How To Love And Treat Yourself Kindly.
Valentine’s Day — the day for lovers — is tomorrow. In general, there is a lot of attention given to finding the perfect gift for your significant other. But, what about self-love?
As Brené Brown has found in her groundbreaking research (but what we have always known secretly), you can only love someone else as much as you love yourself. Not a lot is spoken in the general media about self-love. It’s considered self-absorbed or arrogant, egotistical.
Lack of self-love is the root of many of our problems in society today. Lack of compassion for other begins with the lack of self-love. This starts many disagreements, which leads to fights, and sometimes to war in our complicated world today.
According to Brené Brown,
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something we nurture and grow.
Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection can damage the roots from which love grows.”
Here, Brown is defining love between self and other. Imagine turning it onto yourself. Imagine being able to see yourself as the vulnerable and powerful being you already are. Imagine cultivating trust, respect, kindness, and affection with yourself. Nurturing and growing it over time.
It is possible to live a life of never shaming or blaming yourself for things you do wrong. It is treating yourself as you would treat that special precious person or animal that you love and hold with so much kindness. This, I believe, is what self-love is.
Last week, it snowed here in the Northeast. Early one morning, I was rushing off to work, already late. I got down the stairs outside my home and realized I had forgotten my pocketbook. So, up I went, back up the stairs, into my home to grab it.
I glanced at the clock, realizing I was even later. I ran down the stairs. There was snow on the bottom step. I tried to avoid it. Before I knew it, I was down on the ground. I must have jumped over that last step and then slipped. It all happened so fast.
My left knee was bleeding. My hands were red and burning. Tears had started to form at my eyes. I looked around quickly to see if anyone had seen me. I was so embarrassed and hurt at my own carelessness. Then, I realized, I had torn a hole in my pants.
“Oh, great! Just what I needed,” is what I thought, as I realized I’d have to back inside to change. I was able to change into a clean, untorn pair of pants quickly. Needless to say, I was very late to work that day.
Later, at work, every time I felt my knee hurt, I would curse myself again. “How could I be so stupid? So careless? How could I ruin a pair of pants when I have no money? What was I thinking? I deserve this huge ugly bleeding wound on my knee. I deserve it because I’m so dumb.”
These are all thoughts that would go through my head over and over that day. That is, until I realized, I could treat myself kindly.
It was a mistake. I was rushing. I wasn’t paying attention. I fell. The wound will heal and the pain will go away. It’s okay. I can be kind and put antibiotic ointment on my knee. I can let myself know that it’s okay. This doesn’t make me a bad person. It just makes me human.
“I’m human. I make mistakes. I get wounded. It’s okay. And, I’m okay.” This was my new mantra. I learned to love myself through this mistake I had made. I learned to be kind to myself. And, I felt better.
This self-love stuff is definitely new to me, and I am realizing that it takes practice. One stressful or unexpected event can throw me back into my old normal of beating myself up and calling myself unkind names.
Something else recently called me to find a new way to connect with that powerful inner resource of self-love.
A few days ago, I found out that my cat is sick. I’ve had Rex since I graduated from college. He’s now 15 years old, and is the sweetest, most loving, cat in the world. Like all animals, he’s cuddly and soft and dependable. Like all animals, he loves me (his owner) unconditionally.
This week, I have finally realized that he will not be with me forever. He will not be my dependable love-source forever. More than anything, loving my cat has always helped shift all my priorities in life into their rightful place.
Whatever worries I had the second before I picked him up, suddenly clatter to the ground like noise. They disappear. In that moment, I realize the relationships in my life that are closest to me are what’s important. My love for them and letting them know how much I love them is most important.
This includes my relationship with myself. I must care and love myself, too. Somehow all of this becomes crystal clear the moment I take Rex into my arms.
So, with the help of a friend, and trusted advisor, I practiced feeling into that space inside me that is alive when I hold Rex. Is it possible to build up that space inside me enough that I can access it even when Rex isn’t around?
It felt desperate, this space — elusive, hard to get to. What I felt underneath it, was a quiet, grounded, massive place. It was full of love, and openness, and acceptance to whatever and everything I am, or will become. All the craziness, and all of the gentleness, wisdom. There was room for all of it.
There was room for all of me. I am completely and unconditionally loved and accepted.
This all feels new and fragile to me. I am still learning how to get here. I will need to practice the path leading to this place inside. But, practice I will…
I wanted to share with you steps I use to try to get there — that elusive place of developing self-love within.
* Find a quiet, comfortable place where you will not be bothered for at least 20 minutes or longer.
* Take a comfortable seat. Make sure you are not too cold or too warm, but just right. Feel your sitz bones solidly on the carpet, floor, chair. If you are on an elevated surface, make sure your feet are also nicely and comfortably planted to the ground below.
* Take a few deep breaths focusing your mind on the place your seat meets the surface below (your first chakra space). Lengthen your back. Deep breaths. Ground. Relax. You can’t do this wrong.
* Let your eyes close or rest unfocused on anything in the room.
* Feel into a relationship that is close to your heart — someone or something you love with all your heart — a child, an animal, a trusted friend, a parent, an advisor. The closer it is to your heart, the better.
* Remember times spent with this special someone and how your heart expands when you are with this person/animal. See this someone in your mind’s eye. Notice colors, smells, touch, sounds, and most of all how you feel when you’re around them.
Get to the root — the deepest way your heart sings when you are around this someone.
* When you feel your heart expanding (it may actually feel like a sensation in your chest, stomach or any other part of the body) or feel like a shift in how you are thinking — keep focusing on it. Let whatever arises come. Don’t censor it or judge it.
Tears, sadness, smiles, a whole host of emotions may arise. Let them come. Just notice them and let them play out.
* In this expanded heart space, notice how you feel about yourself. Notice what is possible. Watch how you feel and what your focus is.
See if the love you have for this special someone can be expanded to include love for yourself, or if this has already happened naturally, without any effort on your part. Also, feel the love this someone has for you — it’s what you know and feel instinctively.
Whatever comes, welcome it all in. Nothing is forbidden.
* Stay here in this space for as long as it feels comfortable. Don’t force it to be any length of time and come out as soon as you want. Or linger as long as it feels nice. When you come out, feel your feet on the ground and your seat on the surface below.
Wiggle around in your seat and stretch over your legs in whatever way feels good for your body. Come out of this slowly and freely in the way that is right for you.
* See if you feel any different in days to come. Repeat this exercise as often as you like and see if you start to treat yourself any differently in time.
Remember: change doesn’t happen overnight. Always be patient with yourself. Adjust any directions above to what feels just right for you and your body, mind, and spirit.
Please let me know how this works for you, or if you’ve found something that works better.
Ruchi Jain is a pharmacist, counselor, and Yoga teacher. She is interested in poetry, music, and art. She enjoys learning and living life. She is committed to her own self-healing process and finding her unique dharma. You can find her on Facebook.