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How to Cultivate Self-Love Without Being Narcissistic

I still use that promise whenever my life feels out of alignment or whenever I'm at the point of needing to make a change or a shift and I'm scared. I make that promise and it keeps me committed to myself.
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Ever have thoughts like I am not good enough, I am not talented. I am not as good as...? Or you may even think that loving yourself more would be narcissistic.

If you've ever felt this way, read my interview with Christine Arylo, best-selling author of Choosing ME before WE and Madly in Love With Me, The Daring Adventure to Becoming Your Own Best Friend and the founder of the international day of self-love.

Q: Why is self-love so important?

A: Self-love is the foundation for everything in our life. If you don't have strong self-love, even if you get what you think you want, it never makes you happy.

Q: What do you find to be some of the symptoms of a lack of self-love?

A: I've been studying this since I realized 15 years ago that while I had a lot of self-esteem, I didn't love myself. How could you have self-esteem and not have self-love? I realized that self-esteem is only 1/10th of the equation, and there are many signs of a lack of self-love. I've identified over 50 signs, but there are about seven common ones. One is in relationships -- romantic, friendship, or familial -- where you're unhappy and you keep repeating the same patterns. That is a sign of a lack of self-love.

If you're someone who gets stuck in that pattern of being over-worked, overwhelmed, and over it, and no matter how many yoga classes you go to you are unable to replenish yourself, that's usually a lack of self-care. Also common are people living a life that looks successful, but they don't feel successful. You have the family and the job, you have whatever you're supposed to have, but on the inside something doesn't feel right. You know at a deeper level that you're settling.

We've got to look to a deeper place, as these patterns that have been ingrained in women for generations. Our mothers and grandmothers didn't mean to bestow bad patterning. Take my mother. She was always busy, and she stayed busy because she didn't want to feel her feelings. Who wants to look in and think, "Why am I doing that stuff, where don't I really value myself?" Even if you're a woman who has self-esteem and self-confidence, you might realize that the core of self-love is not strong.

Something to understand is we have to reprogram our internal operating systems to break out of fear, shame, and guilt, and reprogram it with true self-love, including self-acceptance and self-pleasure. Doing things not because they're productive, but because they bring you pleasure.

Q: What are some things that we can do to love ourselves more, what can we start doing?

A: Loving yourself isn't a yes/no question. There are ways you're strong and ways you're weak, and it's good to know that. This is why I broke self-love down into 11 different types, and we've been testing it. We're validating ways to test self-love because, in psychological texts, self-love is defined as narcissism or vanity. When you understand it's not a yes or no question, you realize it's actually a choice you make in every moment of every day.

The first step is to make a promise: "I'm going to love myself even if I don't know what that means or looks like; I'm making a commitment to loving me." Then, you've got to study and get curious. It's not intuitive. It's like thinking, "I want to be more physically fit," and then learning how to achieve that. You've got to get educated, figure out where you're weak and where you're strong, and then start to make small, but mighty, changes. Start really seeing your life, becoming aware of where you're not choosing the loving act, and starting to make those choices. The easiest way that I can define self-love is that it's love directed towards yourself.

Think about how you act towards your child or to your friends, how you care for them and have compassion for them. Then, look at your own life and see where you're not giving yourself the same love. I don't believe that you can just figure this out on your own. That's why we have teachers, books, and workshops. We paid $10,000 for our degrees, but we don't stop and think, "This emotional stuff? I may need some help with that." Most of us wait until we have some kind of major shake up - health scare, relationship difficulty, career hardship -- in our life before we do the inner work, like self-love. It's a lot smarter, and less painful, if you become proactive and create a strong foundation of self love for yourself and your life.

One core practice is about self-care. Women often don't get what they need because we don't know what we need. Instead of getting mad that you aren't getting what you need, ask yourself what you need.

It's an important question and one I asked when I realized that I had self-esteem but didn't love myself. I realized that not only did I almost marry the wrong person, but I almost created the wrong life for myself because I had never really considered what was true for my own heart and soul. I made a promise that day.

There are five foundational promises to self-love. A vital one is, "I promise that I'll never settle for less than my heart and soul desire." When I made that promise, what struck me is that we often don't know what our true desire actually is. It's this unraveling of, "My heart and soul, what's in there?" that is key.

I still use that promise whenever my life feels out of alignment or whenever I'm at the point of needing to make a change or a shift and I'm scared. I make that promise and it keeps me committed to myself.