To me, self love is a multi-faceted and incredibly personal practise that requires an ongoing commitment to conscious living and choosing love over fear.
For years I worked hard to build my self love muscle with affirmations and loving practises in an attempt to ease the inner angst I felt about myself. I followed the self love prescription that I read in books, but it felt surface and superficial and failed to create those deep, inner shifts I craved.
I have now come to learn a little more about what practising self love truly means.
Self Love Is About Building A Relationship Between You And You
I eventually came to realise that the practise of self love is not some overnight quick fix, self help tactic used only when you are struck down by the throws of your inner critic.
Loving yourself is about building a relationship with yourself. A new, more supportive relationship. And like any relationship, forging that strong, deep bond takes time.
How you define, experience and express love for yourself is different to me, or any one else. It is an intimate relationship between you and you. It encompasses the self talk that you engage in, the words you use to describe yourself, the feelings you hold within you and what you believe to be true about you.
I feel the term self love carries a lot of weight these days. For many of us the pursuit of self love can place a tremendous pressure on us to always be whole-heartedly and unconditionally kind and loving to ourselves at all times. This means that the minute that old negative voice creeps in, your mind starts to race with crazy thoughts or you find yourself criticising rather than loving yourself, you feel like a failure.
Self love has become some destination we strive to arrive at and in the process we actually end up beating up on ourselves even more for failing to reach it.
So many of us are trying to live up to someone else’s definition of self love. We look to others and think that their beaming smiles and positive outlooks are the measure of success we should strive for.
When Loving Yourself Feels Hard, Try Instead To Reach For Acceptance
Sometimes when we try to reach for self love we struggle to open our heart completely to the aspects of ourselves that we have rejected and denied. While unconditional love of all parts of ourself is the ultimate goal, this can feel like a giant leap when you are so used to focusing on your flaws.
Acceptance is a softer energy. It is a stepping stone to self love. It is the doorway.
Acceptance is a practise of making peace with what is. It is an energy that embraces, welcomes in and allows things to be just as they are. You do not necessarily have to love something, but you can accept it.
You can just let it be. You can settle in to a neutral space rather than having to swing from the extreme of self loathing to complete self adoration.
And from that gentle, softer space of acceptance, your heart naturally begins to open. Your perception of yourself shifts. A new possibility arises. Love for yourself naturally starts to bubble up rather than it being a forced practise.
How to Practise Acceptance
+ Next time you notice that inner critic of yours attacking your appearance, criticising one of your unique personality traits or judging yourself for doing something wrong, catch it.
+ Stop. Take a deep breath. Write down that nasty thought on a piece of paper. Look at it. Really see the power of those words and feel the impact they must be having on your beautiful self.
+ Now, ask yourself “Can I drop this judgement and criticism of myself?” Notice if you can simply choose to release it. How would it feel to just let that thought go?
+ And now ask “Can I accept this part of myself? Can I just let it be without judgement or resistance?” This is not about trying to love it and turn it into a positive. Instead, it is about the soft, embracing energy of acceptance. Can you make peace with this part of yourself that you have been denying? Can you allow it? Can you just let it be? Let it be a part of you.
+ Notice how it feels to let go of the fight.
+ Place your attention on that part of yourself that needs your acceptance. Let’s say it is something about your body, for example your weight. Can you say “I accept the weight my body is at right now. It is ok for me to be this weight. I allow myself to be just as I am. I accept where my body is at in this moment.” Play around with the words so that they resonate with you.
+ Acceptance will feel like relief. That is the feeling you are reaching for. It feels lighter, softer and like you have released something. Like you can breathe a little more. Like you can exhale as sigh of relief that you are actually not as flawed as you first thought.
+ Choose another part of yourself. Maybe it is an aspect of your personality that you are not proud of. Let’s say you can be very blunt sometimes. You may affirm “It is ok for me to be this way. I am just learning to speak my truth. I accept the part of me that sometimes speaks her truth too bluntly. That is ok. I allow this part of myself to be just as it is. It is safe for me to be me“
+ Connect with that part of yourself that you have been judging, rejecting and denying. Take a deep slow breath and see if for this moment, you can just be with it. Just let yourself be present with it. Let it be just as it is.
Through this practise you will learn to open up to all parts of you, and heal those rejected aspects of yourself and your personality. As your heart opens to yourself, you will find love naturally bubbles forth. Loving yourself will feel easier.
So, next time your inner critic tears you down, don’t try to suppress that thought and cover it up with a shiny, glossy, self loving affirmation. Instead just practise acceptance. Let yourself be you, and practise being ok with the many facets of your beautiful self.
How do you feel about this approach to self love? What is it that you would like to practise accepting about yourself? Open your beautiful heart and share with me in the comments below.