When “they” talk about self love, they’ll tell you about bathtubs by candlelight and special dates you take yourself on and sips of tea in front of rainy windowsills. They make love sound like a bizarre fever dream where everything is wonderful. Self love involves treating yourself with the same kindness, concern, and support you’d show to a good friend. When faced with difficult life struggles, or confronting personal mistakes, failures, and inadequacies, self-compassion responds with kindness rather than harsh self-judgment, recognizing that imperfection is part of the shared human experience.
Self love and self care are not something you just have, They are something you claim. But how does one cultivate self love?
Too often, we spend so much time doing our best work on the outside – working on our bodies, careers, relationships, finances and goals. It’s just as important to spend time doing work on the inside – developing deep and lasting self-love, acceptance and compassion. The more we can make ourselves feel whole and worthy as individuals, the more we have to give to the world.
Self love usually is something painful, like a destructive birth of new self. To love yourself you must first look squarely on with the things that have kept you from loving yourself. The things that have kept you from loving yourself are not soft blossoms of joy. They are not your favorite memories on replay. They are the worst versions of you, the worst you think of you, your worst perceptions, your most unloving thoughts, your self-loathing on display, the very valid reasons you couldn’t love yourself easily and quietly like you thought love was supposed to be.
Self-love is a destruction and it might be that you don’t like the person who lay underneath your protections and egos and false identities. And maybe on the other side of your own love is an anger, because now you see all that you’ve allowed to transpire that you did not deserve. You now know what you’ve allowed when you didn’t know any better.
Because part of loving yourself is knowing what you deserve and the shadow part of loving yourself is seeing the evidence you’ve collected of just how unworthy you believed you were.
There is post-love and pre-love, yet even in the post-love you have to untangle everything the pre-love self said was okay. There’s a fury, too, because you see your past with new eyes that don’t love where you’ve come from. Your past is where the unworthy you has dwelled.
“The pinnacle of self-love is not endless ecstasy. It is a heartbreaking process of undoing the life your unloved self built, brick by unworthy brick.”
There’s your anger at who treated you poorly when you didn’t know to ask for better treatment. The anger at yourself for allowing these things to happen. There’s the grief for lost time. There’s the strangling necessity to push people, things, ideas out, out, out because there’s no room for them. There’s the loneliness and isolation that accompanies the growth of self. There’s the new boundary lines, the new range of the word no, the opening of eyes that would rather be shut, and the terrifying realization that love isn’t synonymous with joy. It’s synonymous with growth.
“Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how to use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.”
And growth isn’t bliss. It never was. It was a lie that said love would be white-teethed smiles on beaches.
Three facets of self love:
1. Mindfullness: Having an open, curious, non-judging attitude; not over-identifying with negative stories about the self.
2. Self-kindness: Treating yourself kindly, rather than harshly. Extending the same care and support to yourself that you would to a good friend or loved one.
3. Common humanity: Allowing yourself to be human, to make mistakes and learn from them. Knowing that as humans we are not perfect, nor should we be expected to act flawlessly.
Rather than punishing yourself with negative thoughts, gently guide yourself in a positive direction. You may ask yourself what led to the destructive behavior, whether it’s really what you want to be doing, and what the consequences are. Tell yourself that you have other choices, and it’s never too late to change. Then think about a concrete step you can take right away to move in a more positive direction or get up and try again. If someone else was mean and you let them get away with it, think about how you can set a limit or boundary to stop this from happening again.