I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day. I think it’s great to have a day where we can recognize that love exists in many forms, whether it’s from friends, family, pets, and of course, yourself. A few weeks ago, one of my coaching friends was talking about love according to ancient Greeks. She taught me the Greeks had 9 different types of love ranging from playful love to unconditional love. Since I spoke about relationships with others last week, I thought today we’d talk about one of the other eight kinds of loves the Greeks spoke about: our relationship with ourselves, self-love.
Since we talk about the interconnectedness of everything in The Clarity Club, looking at self-love from a mind, body, and spiritual point of view seems appropriate.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed the prerequisite for loving others was self love because those that love themselves are more capable of giving and receiving all kinds of love. What is self love? Self-love is based on forgiveness and acceptance of the self and it’s a basic human right. So if that’s the case, why do so many people find it challenging to love themselves?
The Mind: Being Hard on Ourselves
We are often our own harshest critic. How often have you told yourself:
I’m not good enough. Nobody likes me.I can’t do anything right.I’m an idiot.
The way we talk to ourselves can be so harmful and keep us stuck in a cycle of self-doubt. So, I’m hoping that after today you’ll be channeling your inner Whitney Houston because “learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”
During a Chopra Certification class, Deepak Chopra shared how he used to prepare himself to speak in front of large crowds. He shared he would say to himself- “above no one, beneath no one, immune to criticism and flattery, fearless in the face of adversity.” I thought that was brilliant and it became a mantra of sorts for me. How often in life as we are conditioned to “fit in” and to be perfect. We compare ourselves to others. Our ego is bruised or inflated based on what others say. We are reluctant to stand in our own confidence and light and in doing so we put our true self on hold. We worry about what others think and neglect how we feel. And when we try so hard to fit in it becomes uncomfortable to be alone with ourselves. Self-love is the antidote. It’s about savoring that time with our thoughts. About realizing that you bring something completely unique to the table that the act of judging or comparing is- well – it’s frivolous.
Let me ask you – what happens when you’ve put yourself on hold to raise your kids and they kids leave the nest? How about if your friend moves? All those shopping trips, luncheons and coffee dates go away? How about if your significant other leaves? What happens when you are left with all that time by yourself? When we aren’t used to being with ourself the silence itself can be hard to handle. Then the free time? If you think about it, the emotional fall-out of suddenly having a bunch of “me” time if you aren’t used to it can trigger a host of physiological symptoms that impact well-being.
We are social creatures by nature. But how many of you say I just need some down time? How many of you long for a mini break from the people that drive you crazy and then you get that break and within a bit it’s like – darn this is too quiet? So why is being alone for periods of time difficult? Why do we act confident on the outside but on the inside we are so self-critical? And if we want to develop more self-love in our life how can the cycle be broken? How does it become possible to be comfortable with ourselves, flaws and all?
It starts with awareness. How often do you have the same conversation with yourself? You spin in the story but don’t ever get to the bottom of it.
Have you ever been shopping and seen an outfit that you think is absolutely beautiful. But then a quiet little voice inside says, “You can’t pull that off. Followed up with a bunch of reasons why it wouldn’t look right. You are too short, too heavy, to old, whatever it may be. Who’s voice is that telling you those things and what the heck is it based on?
Becoming aware of the feelings we experience and the stories we are telling ourselves is a great starting point to fostering self-love. Often, instead of questioning the thoughts and stories they are just accepted. So, step 1 become aware and if it doesn’t feel good or right, question those thoughts like you’d question the HVAC guy if he told you a new system was needed.:)
Once aware of the feelings and the stories, the next step in developing self-love is all about bringing in self-compassion. Truth be told, it’s probably not going to feel natural at first. Focusing on self-kindness and acknowledging to err is human is major. And this is where those thoughts and stories can start to shift. Everyone and I mean everyone, no matter how perfect they seem, misses the bar at some point or another. Life is not a perfect IG reel. Giving yourself the same grace, you’d extend to others and allowing yourself to grow from the experience – well as Alexander Pope said, to err is human, to forgive is divine.
I go to Fitness by William several times a week. The gym is a place that not only helps me physically but mentally as well. Dr. William Ingram owns the gym and each visit we not only flex but have fellowship. I usually leave with a bit of scripture and always feel good about life. He had a nice analogy one day that resonated with me, so I’ll share it with you. He said, “Everyone has negative thoughts. Those pesky thoughts are like birds. The key to living a happy life is not to let the birds land on your head and make a nest.” Right?
You don’t want those negative thoughts making a home in your head. And I was like man, I’m writing this one down. I thought, I’m normal. Yay! So much common humanity. Our imperfections are here to help us learn, grow and evolve and we all deserve a little grace.
Now, every time I have a thought that isn’t in integrity with how I feel or what I know to be true, I visualize those birds and it brings me so much peace. I want to invite you next time you are thinking thoughts that aren’t coming from a place of self-love and compassion to see the birds in your mind’s eye and shoo them away. Place your hand on your heart and silently say, “may I be kind to myself in this moment.” So, practice that self-compassion muscle.
Let’s touch on the body aspect.
The Body: Physical Self Love
When you think of physical love there are several ways you can appreciate your body through simple wellness rituals. I have already mentioned my trips to the gym. Something else I’ve found to be so healing is taking a moment in the evenings after my shower, I put a cozy blanket on the floor at the foot of my bed lay on my back and focus on my breathing and doing the yoga pose knees to chest rocking back and forth. Taking a few mindful moments to quiet my mind and rocking on the hard floor is almost like a mini back rub LOL. This past weekend, I treated myself to a massage at a real spa but several times a week I’ve got a mixture of coconut oil mixed with helichrysum, lavender and frankincense and do abhyanga which is Sanskrit for self-massage. From an ayurvedic standpoint the essential oils are healing and the coconut oil is very nourishing to the skin, which is our largest organ.
The mere act of slowing down, acknowledging yourself and everything your body does to keep you moving through the day is amazing. And, I’ve noticed the more attention I bring to my body and well-being the more my self-worth, self-compassion and confidence has increased.
When it comes to self love and the physical body there are so many ways to nurture ourselves. From the food we eat, the environments we put ourself in, the way we clothe ourself, I could go on and on. But we are each incomparably unique. Go back to awareness. What is it that speaks to you? In what ways do you want to bring more self-love into your life?
The Spiritual Aspect of Self Love: Who Am I?
Has anyone found it hard to just be with themselves? In Vedic texts, it is said our essential nature, is usually overshadowed by the mind. Boy, ain’t that the truth? I have to admit when I first started meditating, I could not sit still with myself. The silence was deafening. Every thought rushed in and out and all around. And guess what? It still does. LOL. Just not with as much urgency, speed or volume. That’s just the way meditation can be sometimes. It wasn’t until I learned to settle my mind that I was really able to connect with my true self- the space between the thoughts, the limitations, the doubts and the chaos of daily life.
Meditation can seem challenging at first which is why I developed an entire course called Chaos to Calm for the Clarity Club members to really hone in on connecting with their true self, higher self, future self, however you want to call it.
Sometimes, it’s not just sitting in meditation that is difficult for us to be with ourselves. It can be physically being alone like I talked about at the beginning. I’ll never forget going through a phase in life when I returned to North Carolina. I worked during the week but when the weekends came, I didn’t have anyone. Like no tribe to hang out with. My husband would play golf on Saturdays and Sunday’s , he had his 12 o’clock men’s group, and I was left alone. Any other golf widows out there? It was a real time of self-discovery, and honestly, I was lost in the beginning.
Have you ever gone to a restaurant for lunch and just observed everyone around you? People chatting away and you’re by yourself? At first, it’s kind of awkward, isn’t it? Thoughts of, I wonder if people are looking at me? I wonder what the waiter thinks? Should I have just gotten takeout? The thoughts keep spinning. Taking the time to actually sit with them, become aware of them and question them, were you able to figure out why being alone was such a challenge? This is why I love the clarity that comes with thought work.
I know many people with kids that long for alone time even to just use the bathroom. Yet here I was sitting in a restaurant, alone with myself and cringing. That was the first of many lunch outings, which lead to solo movie dates, which led to solo shopping trips, beach trips and retreats. And the more I spent time with myself in quiet contemplation and in public without wondering what everyone else was thinking of me, the more comfortable I felt and started longing for alone time.
Over the years cultivating a relationship with myself has been a large part of my well-being journey. I’m curious, what conditions and experiences have helped you cultivate self-love and thrive through life? What healthy paths have you thought of developing that make you comfortable with being with yourself. How do you share your greater gifts with the world while still being connected with yourself? All questions, that from a spiritual standpoint are worth examining as we look at our relationship with “I”.
As I close today’s podcast, I want to remind you that you are worthy of love. You are worthy of health and friendships. You are worthy of living a fulfilling life of Purpose. Whether you are sitting at a big, boisterous table with others, or it’s at a table for one in the corner- know, life is all about living in a way that is true to you and what you need in the moment. Know who you are, love who you are, and like Old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra said, and the end of the day proudly say, “I did it my way!”