Self-love is a word, or two words, being thrown around a lot in the personal development/spiritual world. What does self-love even mean and where do I begin to start loving myself more? Many people equate self-love with being selfish and self centred as if self-love is at the exclusion of loving others or believing that you deserve more than others. I don’t believe this to be the case as loving myself has shifted my life substantially. Instead of being selfish, self-love is really the opposite and is the way you can give even more to people in your life.
I talk to clients about giving their energy when the tank is empty. This giving from fumes is not great quality energy and you aren’t giving the best of yourself. Giving from a full tank of energy, from overflow instead is giving the best of your energy which is a much better gift. The same principle applies to love. To give from overflow instead of fumes, you must fill your own tank with loving yourself first before you can give the best quality love to your loved ones. Doesn’t sound very selfish to me.
So what is self-love? Let’s start with what it is not. It is not judging yourself, beating yourself up, denying and running away from your feelings, numbing yourself out in front of the tv or stuffing your face when you feel down. It is not surrounding yourself with rainbows and hearts, telling yourself only to feel good feelings when you actually feel sad. Self-love is not putting yourself on the back burner constantly and looking after everyone else first or giving at the expense of your own well-being. Denying our feelings and fears closes the opening to our essence and soul. When we hurt ourselves by beating ourselves up, self-judgement and negative self talk, we hurt others as well because when we aren’t in a state of loving ourselves, we are not expressing the truth of who we are. We are withholding the gift of our soul’s unique essence from others in our life and robbing them from experiencing the real us.
Self-love is looking after yourself – eating healthy food, exercising, getting enough sleep, having a daily practice, time to replenish and refuel but to me, it goes much deeper than that. It really is about acknowledging, accepting, feeling and expressing our emotions, all of them, not just the ones that feel good. You may be wondering, how can letting myself feel negative emotions be loving to myself when they feel so awful? I get it. Who really wants that? The thing is, if we don’t allow ourselves to feel those yucky emotions, they stay in our bodies and wreak havoc until we do feel them fully. I have seen the results of that time and time again in my physical therapy practice. On the other side of those negative emotions though, lies our joy and we can’t get to the joy until we do the tough work of feeling our emotions and seeing what new insight about ourselves is waiting for us. Is there fear doing this work? Absolutely! That’s why it takes courage to practice self love and why I think so many people don’t.
Taking loving action can be quite difficult and scary – ending a relationship, leaving a job, cutting ties with friends, speaking your truth even though it may ruffle some feathers, going against societal norms and risking being rejected. Not taking loving action, however, will eventually hurt more in the end.
When I don’t practise self-love, I am setting the example for my children that it is OK to not love yourself. I am also taking away the very love that my kids need because if I can’t give love fully to myself, I can’t fully give them the love they need. OUCH! That was so hard for me to hear and I immediately began beating myself up for not loving myself more when I learned it was hurting my kids on some level. This was my lesson to learn and theirs as well. Isn’t it crazy that it took potentially hurting my girls for me to start loving myself fully? I would do it for my girls but not for myself. I guess it takes what it takes and in the end, we all benefit from it.
Accepting all our feelings is the path to wholeness. We only feel whole when we accept and embrace every feeling and fear. When we embrace and express our emotions, they lead us to the false beliefs that may be causing them. When we see the false beliefs for the lies that they are, we can then choose truth which allows us to heal. Feelings are full of information if we are open to hearing the messages. They are our greatest teachers. We can learn so much about ourselves and how we can treat ourselves better.
Self-love and acceptance is the way to true connection with your essence and source. Self-judgement and deprecation cuts of this connection. This is my life changing epiphany. I used to feel that there was something missing in me, that I was broken and defective in some way, that I wasn’t good enough. Now I know that that feeling was a disconnect, not a defect. It was a disconnect from my heart and soul, my essence, my spirit and source. It was a disconnect from my body, my emotions and my true self. I was living up in my head all the time. I remember being asked what I was feeling in my body and I had no idea what they were talking about. You want me to feel what? Here I was, a physical therapist, working with other people’s bodies all day long and I had no idea how my own body felt. I was so in my head and out of my body. It is what we do as a form of protection, not feeling physical or emotional pain. I was running away from the pain I experienced in my back and neck by ignoring it and staying up in my head. It took some time to be aware of how my body felt and listen to what my body was telling me. Now I know what it feels like.
The other night, I was giving a good friend of mine a coaching energy session and she called me her “spirit guide”. I laughed at first but then realized she was right. That is what I do. I guide people to reconnect to the essence of who they are, their spirit, their soul, their truth. I have been reluctant to fully own that. I consider myself a pretty grounded, down to earth person and “spirit guide” sounded so woo woo. I mean, what would people think? Another good friend said that I have been dancing around owning it for the past two years. I can’t deny it any longer as it resonates so deeply within me that I know it to be truth for me. Does that mean that I am fully connected and in my essence all the time? Heck no! It is something I am aiming for, being in my essence more times than not. Every day, I set my intention to be in my essence with my loved ones, my patients, my clients and anyone I connect with that day. It doesn’t mean that I am in my essence every moment of the day but setting my intention to be so helps the odds of it happening.
What does it feel like when practising self-love and being connected to your essence? You feel happy, alive, passionate and yet a deep sense of peace, empowered, connected, authentic, creative, non-judgemental and whole. You give from fullness rather than at your own expense. You value and speak your truth despite any potential consequences. It just feels damn good! Loving yourself affects every area of your life because it is who you are being. Imagine how your career, relationships, health etc. would be if you were practising self love and being in truth. They say the truth will set you free, and it does. Love and truth are one and the same. They create more flow, peace, joy and harmony in your life. Love is all around us but when we can’t see it, we look for it, seek and strive for it from external sources. We just need to open our hearts and allow the love in. The love around us is the beauty of nature, the miracle of birth, the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly and an acorn into an oak tree. Love is the life force that pervades everything. When we open our eyes and hearts to this love all around us, we can stop struggling to find it and relax into it instead.
Ask yourself, are you willing to love yourself today? Start with baby steps. I know it can seem like a big leap to go from how you may feel today to loving yourself and knowing what that is. Start your day setting your intention to act from love and if you aren’t sure in the moment if you are doing that, simply ask yourself, “Am I acting from love or fear?” The two can’t coexist. I find it easier to know if I am acting from fear so if I recognize that I am acting from fear, the next question is “What would love do?” and I do that instead. Choose compassion and caring over fear and watch your life change.
Until next time, be good to yourself and let love flow in your life!