“Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~Rumi
While many of us are focused on our external relationships, or dwelling on the fact that we don’t have that special someone, there is something very important we forget to do: show a little love to ourselves. You’ve probably heard that in order to find love, you have to learn to love yourself. As obvious as these words seem, finding and practicing self love is incredibly hard. In our quest to accept ourselves for both our strengths and weaknesses, we often face a tough battle with an army of stubborn adversaries. These show up as our inner critic, the judger, the perfectionist, and so on. We all have these parts of ourselves, and if left to their own devices they can interfere with our ability to show ourselves love, compassion and kindness.
I remember very clearly, my own challenge to find self love. I was single and unhappy despite having accomplished many of the things on my bucket list. It seemed as though there was a giant void that could only be filled by the companionship of another person. I had many negative thoughts about myself and my situation that were reinforced by my three internal best friends: the inner critic, the judger and the perfectionist. I berated and blamed myself for failing to fill the missing piece to my life pie (consisting of career, friends, family, home and partner). I never challenged the put downs I gave myself nor questioned the self blame. I developed pretty crappy feelings and would act them out in embarrassing and self-sabotaging faux pas. Something had to be done before I hit rock bottom.
It would be cliche to tell you that I woke up one morning and realized that I had to focus on loving myself in order to be in the right place to to find a healthy relationship. In reality, this is a task that I have to work on everyday. I did start investing in me. I incorporated the use of mindfulness, good self-care and therapy. I allowed myself to take in complements from others and notice how I felt instead of pushing them away. I started to set daily intentions to focus on what is going well instead of what’s not. Frankly, none of this is easy, but there is a payoff. When you engage in different thinking patterns, the brain begins to re-wire the neural networks which can change your brain chemistry over time. In layman’s terms this means that the more you engage in positivity and self-compassion, the easier it becomes. I can proudly say that I’ve learned to give myself a break, forgive and to pat myself on the back for the things I do well. I choose to continue my journey because it has helps me thrive in the relationship with myself-truly the most important one.
Below are some tips (in a challenge format) that I’ve outlined to help you get started:
Self Love Challenge: Here are some of the things we do, say and feel towards others when we deeply care about them. Practice turning these inward towards the self.
Forgiveness- our lovers aren’t perfect and neither are we. Are we quick to forgive others for their flaws but not ourselves? Practice forgiveness for our mistakes and imperfections.
Compromise and Flexibility-In love we often have to give and take so that we can enhance our relationships. In the relationship with the self, we often become very rigid with our thinking (ex. I have to go to this social event even though I’m exhausted). There is little room for compromise such as: “tonight I need to take a break from social activities and I will set something else up this weekend.” Practice giving and taking what you need.
Listening-Listening and feeling heard is crucial to a healthy relationship. But how often do you listen to the needs of the self? Are you honoring what you really need? Don’t blow off or ignore internal needs, they are just as important.
Being Realistic- In most relationships there are emotional peaks and valleys. The same goes for our emotions. We cannot always be happy, there are many other emotions and all of them are valid. Accept your emotions as they are instead of dismissing them or forcing yourself to put on a happy face when you are really hurting.
Support and nurturance- A healthy relationship requires a supportive foundation and growth occurs when we attend to and nurture the needs of the relationship. Showing kindness to your physical body provides mental health support. Engage in activities that nurture your body and soul.
Boundaries- Boundaries in a relationship let the other person know how you want to be treated. Show yourself some love by sticking to your boundaries. You can also create internal boundaries such as: “the inner critic is not welcome during my presentation today.”
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