I spent my youth and a significant part of my adult life with the attitude that being self-critical – and even hating myself – was somehow “cool” – that it made me “deep,” “edgy,” and interesting. I actually thought it was arrogant and embarrassing to ever say I liked myself, thought I did a good job at anything, or heaven forbid, loved myself!
When my daughter was born, I somehow innately knew that if I were to give her the love she deserved, that I was going to have to learn to love myself. My self-love journey began. I read a ton of books, did a lot of journaling, attended workshops – and over the years, learned to deeply love and support myself. Today, I have no problem saying I love myself – even though I still have faults and flaws, I love ALL of me.
The workshops that were most helpful to me were the HAI (Human Awareness Institute) weekend workshops. Somewhere along the line, I started to think of that critical voice droning on inside of my head as “the imposter” (I believe that concept was from a teaching at a shamanic de-armoring workshop). I began a campaign of fierce self-love and unconditional self-acceptance. I wrote love letters to myself regularly – and in them, I included embracing and loving the parts of me that aren’t so spectacular. I still do that. What I’d like to share with you here are some paths that I have taken over the years to self-love. This is not a comprehensive list. There are many paths to self-love – but here’s a start.
Make a pact to have your own back, to be in your own corner.
It seems so basic, but don’t say negative things about yourself. (Pro-tip: refraining from even saying negative things about others helps you in this endeavor – because when you’re critical of others, that condemning, judgmental energy tends to come back and get you too). Many of us say harsh things to ourselves that we’d never say to anyone else. Don’t allow those cruel voices in your head to continue unchallenged.
When you find your mind going down those familiar roads of self-criticism, you can:
1) Say to yourself, “Stop. We’re not talking like that to me anymore.” Make your boundaries clear to that imposter voice inside your head, “This is not how we’re doing business anymore. You do not get to talk to me like that. I am a sacred being.”
2) Fill yourself up with love. “I love you – even when you are not doing as well as you would like (that sort of thing, whatever it may be) – I love you!” Give yourself that love and appreciation on a regular basis.
Note: You don’t have to “earn” your love, value, worthiness – you are those, you have those – these are integral to your existence. You have nothing to prove or earn. You deserve love.
Don’t tolerate negativity from other people about who you are.
If other people are negative toward you, don’t let that in! Have your own back. Defend yourself as necessary. Sometimes defending yourself means walking away and protecting your own energy. You can admit if you’re wrong or if you’ve made a mistake, but being wrong and making mistakes just makes you human, not a bad person. You can adjust things that are wrong or ineffective or not beneficial in ways to be more beneficial for you and others in your life, but there is no reason to be self-critical or to allow anyone else to belittle you. “I’m not always as considerate or thoughtful as I would like to be. I’m not always the person I would like to be, but I still love me deeply and I’m still worthy of love and of being treated with kindness and respect.”
Know your worth. Respect your boundaries and your unique beingness. You matter. You are worthy of love. Know it. Own it. Live it.
Write yourself love letters and love notes.
I have a sample love letter on an Instagram post. When you write, be sure to include the parts of you that aren’t ideal. It’s easy to love the parts of ourselves that we get approval for out in the world, but what about the parts of ourselves that we keep hidden? Your anxious self needs love too. Your anger, your insecurity, and everything else that is a part of you needs love too. Really, deeply think about you and all of the parts of you that make up you – and write your unconditional love for yourself.
I found that doing this not only helped me to love me, but also helped me to overcome shame over any part of me – and to truly OWN my Self. This is not to say that I never feel a twinge of shame or the pain of not being accepted as I am by others, but that my recovery time is much faster – and I get back to self-love and a good place much quicker than I used to. In fact, when I feel hurt, my remedy is some love words to myself – a short note, or a longer letter, whatever I need to work it out that I am loved, that I love me! Reaffirm your love for yourself constantly. “I love me ALL the time!”
Gaze into your eyes in the mirror; do “mirror work.”
This path to self-love, I learned at HAI workshops. Looking in your own eyes in a mirror, work up to five minutes a day – while connecting with your own eyes/soul in the mirror, say, “I love you” over and over again. You can elaborate if you like: “I love you. I love the human being that you are. You are worthy of all good things. You are worthy and deserving of love, of kindness, of compassion, of empathy. I love you so much.” Say what you need to hear – but most of all, say, “I love you.” Give that to yourself.
Once you’ve got that really down, you won’t need to spend five minutes doing that every day – but every time you look into the mirror, smile at yourself. Smile into your eyes and say, “I love you!” at least once a day – give yourself that reinforcement. “You and I are in this together!”
Make a commitment to yourself – kind of like marriage.
I got this concept from a HAI workshop as well. You can write something similar to marriage vows to yourself if you want. You are, after all, going to be with your Self until the end. Don’t you think you might want to make some promises to you? “I love you and I will be with you until death and beyond. I love you and I will do everything in my power to protect you and to make your life joyous and happy and playful and loving.”
Take some time to write down all of the commitments you’d like to make to yourself. Yes, you can adjust them over time as you change and grow. In fact, renewing your vows at least every year (on your anniversary?) is a good idea! You can even do a ceremony. Light some candles, have a mirror. Say your vows to yourself. Make it holy. Make it sacred. Hold yourself in sacred reverence. “I have a sacred reverence for you, my beloved.” Make that true for your life.
Note: Every once in a while, I have an imposter voice butt in and demand, “Who do you think you are to think you’re so wonderful?” Well, who I think I am is a human being just like everybody else! – and we ALL deserve love and compassion and kindness. Return again and again to a deep and abiding love of the Self.
Say “I love you” to yourself multiple times a day.
Make it a normal part of your self-conversation. Just throw it in regularly. Be your own BFF, best friend forever. Be your own champion. We spend so much time seeking love and approval from outside of ourselves. Be that love for yourself. Do nice things for yourself. Be considerate of yourself and honor your own needs and desires as much as you can.
I record a lot of voice memos because ideas occur to me at times (like while driving) when I can’t write them down. No matter what the topic, at the end of the voice memo, I say, “I love you, Kat.” Because I feel like I’ve been talking to my Self – and I want to, just like I would when I’m talking to anyone I love, express my love as I’m ending the call. Why not? Express your love for yourself regularly! Cherish yourself. Truly!
I’m going to talk about self-love and relationships in another post – there’s too much to say here – but your own self-love (or lack thereof) affects all of your relationships as well. More on that coming soon!
Embrace your body, your nudity, and your sexuality.
We have an epidemic of poor body image in this world. This is by the design of people and corporations that profit in multiple ways by keeping us living in fear and shame regarding our natural bodies. We don’t have to accept that. We can choose to embrace our bodies, to love our bodies as they are, to become comfortable in our own skin, whether we are clothed or nude.
Take time to appreciate every bit of your body from your toes to the top of your head. Appreciate the miracle that is you – and be sure to include your genitals, your breasts, and your belly – any and all parts of the body about which we’ve been taught in so many ways to feel inadequate and ashamed. Love and appreciate the color of your skin, whatever it is. Everything about you and your body is a sacred miracle. Hold that space for your body and your Self.
Becoming comfortable with our own nude body is a very healing thing. Becoming comfortable with the consensual nudity of others is also a very healing thing. It’s important to understand that nudity and sexuality are not the same thing! I would totally recommend spending time at nudist beaches, resorts, and campgrounds – because when you can see that we’re all just human, and you can accept your own humanity and that of other people, it can create a peace inside that is beyond words. If you decide to check out social nudism, check in with AANR, the American Association for Nude Recreation, so that you can find safe, family-friendly places to go.
There is a huge gift in accepting your sexuality as it is – accepting what gives you pleasure – and what does not – and not feeling shame around that, either way. Being able to feel joy and ease regarding your sexual pleasure and sexual attractions is wonderful. “This gives me pleasure and I’m attracted to (whatever/whomever).” How would it feel to embrace your full sexuality, including whom you love, and with whom you want to be sexual, and what your attractions are, and what your attractions are not, and the ways in which you do NOT want to be sexual? Make it all okay, whether you want to be very sexual (consensually, of course if other people are involved) or not sexual at all. Can you imagine? No shame? Just sexual joy? Or nonsexual joy? Whatever your preference?
Give Yourself Some Grace:
We are only human. We will have good days and bad days, celebrations and challenges. We will make mistakes – even in love, even in self-love. It’s part of life. We need to allow space for ourselves to be human, and the grace to keep returning to love. Loving ourselves is a worthy endeavor that not only improves life for us, but also for everyone who loves us – as well as for everyone with whom we have any connection or even passing interaction. Because when we love ourselves, we spread love in the world. Loving ourselves is not selfish, it is necessary. I like the term, “self-full.” Perhaps we should examine the nuances of the word “selfish” – and understand that while altruism can be admirable at times, looking out for our own needs and well-being is also essential. We need to look for ways to create situations that are beneficial for all concerned – and we can start by being aware of what is beneficial for our own lives. Self-love is a good place to start. You deserve it!