That Loving Feeling

Awww . . . February.  The month of Valentine’s Day, the month of love.  Earlier this month, we went out of our way to express love to the people in our lives.  The gifts, the flowers, the treats, the notes, and the cards.  And to so many.  Not only your significant other but also parents, siblings, friends, teachers, schoolmates, neighbors, and others.

Even though the month is coming to an end, we can and should still have that loving feeling.  But I’m not necessarily talking about the outward expressions to others (which is something to continue throughout the year).  I’m talking about a love relationship with someone who is also worthy of and would benefit from your loving attention . . . you.

To love one’s self is the beginning of a lifelong romance.

OSCAR WILDE

Yes, you.  I do mean you.  And me.  And all women.  Why is self-love so difficult for us?  It’s amazing how we can give so much love and attention to the people in our lives, and yet treat and talk to ourselves horribly. We drown in a sea of unworthiness, while habitually focusing on our flaws, weaknesses, and mistakes to convince ourselves that we’re unlovable.

Deep within we want to be and feel loved, so we try to get it from others through our actions.  The people pleasing, validation seeking, and appearance facades only leads to more disappointment because the more we chase it, the harder it is to grasp.  What our boyfriends, husbands, parents, children, and friends can offer will never be good enough.  We end up caught in a cycle that generates more self-criticism, self-hating, and self-doubt.

How and when does this happen?  When I was a little girl, I didn’t hate my image in the mirror, criticize my every move, hold back my words with judgment, or beat myself up when I made mistakes.  I was just living and loving my life!  But then something gradually happened.  The girl talk with friends that used to be about our next adventure or dreams about “when we grew up” turned into discussions about weight loss diets, what we perceived as body flaws, mistakes, failures, and not being enough.

Instead of celebrating ourselves, our lives, and each other, we started comparing, judging, and competing fueled by an underling envy that supported the belief that we weren’t good enough and never would be.  And this wasn’t the case just for me and my circle of friends, but for many—if not all—women.

Working with clients over the last three years, I realized that self-love was an important element most women are missing.  So many women want to change themselves and their lives for the better, yet without self-love, transformation is almost impossible.  Self-love is that all-important powerful ingredient to all transformation.  Any changes you make for the better can only begin and last with self-love.

What is self-love?  Well, first of all, it’s not necessarily self-care.  I’m not talking about treating yourself to a massage, pedicure, or soak in a relaxing tub.  And it’s also not about loving yourself once you lose the last 10 pounds, get some Botox, or grow your hair out.  It’s also not about standing in front of a mirror repeating affirmations you don’t yet believe (yes, affirmations are powerful but only when practiced at the right time and in the right way that I’ll write about in a future blog post).

Self-love means loving yourself unconditionally with the same level of respect, compassion, forgiveness, and kindness that you extend to others.  Loving yourself means not depending on someone or something else to make you feel loved, it comes from within you.  And the unconditional part means that there are no conditions necessary—you are lovable, worthy, and whole just as you are and no matter what.

Self-love is an emotion generated by thoughts in your mind.  And the only person who can think loving thoughts that create loving feelings and emotions, is you.  I know, not what you wanted to hear.  Especially for those of us who reached a world class level of self-criticism from years or even decades of running the “I’m not enough” audio in our heads and being your own worst enemy.

Like it or not, your thoughts are the root of your problems.  Not your husband, not the size of your hips, not your house or neighborhood, not the kids, not your financial state, not even the in-laws, or any external circumstance.  The good news is that your thoughts can be changed quickly and when a woman loves herself, there’s nothing she can’t do, overcome, or create.

Bottom line is, learning how to love yourself and practice it is possible!  Easy no, but possible.  Change is hard and that’s why so many women never change. Stepping into self-love is not an overnight miracle.  It needs to become a life-long practice, and practice means practicing.

Here are a few tips and suggestions from what I did to build my love for myself and to get you started in your practice of self-love:

  • Give yourself permission to fall in love with yourself. Everything you want can only come from a place of love and love feels wonderful.  There’s no reason to wait and no one needs to give you their blessing, except you.  Self-love is not being prideful or arrogant because there is no hierarchy in love.  When you love yourself, you open up channels of love and compassion towards others.
  • Be aware how you talk to yourself and what you say. Just observe with no judgment or criticism to understand how your internal audio playlist has influenced your relationship with yourself.  I was shocked when I started doing this.  The tone and words of my “greatest hits” on my internal playlist had become so ingrained in me that I had gone years without realizing what I was saying to myself and the impact it had on me.
  • Make a list. Self-love is all about you and offers an opportunity to celebrate yourself.  A great way to do this is to make a list of everything you love about yourself.  And like a gratitude journal practice, keep adding to the list each day as you think of things you love about yourself.  You can compliment yourself like you would someone else.  Notice those unique parts of yourself that you admire.  When I started this practice, I fell in love with the part of me who is a little knock-kneed, looks for the best in people, has no problem doing a silly dance with my grandchildren, has an uneven textured complexion, is excited by the world around me, takes on challenges, and so many other things.

 With practice and over time, the part of you that’s more powerful than the voice in your head will take the lead in a romantic dance with yourself that becomes more beautiful every day.  You’ll have the courage to live your truth and love yourself, unconditionally.  Here’s to self-love!

Until next time!

Deborah 

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(that YOU can do too!)

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