In fear of sounding like a new age cliche, I want to talk about self-love. To be honest, this is a hard one for me. I was taught from a young age that self-love is nothing more than self indulgence. I should be getting something done, rather than engaging in a self-reflexive exercise of futility?
Something about the word self-love annoyed me. Even if I was at a yoga retreat, post meditation with candles surrounding me, the word would not leave my mouth. I never stopped to think about what it was about this idea that sent me over the edge.
As hard as I tried to avoid this topic, it became impossible. Emotional Obesity is, in essence, the opposite of self-love. The weight, the layers of emotional baggage that we carry unknowingly, is negative self-talk. Negative self-talk is really a nice way of saying, self-hate, self-abuse, or the death of self.
Over the 2-3 years I spent reading about emotional weight in Eastern and Western philosophy, I finally realized what I was negatively responding to -- when I thought about self-love, I thought about positive self talk: "I am lovable." " I am beautiful." "I am successful."
In other words, I equated self-love with trite positive self-talk.
Self-love is not trite. It is actually layered, nuanced, subtle and necessary to experience true happiness.
The Many Forms of Self-Love
Self-love boils down to how you interact with your "self." Self-love comes in many forms from the extremely simple daily rituals to effectiveness in life design.
Self-love cannot exist in the presence of self-abuse. Do you spill milk and get upset about the mess, or do you get upset that you are a mess? If every glass of spilled milk tailspins into an opportunity to self-abuse than you are causing more harm to yourself than any living person (unless you are in an abusive relationship). And, as much as I would suggest you leave an abusive relationship, I would suggest you leave that part of yourself. Literally, kick her to the curb. Keep the spilled milk simple. Clean it up and leave yourself out of it.
Self-love requires self-respect. Do you make lots of commitments and break them, either with others or with yourself? Your boss asks for a project to be completed and you stay up all night. Your child cries so you bring milk. Your friend has a crisis and you call with a compassionate ear. So make the same level of effort to yourself or you will marginalize your voice. No, you will not lose your job, friendship, or child's love, but you will lose your self-respect. Keep your commitments because what you say matters as much as a commitment to your boss, child, or friends. You cannot respect yourself when you break your commitments.
Self-love requires acts of kindness. Every day we get dressed and for most of us, that means we look in the mirror. Most of us do not take that time to notice the 500 things that are ok, we zoom in on the handful of attributes we do not like about ourselves. If your wife or friend says: "Does my ass look fat in these jeans?" And you refrain from commenting, if you are smart. The same holds true for yourself, refrain from negative comments about how fat you look. Can you say one positive thing tomorrow morning and mean it?
Self-love requires self-care. "I don't have time to eat healthy." "I don't have time to work out." When you say you don't have time, you are saying you don't have time for yourself. From what you eat, to sleep, to taking a break from your day, to take a deep breath, all these choices affect how we feel. So many of us do not feel good because of lack of self-care. Take the time for to take care of yourself. You can't take care of work, family, friends if you don't take care of yourself.
Acceptance Of What is(me)
Self-love requires self-acceptance. Who are you? Really, what traits make you, you? While we spend so much time trying to fit in, we neglect the very essence of who we really are. Just like the moment we look into the mirror and wish we were in better shape, had a different body type, more muscle, we wish we had qualities that we do not possess. The introvert wants to be more extroverted. The athlete wants to be an intellect. The intellect wants to be JLo. Self acceptance is the greatest form of self-love because it means we were not born wrong, less than, or missing something. Can you take stock of who you really are and start to appreciate it?
Actualizing On My Truth
Self-love is self-actualization. Accept who you are and then cultivating that part so the world can enjoy everything beautiful about you. The world needs the athlete, the artist, the intellectual, and the celebrity. Cultivate you. Focus on enhancing your strengths. Then, share them. That is practicing deep, true, passionate. self-love.