The problem with developing a stronger sense of ourselves, and self-love, is that it can be rather elusive.
In other words, how do we know if we get there? If we've arrived?
The thing about self-love is that it's an ongoing, ever-evolving process. It's about living out your fullest potential. Developing a stronger sense of love and compassion within yourself, and extending that love to others.
However, there are a few sign posts along the way to point you in the right direction, and I've listed eight of them below.
Now, this isn't to say that you're going to be feeling this way all the time, but hopefully as you strengthen the muscle more of your days will be filled with joy, energy, enthusiasm and compassion.
Check out the eight signs below to show that you've developed greater self-love and awareness.
1. You don't fear making the wrong decision, because you're aware that there can always be a lesson in it.
The fear of making the wrong decision has immobilized me in the past. I don't know when I stopped trusting myself, but somewhere along the way I realized that I'd question every single decision.
"Is this the right choice?" "Should I not have broken up with him?" "Will I be happy if I move to this new city?"
Sure, decisions are scary, because to choose one thing means to close off other possibilities. But making a choice can also set you free. Allow yourself to trust that everything happens for a reason, and that each decision always carries the opportunity for a profound spiritual lesson.
2. Your inner-critic voice is softer and is balanced out by the compassionate observer.
Have you heard that voice that says "You're not good enough, smart enough or attractive enough?" Yeah... me too.
The thing is, this voice isn't as bad as you might think. If you listen to it from the state of a compassionate observer, you might notice that it's just scared and trying to motivate or protect you in some way. The problem is that often the critical voice is the only voice we hear. We might think we need it to motivate ourselves, and it can be motivating, but it can also be crippling.
If a little child was curled up in a ball crying, do you think yelling would motivate them? Probably not. In that moment, they might just need a hug and for someone to tell them that it's OK. As adults, we need this too. We must tap into our compassionate observer voice, also known as your inner wisdom and hear what that has to say.
3. You understand that happiness is not something to be found but rather cultivated from within.
This is a biggie. I'm sure you've heard this before, but if you're not living it than it hasn't really settled into your bones. So I'll say it again: don't chase after happiness, choose it every single day.
It sounds cheesy but it's true... the grass is greenest where we water it. Happiness is an inside job. We must allow ourselves to feel it and give it room to grow. I'm not saying that external forces like a certain job, relationship or place won't make you happy. The right one probably will! But that doesn't mean it will make you happy forever or that you can rely on it for your sole source of happiness. If you do than you'll be putting a tremendous amount of pressure on one specific thing. You'll squeeze the life out of it.
So instead, decide to choose happiness, cultivate it from within and bring it forth to everything around you.
4. You've stopped worrying so much about what people will think of you and no longer feel the need to judge others.
This one goes without much explanation. It no longer feels so significant what others are going to say or think about you. I'm sure we can all think of someone who's a total gossip. I certainly can count a few I've known over the years. But is this person truly happy? Are they able to have authentic relationships when others are terrified of what they may say behind their back? Probably not.
How would your life be if you allowed yourself to be who you are without worrying what others will think? Would you stand a little taller, sing a little louder or smile at strangers more often? A few years ago I was at a bar with a couple of girlfriends. I suddenly noticed a few guys next to us making fun of the way my friend was speaking. I don't know where this moment of boldness came from, but I looked at him and said, "Your judgments are not a reflection of us, they're a reflection of yourself as someone who needs to judge."
That shut him up.
5. Your body becomes more sensitive and you can no longer tolerate toxins as you once could.
I'm not sure if this is true for everyone but I thought I'd throw it in here because it's been my experience. I now cringe when I think back to how much I could both binge drink and eat in college and my early 20s.
Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy great food and a glass of wine, but the effect on my body and my psyche after over-indulging lingers longer. Your body wants to move and sweat every day, stay totally hydrated and be nourished with delicious, healthy foods.
6. You have the courage to let go of situations and relationships that no longer serve you.
This is a big one, and also an uncomfortable one at times. In order to fully give ourselves love and respect, we must also accept that some relationships have outgrown their purpose and no longer serve us anymore. You may need to cut off ties with certain people altogether, or set boundaries within the relationship.
This is particularly true with past romantic relationships. Sometimes you must fully cut ties to give yourself the chance to heal and move forward in love. Or it could be a job you know you've outgrown but are scared to leave. Or a living situation that no longer fits who you are today.
7. You no longer feel lonely because you like the person you're alone with.
I first heard from Wayne Dyer that "you're never alone if you enjoy the person you're alone with". For so long I felt unhappy and incomplete being single. I craved a relationship because I simply didn't want to be alone. Sitting still for too long meant that I would be alone with my thoughts and have to face the fact that I didn't really like the person I was alone with. Now, I love spending quality time by myself. It re-energizes me so that I have more to give to my relationship and work.
8. You allow yourself to have fun and feel joy in the present moment.
You stop always looking to the past or worrying about the future, and set yourself free in the present moment. And you enjoy it. You can be fully engaged in your work, or while making love, or singing in the shower.
Recently, we were visiting family who had a trampoline in their back yard. When I was a kid, I'd spend hours at a time bouncing away on our trampoline. Now, it's been a good 15 years or more since I've even been in the vicinity of a trampoline, so when I saw this I totally lit up! I made my husband help me take off my heels so I could jump on it for a little while. I thought I'd be apprehensive but those feelings of joy and play that I had a kid came rushing back to me. There's a lot of joy out there, allow yourself to experience it.
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This post originally seen on MariaShriver.com