Love Yourself: A How-To Guide to Being Fabulous.
So often people talk about the importance of loving ourselves and how that’s the key to happiness, to loving others, to receiving everything our hearts desire.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been searching for that key for a long time. It’s not something that’s taught in schools. It wasn’t something I learned at home. I was told that I needed to love myself, but it wasn’t instruction. Instead, I received the message of ‘not good enough’. I developed the belief there was something wrong with me, with my expression, with how I moved in the world.
It was hard to love a self that felt inherently wrong.
Through an eating disorder, compulsive behaviors, years of therapy, hours of Yoga, countless miles logged running outside, I’ve peeled away layer upon layer, getting down to the bones of what’s underneath all the conditioning, the negative self-beliefs to finally get a glimpse of the elusive self-love.
This isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. It is what’s working for me, and is something I want to share with you to kick start your journey into self-love and/or help you add more items to your “I am fabulous!” toolbox.
Be where you are. We spend so much time reaching for something else — a better job, a thinner or fitter body, the new partner, etc. — that it keeps us out of what is happening now. The current situation may not be as compelling as what we see our future looking like, but if we’re not here, with all our feelings, we’ll miss important signs, synchronicities, and people that could lead us to what it is we’re looking for.
Feel the feelings. Our feelings are here to guide us and show us where we’re heading, what our boundaries are, what lights us up. They aren’t places to unpack and live, just indicators of where we are on our path. So how do you feel the feelings?
I notice my breathing first. Is it shallow? Am I sighing a lot? Am I holding my breath? I find where I’m feeling any sensation. I usually feel tension in my belly or chest. From here, I try to see what words come up with the bodily sensation. Am I angry? Nervous? Sad? Did I get triggered and it’s bringing up something else? If so, what’s behind that? Say it out loud, to yourself or a friend, or write it down.
Notice if you withhold kindness from yourself. When you feel you’ve done something bad or wrong, it’s easy to get on the train of “I’m a terrible person” and punish ourselves accordingly. But we’re human. We mess up. And honestly, sometimes we do it on purpose. We’ve gotta pour heaps of kindness and compassion over ourselves, especially when we’ve messed up. What does that look like?
Speak to yourself the way you would a friend. Listen to your body with an inquiring mind and curiosity. One of the hardest things for me to do is to sit still and let my feelings run around my body. I want to Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest it away. And sometimes I totally do so, and I have compassion for that too. Sometimes I eat all the cupcakes, and that’s okay too.
“You sweet thing,” I say to myself, “anyone is your position would do the same. It’s okay. You have another chance to make another choice.”
Ask yourself what you value. Make time for that. I want plenty of time with my journal. I need Yoga, running, and silence. Books, good drawing paper, pencils, and pens are a must, and so is delicious healthy food. I prioritize these items and actions to give to myself.
Most of us were raised on healthy doses of ‘do for everyone else first’. We get sucked into that, and it becomes this compulsive need to please other people and externalize our power and ability to take care of ourselves.
Be selfish. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Trying to do so results in resentments, exhaustion, and illness. If someone asks you to do something or you’re invited to an event and it’s not an enthusiastic, full-bodied “Hell yes,” it’s a definite “Hell no.” Roll with that. “No” is a complete sentence.
You’ll feel better knowing you stayed with your desire to be alone, or hang with someone else, than muster the energy to spend someplace you really don’t want to be.
Set boundaries. On that note, time is something you can’t get back. Are you spending it with that complain-y friend who leaves you feeling drained and exhausted? Are you working too much? What would happen if you turned off the notifications on your phone? Or you stepped away from your inbox for a day?
Stay with yourself. Do not abandon you when you need you the most. I’m a master escape artist, and it has kept me from feeling open and vulnerable with another human. It kept me trapped in the dark hole of “I’m alone and no one will understand, so I might as well stay here.”
When you see you’re a human having a human experience, feelings, and thoughts, and you share them with trusted people, and then hear a chorus of “Me too’s,” it unlocks that fearful part that says you’re alone. It’s connection we’re after, and it’s harder to find when we’re not present with ourselves and our experience.
Melissa Lee is a caffeinated word enthusiast who writes erotica and essays detailing adventures in relationships and self-love. She believes the key to letting go of fear, shame, and gaining more connection and intimacy with sex is through learning to love the fabulous beings that we are. You can read more of her work here.