In a culture where we’re taught to conform and receive massive amounts of conditioning and programming, self love is a concept that seems elusive to many of us. Although self love is rapidly gaining traction, exactly how to put this into practice can still feel like a dog chasing his tail.
For this reason, I’ve put together a practical guide of things to focus on in order to master self love, and to help you continue on your journey to fulfillment and wellness.
1. Love Yourself Without Ifs, Ands, Or Buts
To love yourself unconditionally means that no matter what we are or aren’t doing, how we are feeling, we love ourselves nonetheless. That is to say, the love we hold for ourselves is not contingent upon any requirement, achievement, emotional state – or lack thereof.
So whether or not you do well in school, meet that work deadline, fight with your friends and partner, sink into depression, are unproductive, eat healthfully – you accept these aspects of yourself as part of the current truth of yourself. We accept and love these parts without expecting them to change.
The radical concept here is we love ourselves simply for existing.
This is so far from what we are taught very early on in childhood. Most of us grew up in households run by the reward-punishment dynamic. With this kind of upbringing, we subconsciously learn that we are loved for being a certain way or doing specific things.
Subconsciously as children, we then reject, disown, or suppress the parts of ourselves that do not fit this narrative in order to receive the love from our families that we so desperately need.
When we learn that parts of us are unacceptable, it can be hard to reintegrate them into our whole selves, especially when we feel that there is something innately wrong with these parts of us. The nature of love in the vast majority of relationships on Earth today are conditional and transactional, whether those relationships are familial, platonic, or romantic.
Conditional love means – I love you for the parts of you I deem acceptable. Transaction love means – I love you for what I receive from you in return.
Conversely, unconditional love is just that – love without any preexisting conditions, terms, or exceptions. Unconditional love says – I love you in your entirety, no matter what.
While remaining in the state of unconditional love 24/7 is not usually possible (we are human after all), we can approach this as a practice we commit to working on. As with any practice, the more we consciously work on it, the more we will begin to see progress. We find that it becomes easier to tap into the state of true love.
Many of us are incredibly resistant to this idea, I know I certainly was earlier on in my journey. Love myself? For simply being? No matter what? This brought about a plethora of questions like, well what if I don’t even like, let alone love, certain parts of me?
I came to the realization I was now in a transactional love relationship with myself – one that mirrored the parent-child relationship I had. I would love myself, but only when I was doing something that I perceived as “good”.
At first the concept of loving and accepting myself during my lows was incredibly foreign. It felt odd, narcissistic, and even wrong. It was only when I understood that I needed unconditional love most during these times that I became (and am still becoming) more comfortable with this practice.
2. Take Time To Recharge
When we get beaten down by life and are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, we must understand that we must prioritize our mental-emotional health. Allow yourself the time to take care of yourself in any way that feels good to you. This can be taking that nap, vegging out in front of Netflix, going for a walk, or anything that works for you.
A lot of us, myself included, have a difficult time allowing ourselves to rest. The fear here is that – if I don’t do XYZ, then I’m not worthwhile, I’m not doing anything productive, I’m feeling sorry for myself. As we discussed earlier, this is due to the nature of conditional and transactional love.
Maybe it looks a bit different for you, but the fact remains that our resistance to caring for ourselves is due to a fear of what happens when we take the time to do put our needs first and the false belief that we do not deserve it.
What I want to help you understand is that taking time to care for yourself, even if it is to do absolutely nothing, is in fact, doing something. When we are cared for and after rebalancing our energetic state, we will be much better at doing whatever it is we need to do. So in this way, taking this time for yourself is actually helping you to be your best self!
I want to clarify that taking a rest should not be tied to the expectation that it will make us be more of something or less of something. Such as, if I allow myself to rest, it is because I want to be more productive the next day or I want to be less emotional afterwards.
Rather, we can approach our recharge time as I am resting because I am important and I deserve to feel good. Whatever comes from that will come. If I recharge and am more productive the next day, this is a happy byproduct of my self care, not the expectation or condition.
3. Do Some Kind Of Daily Maintenance
When we take time to connect with ourselves each day, we are showing ourselves that we matter and are worth our time. In dedicating a certain chunk of time to solely you every single day, you are deepening your relationship with you and thus, your self love, understanding, and acceptance.
What kind of daily practice you pick is up to you! To get you started, here’s a few things I cycle through in my daily self care routines.
Writing three pages freehand stream of consciousness in the morning, meditation, practicing yoga from the comfort of my own home, consuming positive educational content to help me learn more about myself, practicing tarot to become more in touch with my intuition, writing poetry, going for walks and talking to myself through a recording device.
These are all things you can try if they resonate with you – just to name a few. Choose a form of daily self connection that speaks to you! Whatever allows you to deepen your connection with yourself works. If you’re a dabbler with many interests as I am, feel free to change it up by having several practices you can use and oscillate between these on a day-to-day basis.
It doesn’t matter so much what we choose to do, but to remember why we are doing it (hint: it starts with self, ends with love). When we are more centered, fulfilled, and grounded, we find that it radiates out into every aspect of our lives. When our internal environment is in alignment, our external environment mirrors this back to us.
4. Pay Attention To Your Internal Dialogue
We do this so we can observe our self talk. How are you speaking with yourself? Are you judging yourself harshly and criticizing yourself constantly? Are you putting yourself down and beating yourself up for things? Or are you letting yourself know that your worth and love for yourself is dependent only on your existence?
As with most things, the development of our self talk begins in, you guessed it, childhood! The way in which our parents speak to us becomes our self talk. I want to reiterate here that this is, as usual, NOT a blame thing. Blaming only brings us down to the state of powerlessness and draws us into the victim mentality.
When we choose to examine these things from a place of acceptance and understanding rather than trying to figure out who’s fault it is, we are able to create lasting change, if that is what we desire. We acknowledge that yes, how I was treated in my childhood is not my responsibility, but at the same time, I am the way I am now because I have chosen to be.
Consciously or subconsciously, we have chosen to perpetuate our current relationships with ourselves and thereby, our self talk. If the thought of your decisions being ruled by subconscious mechanisms you are not aware of brings about a sickening feeling as it did for me, know that this is why we first start with simple observation.
We are making ourselves aware of what we previously were not. This is a crucial first step on the road to change.
One of the things we can do in abstaining from judgment as we observe our thought processes is to not identify with the thoughts that arise. We detach from thoughts by recognizing that we are not the thoughts themselves – we are the ones who are observing the thoughts.
5. Treat Yourself As You Would Treat Your Child Self
Whenever you are in doubt about how to show yourself love or need to make a decision, I want you to visualize your child self. For some, visualization does not come as easily which is perfectly okay! Instead, you can scrounge up an old childhood photo and keep that on hand.
Consider asking yourself the following questions. What does this child version of you need? What would make this child feel loved unconditionally? Which decision is in alignment with the wellbeing of this child?
If you are tuned in to your child self (we all have one inside us), we can directly ask this part of ourselves. At first, this can feel odd and the response we get may be quiet, unclear, or even nonexistent depending upon the extent to which we have repressed our child selves. The more we practice this exercise and look inward for answers, the louder and more resonant this voice will be.
Allow your inner child to guide you. Spending time in meditation with this part regularly can really help to accelerate your connection. For more on meditation, check out my post 5 Meditation Tips For Beginners.
When I spend time with my child self and ask her what she needs to feel loved in this moment, the answer varies depending on the situational context. Some days she may want to be comforted, she may need a nap and a break from working, or she may need some alone time. Other days she may need to let loose, play, and have fun!
There is no wrong answer here, my friends.
If what your inner child needs is not something tangible, such as to be understood or to be told everything will be okay, you can practice a visualization exercise in which you as your adult self gives your child self what he or she needs. If it is something more tangible such as taking a break or going to the beach, get a move on and let it happen!
Your child self is not typically concerned with work, bills, and all the other responsibilities we face in our adult lives. This is why tuning in to this part is so impactful for understanding how to love ourselves.
This journey will look and feel different for everyone. What works for me may not necessarily help another! As always, take what resonates, and leave the rest. Get as creative and playful with it as you can. When we adopt a curious mindset rather than a punitive one, the process becomes a whole lot easier because we have removed the internal pressure.
As with all things relating to progress and change, try to remember that the reward is not in the destination, but in the journey itself. Some days will come easier than others. We can adopt the mantra – I am worthwhile. I am unconditionally loved. I am deserving of happiness. I am meant to be here.
Happy discovering my loves! Be gentle with yourselves and have faith.
What is your favorite practice of self love? Share your experiences with me in the comments section below! Want to talk more about how to develop your own self love practice? Contact me by DMing me on Instagram @lotusawareshare or shooting me an email at [email protected].