Pause for a moment, and take a deep breath. Bring to mind your best qualities, and silently express gratitude to your own self for who you are and what you bring to the world.
If you struggle to do this, know that you are not alone. There is a reason why “self-love” is a popular topic in the world of personal development.
Although in many circles it is taboo to speak publicly of our own (perceived) inadequacies—project only self-confidence if you want to attract success and fake-it-til-you-make-it—the truth is that the majority of us are struggling with self-doubt (at best) to some degree.
But modern society seems to prefer a false projection of who we are over an authentic expression. Hence, our social media pages are galleries of the shiny, happy side of our lives, while the darker sides are hidden by most.
Know that appearances are merely that—and often, they are illusions.
Behind closed doors, behind the masks, there’s not as much self-love as we may assume. Because sufficient and ongoing self-love requires dedicated and ongoing effort. And most people either don’t realize that, or aren’t willing to put in the effort—it’s easier to stay mired in low self-worth and blame our parents, our teachers and our politicians than take responsibility for our own selves.
Of course, experiences at the hands of others do scar us. Life scars us. We start collecting those scars in childhood and continue to accumulate them as we move forwards.
But regardless of how we became scarred in the first place, if we want to heal, then we’ve got to do that ourselves.
We’ve got to recognize that we don’t love ourselves enough, and make a conscious decision to change that—to improve it—and to maintain a commitment to that until the end of our days.
Yeah, yeah, yeah—I’m sure you’ve heard all this before. The question I always ask when I read this kind of preachy stuff is: “But how do I do it? Don’t just tell me what, tell me how!”
The “how” is the tricky bit, because different methods work for different people.
The “how” is to experiment.
Louise Hay and hundreds of thousands of people across the globe swear by affirmations coupled with mirror work—look yourself in the eyes and say, “I love myself.” Do it repeatedly, day in and day out, until it starts to feel true.
I’m ambivalent about affirmations. I do believe they can help us oust and replace unhelpful beliefs, but I can never stick with them, so I don’t really give them a proper chance of taking effect.
Lots of my friends are fans of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), or “tapping.” This involves tapping on various energy points in our bodies while saying: “Even though I (insert self-critical belief here), I love and accept myself completely.”
I like the premise, and while I try to be open-minded about this one, I still find myself rather skeptical. Again, I’ve tried if off and on, but I haven’t been able to stay persistent with it.
Here is what does work with me—it’s the only practice, for whatever reason, I’ve been able to maintain daily since I first learned how: Meditation.
For self-love, the specific meditation technique I recommend is “Metta,”—“Maitri” or “Loving Kindness.” A Buddhist meditation, it helps us to improve our relationships with ourselves and others.
And the critical thing is, when practicing Loving Kindness meditation, we are advised to start with ourselves. First send love to ourselves, and then send it to others.
The full meditation goes through five stages, whereby we send love to different people. However, there’s no reason why we can’t take five minutes (or 25) and dedicate them entirely to directing loving kindness towards ourselves.
For me, this is the best way to shift myself from critical mode to a more loving place.
Ideally, we begin as I did at the top of this blog—by bringing to mind our best qualities. But when we’re in a non-loving place, that can be challenging.
Not to worry, because there’s a mantra we can use instead:
“May I be well, may I be happy, may I be peaceful, may I be loved.”
Simple and straight forward—close your eyes, take a centering breath and silently repeat. Whenever you notice that your attention has wandered off to anything else, just start over again.
It’s not the only way to self-love—but in my opinion, it’s a relatively easy and effective one.
So, if you’re a bit down on yourself right now, then set a timer for however long you’ve got—and begin.
First published on elephantjournal.com
Photo: Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski