However, those self-defeating emotions just want to latch onto you and keep you anchored there. No can do!
Here are some thoughts about seeing what’s unfolding in your life and how to get out ahead of this slippery slope, cutting it off at the pass.
- Where does it hurt? Don’t overthink this. When you think of an aspect of yourself (body, mind or spirit) calling out for your love and attention — what is it? What’s the 1st thing that pops up? And if more than one thing comes up that’s ok — start with the one barking the loudest. Ask yourself (without providing any backtalk, excuse-making noise), What is the one thing I could do today to provide some salve to that area in need?
- Excuse-buster: Check in and notice where your ‘yeah buts’ show up. These are the excuses that immediately pop up to defend us for not caring for ourselves. Things like: I don’t have time, I don’t have resources, I don’t know where to start, this feels really awkward. Write the 1st excuses that appear so we can smack them down for the untruths that they are!
- Action Plan: Now that you’ve admitted what hurts and you’ve identified how you self-sabotage yourself — let’s rescript it. Devise a plan for your success. Make it manageable and realistic. If you overwhelm yourself, pointing out everything you want to change and creating lofty challenges — you could be setting yourself up to fail. So let’s think success. Come up with 3 goals — actions you can slide into your life (they can be tiny actions that only take a few minutes) that will propel you forward.
- Promises to self: What can you put in place today that can shift your relationship to yourself? Make it something that can be sustainable right now. This will become the foundation from which you will build upon. What kind thing can you say to yourself? What self-loving act could you do?
Don’t give up! Self-care isn’t justifying bad behavior in the name of I deserve it. Oh, have I been down that path before – something goes awry and you just throw your hands in the air and say F%#K it, I’m having a cigarette, or that pint of ice cream or a glass of wine or whatever (fill in your own vice) — as if to suggest that piling bad on top of bad is going to make anything better! Follow my logic? (Or should we say illogic?) Clearly it only makes the issue at hand worse.
Returning to this idea of self-care feeling like a reward — what if we could reboot our thinking? What if we put our self-care FIRST, moving it from the back burner to the front and make it a priority — knowing that by doing so, we would be able to do all of the other things we set out to achieve in our lives even more vibrantly? Maybe we have this all wrong?
Women are often the first ones to sacrifice in the name of just about anything: children, their families, co-workers, community projects, etc. They’ve also been known to seethe on the sidelines when they hit rock bottom and are worn to a frazzle. It’s as if we were seriously expecting someone else to be monitoring our self-care. Some of this ‘mothering’ of others needs to be redirected to self — and a healthy dose of it needs to be shipped on back to the mothership. Let’s face it, when momma’s not happy, no one is.
True self-love is an acquired taste — once developed there’s no turning back, but it’s a work-in-progress that needs to be nurtured. Self-love is soft yet fierce, giving and protective. It ebbs and flows, gives and receives. It says yes and it says no. It aligns with your deeper knowingness and wisdom.
For the longest time, I was misguided in thinking that getting a massage after weeks of running on empty would reset things. And while a massage is a great act of self-care, that’s like trying to slap a Band Aid upon something that needs stitches. Self-love needs to be administered daily like an intravenous drip of life-sustaining mojo. It’s not about quick fixes, but a consistent practice that bolsters your entire being. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, it doesn’t have to cost you anything and you don’t have to go anywhere to find it.
Self-love is about examining your thoughts, words and actions and aligning them with your kind mind.
Here are a few things that have dogged me, that might inspire you to uncover some of your own:
- Body: Loving my physical self has never been easy (I can always find a fault). The truth is, that’s an inside job, not an external one. When we stop looking for what’s wrong, we begin to feel the things that are right, and the thoughts that drag us down begin to fade. Get clear on your inner dialog.
- Mind: Comparison is a buzz kill. The minute I start looking around, worrying about what others think of me or what they think I should be doing, I interfere with my own divine path. Comparison opens the floodgates for self-defeating thoughts to pour in. Self-love is recognizing when we’re going down that path and rerouting quickly.
- Spirit: Fear suppresses joy. When I wasn’t cognizant of my thoughts, I allowed fear to run the show. Fear is a bully that squeezes out all our possibility. Learning to identify how, when and where it shows up for us allows us to call it out and reclaim our power.
No, self-love is not a side dish. It is everything. Without it we’re sunk. It’s the energy source from which all of your life force flows. Fuel it. Nurture it. Guard it ferociously. And in doing so, even if only implementing a tiny shift, it will unveil the best in you. You will go forth in the world knowing what you want, bringing your highest, sparkling self along for the ride — and you just might inspire others to do the same.
If only we could debunk this notion once and for all that self-love is selfish…oh how much sweeter the world could be. Let’s make a pact together.
Love is the great miracle cure in our lives. Loving ourselves works miracles in our lives.
~ Louise Hay
As always, I love the dialog that ensues afterwards. Tell me how you handle self-love. Is this an uncomfortable concept for you or do you have some solid practices in place?