Humans are programmed from birth to look outside themselves for validation and conform to expectations. This leads to separation from our true selves (because we learn early on to play a role) and not knowing or loving ourselves. Once we become aware of this, many of us spend the rest of our lives trying to remove the past programming and search for who we are.
This is a process that lasts a lifetime. There are things you can do in the meantime to get closer. It’s a fake-it-until-you-make-it approach, but so is all skill building. We do something over and over. We do it clumsily at first, then well, then we get to the point where we can do it automatically. So, here is the quick and dirty method to learning self love.
Treat Your Body Like a Temple
- feed yourself healthy, humanely raised, fresh food
- stay hydrated so that your body can detox and your brain can function optimally
- when you are tired, rest. This includes, but is not limited to, getting a good night sleep.
- move! Engage in mild exercise, or some sort of movement, each day. Dance, sports, and yoga are ways to honor your physical being and use your body to connect to yourself and the world.
- dress appropriately for the weather. Also wear things that make you look and feel good.
Treat Yourself Like Someone Who is Worthy of Love
- set limits. Don’t let people take advantage of you. Give only what you want to give. Give only when it doesn’t hurt to give.
- take care of yourself first. You serve best when you serve from a space of fullness. Making yourself a martyr ultimately serves no one.
- forgive yourself. Everyone is human. You’d give your best friend a break, wouldn’t you? You are worthy of one too.
- indulge in play. Life is not meant to be an outcomes based game. It’s not all about checking boxes of getting schooling, getting married, having kids, getting stuff, retiring, and dying. It’s a “choose your own adventure” game where the adventure is the purpose. There will be hard times. You’ll have work phases and struggles. Life guarantees that. Loving yourself means that you allow time for play too.
- choose your battles. Some challenges help you grow. You don’t want to walk away from all of them or else you will limit your growth. However, you can decide which ones you want to tackle now and which ones are best saved for later. Your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. If you have the support and resources to tackle a problem, deal with it now. If you don’t, it may be best to put it on the back burner.
- choose your experiences. Life is a buffet! You can choose to experience drug addiction, learning to fly planes, foreign travel, having your heart broke, and so many other things. All of these will help you learn and grow. When you say yes to what you want, your life will be a true reflection of yourself. Be brave. Say yes to your dreams!
Nurture Your Mind
- talk with people who inspire you. You can learn a lot from people who have done great things. It may not be where you want to go, but you will know that great things are possible from some ordinary people. This may give you the courage to let your light shine too.
- be mindful. Although this is buried in the middle here, it’s probably the most important suggestion because without it, the rest won’t sink in too well. I’ve led many people to water. They can see how the lessons apply to other people, but not themselves. Why? Because they are not being mindful. Practicing mindfulness is not only a path to self love, it is a path to union with everything and everyone.
- meditate. Meditation quiets the mind so that that clutter can drain away. Life bombards us with such nonsense. If you don’t open the release valve regularly, how can you see yourself? Silence is such a fantastic and underrated healer.
- read. Guterberg revolutionized the world when he invented the printing press. The internet was the second explosion of information. Use it! We make sense of everything through comparison to everything else. Love only exists because there is hate. We know black because there is white. Exposing yourself to ideas can help you to form a container of who you are and who you are not.
Take a Chance
- what would happen if you were truthful with yourself? You might find that a lot of things shift: less drama, fewer regrets, less uncertainty, more people in your life who like you for you, etc.
- what would happen if you surrendered control of the outcome? It could be that you enjoy the now much more. You could be more relaxed and flexible. Control is about not trusting. When we only control that which we can control and surrender the rest, life tends to flow a lot more easily.
- what would happen if you embraced your dark side? Everyone has a dark side. We live in a dimension of duality. Light can only exist in the presence of darkness. Denying the darkness doesn’t make it go away. It just separates us from our oneness. How cool would it be if you were fully yourself?
- take a chance. Loving yourself requires daring. You have to be willing to see what’s inside – good and bad. It requires honesty, integrity, courage, and the willingness to be surprised. You won’t die from being wrong, embarrassed, or making a mistake. And what you find underneath it all will be wonderful. I can say this with 100% certainty because all humans are wonderful at the center.
- share yourself with people. It might seem that self-love is something that you do alone, but people need people. Connection helps us to grow. It gives us a way to be appreciated by others. It gives us a way to show our own gratitude. One human drive is to contribute. We can’t do this either without others. It is all meaningless without connection. No man is an island. If you are a talker, talk. Are you a helper? Then help. If you make the world more beautiful, do that. We all have such lovely light inside that is meant to be shared. While it is something you give to others, it’s also a way to give to yourself.
- connect with nature. Everything in creation has a reciprocal relationship. Being in nature helps humans to resonate in their natural, healthy way. Nature needs humans to protect and preserve it. As you deepen in love, you start to feel this interconnectedness with all things. Love isn’t something that is reserved for family or lovers. It is everywhere. As you get rooted in your loveliness, you will naturally start to feel that loveliness within the universe. Until then, make a conscious effort to just Be in nature.
- engage in spirituality. Spirituality is the road to connection, truth, and meaning. You are part of that. Trust me. When you engage in a heartfelt spiritual practice, you will see your real self. It’s always a lovable reflection. The more you see it, the more you may believe it.
So there you have it! Five steps to self love. There are lots of ways that these five steps can show up in your life, lots of ways to practice them. I hope you have enough suggestions to get started.
Remember that it’s a process. If you only change one thing, make it mindfulness. After that, they’re all important. It’s a package deal. If you only take care of your body, you probably won’t change much. If you just got really good at connecting, you’re probably still going to feel like a bit of a stranger to yourself. And you can’t love yourself if you don’t know yourself.
So, do what you can. Enjoy the experience. Every day in every way, you will get better and better. And if this prove too difficult, remember that you can always ask for help! Especially if you have a trauma or abuse history. Self-discovery doesn’t have to be a solo venture.