Daily practices for self-love:
I spent a large portion of my life caring what other people thought. Much of my childhood was spent trying to fit in, which is probably normal.
But then, suddenly, I didn't want to fit in.
More than rebelling against feeling unaccepted, after trying so hard to be like everyone else, I stopped wanting to care what other people thought of me---and I started embracing who I am instead.
The desire to love ourselves, regardless of other people's apparent perceptions, is a crucial first step to learning self-love. Here are a five more of my hard-earned tips.
1. We can't read minds.
When we pretend that we know what other people are thinking of us, we are fooling ourselves.
Aside from verbal communication and possibly body language, when we attempt to get inside of someone else's head, we are wasting our time. Rather than actually understanding another person's thoughts of us, we are more often reflecting our own thoughts back to ourselves--this person just got in the way of that mirror.
Which leads me to...
2. Stop looking in the mirror.
I remember sitting on a mountaintop with my husband-then-boyfriend as a young woman in my early 20s. He told me that I was so much happier and peaceful--and able to enjoy myself and my life -- when we were backpacking for days and not at home, and he said he believed it was because I couldn't look in a mirror.
Whoa. For a 20-something-year-old woman, this was a big revelation.
Unknowingly, I was finally on my way to learning that loving ourselves comes from loving our insides and being present within our lives, and not at all from what a mirror dictates.
Try not looking in a mirror -- yes, selfies on a phone count -- for one whole day, and observe how you feel.
3. Treat our physical bodies with love.
Yet, our bodies are our homes.
I will not lecture on exercise or diet advice. However, I will offer this lesson that, for me, was another insight leading to a huge internal shift towards self-love.
Treat yourself as you would treat a small child you care for. In other words, what language would you use? How would this differ from the way we silently talk to ourselves at times?
Again, for one whole day, try softening your internal voice to match the behavior that would be used with children. Cultivating habits like kindness, compassion and forgiveness are important for learning self-love.
4. Accept that not everyone will like us.
One of the biggest freedoms that I gifted to myself was becoming OK with not everyone liking me.
Partly, this came hand-in-hand with accepting that I can be loud and strong-willed and that, generally, I'm a social person who loves people, but I'm also authentic and I don't paint on a false "me" to blend in with the crowd. In short, I became alright with who I am--a passionate, fiery, powerful person--and I also became fine with the reality that not everyone will get along with me or share my enthusiasm on certain subjects, etc.
While it's healthy to want to be likable, it's not practicing self-love to care more about what someone else thinks of us than what we think of ourselves.
5. Self-love is a practice.
Much like my yoga practice, I've found that consistency is key to success. Because learning to love ourselves takes practice.
It takes practice to refocus our thoughts when we our inner critic surfaces. It takes effort and daily reinforcement to transform the way we speak to ourselves. Understanding that learning to love ourselves is a practice--and something that takes work and, frankly, time--helps us to find the patience we need to persevere and the forgiveness we'll need when we mess up.
Even in my relationship with my family, I mess up.
I sometimes get angry and I don't act the way I want to towards my husband, for instance. Because love isn't always patient or kind or anything Hallmark-card pretty to write about. Instead, love -- and self-love -- aims to be these things, while simultaneously dropping the judgment towards our imperfections.
We are all perfectly imperfect, and it really is true that our individual quirks and idiosyncrasies are what make us special -- and easy to love.