What is (self) love?
One of the latest health and wellness trends and buzzwords of 2018 seems to have been about the self love movement, not a day has gone past when I haven’t read about it on social media or heard someone talking about it in a yoga class.
So what is self love and how can you actually start to apply it in your life and not just feel more guilty and unloveable every time you read about it?
Self love is about appreciating yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your idiosyncrasies, your foibles. Understanding your limitations and not beating yourself up for those things, leading with compassion towards yourself in all situations.
Sounds great doesn’t it! Reading things like that used to always make me feel a little worse, mostly out of frustration, it sounds so simple and easy but I had no idea where to begin and how to genuinely feel love towards myself.
Yes I can appreciate certain things about myself, I am a good and kind person, I would do anything for anyone, I try my hardest etc etc but that didn’t really translate into true, unwavering self love when I looked in the mirror. I am a perfectionist by nature and however much I tried to focus on the positives, the things I was lacking would always be there, under the surface, making me feel guilty.
Is it just me or do we love to feel guilty about every little thing?
Anyway you probably want to know, what happened?
I have been sick recently (who hasn’t?) and I had barely set foot onto my yoga mat in weeks, so when I did last week it was super special. After pressing into my first downward dog and coming face to face (?) to stare at my knees, my usual reaction when I haven’t quite got into the yoga zone, would be to pick out any faults or imperfections.
Now I’m not saying I’ve got a massive hang up about my knees, absolutely not, they are very inoffensive but this is just an example of how so many of us constantly pick apart our bodies and speak unkind words to ourselves.
I think the self love movement scares people off, I know it did for me, it seems like such a huge mindset shift, a totally alien way of thinking that we don’t even know where to start. Something we think we have either got or not got and there is no hope in changing it.
So come on tell us, what actually changed?
The words I was speaking to myself changed. I have been making a huge effort to be more positive and kind towards myself recently and had started to say nice things to myself even when I wasn’t feeling particularly positive or kind. It is amazing how the human mind works, studies have shown that the words we consistently repeat to ourselves have an amazing power to be believed, to become self fulfilling and to become true. Instead of scrutinising ourselves, say hey there cutie, I like you, you are cool! I challenge you to give it a go, you will have to persevere but I am confident you will begin to notice a shift towards self love.
Here are my top tips to beginning a self love practice (let’s call it a practice, it is something you will probably need to constantly work on and may never completely master!)
1. Talk positively to yourself, say nice things! It might seem weird at first but the more you do it, the more natural it will become. Over time you will begin to believe it I promise.
2. Begin a gratitude practice. Start to think of 1 thing you are grateful for every day, then if you can, build it up over time to more things, and not just the easy ones, get into the habit of being grateful for different parts of your body, mind and emotions – what they can do for you, not what they can’t. For example, I am so grateful for my legs which I completely take for granted, being able to walk to the shops easily, hike in the mountains, carry me to the toilet, it’s the small things! Think of all the things you have been through, how your body has healed or coped under huge stress, strain, illness or injury. Try to say one thing you love about yourself every day, anything from personal qualities to body parts, to your less than desirable traits, turn them into a positive, after all, they are what makes you uniquely you!
3. Another way to practice self love is by applying self care. Recognising when you need and you deserve some down time. We can all be tough on ourselves but the more we can begin to recognise when we are feeling low or depleted and react accordingly, the more productive and happy we will be in the long term. Don’t just nod along and agree to this, actually do this, stop and take time for you!
4. Constantly whisper positive affirmations to yourself, even if you have to set a reminder to do it, it might not be very yogi but who cares! What we consistently repeat to ourselves, we end up embodying and living out. We’re equipped with the power to make our thoughts our reality, either our joys or our miseries come true, depending on which ones we feed. Here are some very simple affirmations to give you an idea of where to start, although the best ones are the ones that are personal and come from you.
- I am strong, I am kind, I am loved
- I am enough
- I believe in myself and my ability to succeed
- I am worthy of love and happiness
- I am unique and special
5. Try this practice when meditating, you can do this anywhere at any time; at work, sitting on a bus, whilst waiting for someone to arrive, don’t be restricted by thinking meditation can only be done at home in a quiet place. Begin by sitting comfortably and close down your eyes if you feel happy/it is appropriate to do so. Start to breathe in through your nose and out through your nose, take nice long slow inhalations and exhalations. Repeat the words ‘I am listening” in your mind, again and again, nice and slowly. Start to really tune in to the sensations going on in your body and mind. Notice if there are any areas of your body you do not like or feel a disconnect or discomfort with. Really start to focus on those areas, send your breath there, feel those areas, send them love, really focus on breathing in love and breathing out any negativity, anything that is not serving you. Remember, this is the only body you will get, it is a miracle that you are here and alive now, start to tune into that and not what you feel you are lacking.
6. During your day stop and ask yourself, how are you? How do you feel? What do you need? How can I help you? The more awareness and love that we cultivate towards ourselves, the more kindly we will speak to ourselves. Really tune in to how you are feeling and what you need, lead with love and compassion for however you are feeling, act with awareness and without judgement. As soon as we take the pressure off believing we have to feel or behave in a certain way, the sooner we allow ourselves the freedom to really find out who we are.
7. And finally….give yourself a hug and a smile, and tell yourself that you are great. You are the only one of you, you are amazing, you are unique, you are enough x
Did any of these tips resonate with you? I hope so! Please share this post and share the love 🙂