Accepting Your Raw Self: Three Keys to Self-Love
Yet Another Self-Love Article?
Self-love is one of the most touted phrases in spirituality, and there are probably hundreds of articles and books dedicated to helping you love yourself. Still, as much as it is talked about, it is one of the most elusive concepts, and one of the hardest to understand and put into action. Self-love is a highly unique and individual process, and what is needed can vary daily. For this reason, much of the material out there on self-love can leave one feeling frustrated and more confused than they were before they sought advice on the subject. Inner child exercises and warm bubble baths don't work for everyone . . . so what else is there? The truth is, there is only so much you can do externally. Self-love is an inside job and begins with your thoughts.
Telling yourself that you are not self-loving is not very self-loving.
Let Yourself Be Naughty
A big part of self-love is giving yourself permission to screw up, and forgiving yourself after you do. It's about walking that fine line between having no self-discipline at all and being a vigilant policeman when it comes to yourself. We are all full of shoulds: I should not eat that chocolate, I should not text that man, I should not stay up so late. However, when you declare something wrong and tell yourself not to do it, your draw toward doing it becomes even stronger. You may do well at resisting temptation when you are in a good state of mind, but what happens after a hard day at work? What happens on a night that you feel particularly lonely? What happens when your brain just won't turn off at night?
The key is to stop seeing these behaviors—the chocolate-eating, texting, and staying up late—as naughty, and to develop a more neutral state of mind toward them. When you say, "I should not eat chocolate," you are not making a statement one way or the other about what you are going to do when the temptation arises. You are, however, turning the chocolate into a forbidden thing, something that is wrong for you to do, despite the fact that you probably still hold a desire to do it.
If you can be more exploratory toward these things that you feel are bad for you to do, you may find their appeal decreases. Let's say that Sally is lonely and wants a loving relationship. Months ago, she met a man, Peter. She did not feel an emotional connection with this man, but she went on a few dates with him simply because she missed going out with someone and didn't know anyone else to see. They lost touch for a while, but then Sally fell into the habit of connecting with him when she felt lonely. After she did that, she felt regretful and told herself not to do that anymore. Yet, she always did it again. After a while, she learned to observe the thoughts and feelings she experienced as she connected with Peter. From that more observatory space, where she did not punish herself, she found that there was no real point in contacting Peter anymore and was able to stop falling back on that when she felt lonely.
When you are exploratory, there may be times that the behavior still holds a draw for you, and that's okay too. That means it still holds something of value for you, which may be a lesson or a weakness that you can turn into a strength. Doesn't this curious allowing feel much more loving than how you were scolding yourself before?
Feel Negative Without Being Negative
I see it all the time in my industry—people who are so stressed that they cannot manage to hold even five seconds of pleasant conversation or warmth. Those who operate at a higher level of energy consciousness may judge this behavior because they work so hard to suppress it in themselves. I am among them—I have tried to bottle my feelings, even in the midst of an emotional breakdown, but that caused my negative emotions to seep out even more. I was short with people; I snapped at the slightest thing; I let the slightest remark ruin my day. Because I couldn't hold space for myself to feel that heartache, I grew increasingly frustrated with myself and others when something did not go according to plan or the day got out of hand at work. The result? My vibe was more negative than it would have been, had I allowed myself to feel that depression, babied myself for a bit, and let it go.
In the morning, I snooze my alarm multiple times and crawl out of bed. There is no motivational practice that I do in the morning because I can't motivate myself to do a motivational practice. For the longest time, I tried to resist that. I tried to force myself to journal or read inspirational articles, but if I was honest with myself, I just wasn't feeling that. Some days, my work is soul-sucking and meaningless, and to tell myself otherwise feels like I'm lying. It's impossible to lie to ourselves, and yet we do it all the time for the sake of being positive. Sometimes, you need to crawl out of bed and wallow in existential sadness (or whatever behavior/emotion of yours it is that you resist). I found that once I allowed the behavior and performed it, I let it go and was able to get on with the rest of my day, even with a smile on my face!
It's okay to admit to yourself that you feel like crap or you'd rather stay in bed. It's okay to feel depressed because someone you really liked rejected you. Feel it so you can get on with your day-to-day tasks. The people around you may not know what you're going through, but acknowledging that they are facing their own demons and inner battles can help you be more compassionate for them as well. Once you realize that your negative feelings do not need to be ignored, chances are they will become less incapacitating (over time, if not immediately). Don't make it naughty to feel what you feel. We all get the occasional bout of road rage or want to cuss someone out, but that doesn't make us any less spiritual. Feeling that anger does not necessarily mean you are being negative. Feeling it within is one thing, but taking it out on another person is another.
What happens if you are "being" negative? What happens if you slip up? Forgive yourself (apologize to others affected, if applicable), rinse, and repeat. This is what self-love is about! It gets messy sometimes, and that's all right.
Be Your Own Guru
The spiritual community is full of people talking about veganism, ingredients in food (particularly fear-mongering), money, what clothing should be made of, yoga, tea . . . there is a lot of great advice out there, but we can fall into the judging ourselves trap if we're not careful. Some people think of self-love as adopting a vegan diet, regular retail therapy, never buying synthetic clothing, and religiously attending a yoga practice. If you have limited time or money, as many people do, you may feel like you fail at loving yourself. Whether it's because your shirt is made of 20% polyester or you were vegan all week until that egg this morning, we are always coming up with more and more things we're doing "wrong," that aren't self-loving.
If you haven't already noticed from my last two bullet points, self-love is very much about embracing your imperfections. Sure, you may still talk down to yourself, but if you can become conscious of that and reduce it even slightly, you're making progress. When you realize that the behaviors you judge in others are aspects that you deny and suppress within yourself, and you take time to cultivate love for these denied aspects, you no longer need to fear them or judge them in other people. You will experience peace. It is true that certain foods and exercises can help improve our overall mood, but it will not be effective in the long-term if we do not experience that peace within, first and foremost.
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© 2017 Holley Hyler