12 Things Self Care Has Taught Me About Self Love

 

12 things self care taught me about self love

Self Love and self care are fast becoming household terms, yet what do they really mean?

 

What is self love in action for times when we, say… glance at ourselves as we pass a mirror?

When we come home to our solitude for the first time, after a breakup?

Approach a buffet bar at a social event? Or when we’re being challenged publicly at a work meeting?

 

It’s easy to say love yourself, but how?

 

Do we come with a secret self love button that we can press and magically fill every cell and corner of our being with wholesome feeling goodness and be  great from that point on?

 

What are the nuts and bolts of actually doing/having it?

 

Massive Pursuit of True Self Worth

The beauty of our times is that many of us are asking these questions and sharing our experiences online.  There’s so much wisdom to be gained from  listening to everyone’s  nuanced version of what self love means to them.

 

 The way I see it, the more stories of self love are shared, the more there is a chance that one day, the practice of self love will be a given in our society and will no longer need to be talked about.

 

Self Love For Me Is Embodied

Being that February is the month of love, with valentine’s day just around the corner, today I’m sharing my take on self love in relation to self care, because in my world, they are distinct, yet very closely intertwined.

 

Self care in my book, leads to self love in ways that go beyond just the intellectual “understanding” of self love. Experience has taught me that diligent self care leads to authentic, deeply-rooted and embodied self love. Caring for ourselves cultivates self love.

 

Being able to repeat some impressive self love quotes from Pinterest in a conversation doesn’t hold up when your world is rocked and turned upside down. That’s when we’re able to truly gauge the depths of our self love.

 

Seed of Self Love Was Planted on The Heels Of Suicidal Thoughts

To explain, how I know self care can lead to self love, I must first share with you the roots of my self care journey. My story begins from a place of utter self loathing and a crossroads to either succumb to it and take my own life or resist it and learn a new way of living. I was not aiming to attain something that resembled anything close to self love, I just wanted to learn how to make it through a day and not fall apart.

 

For many years, my self care was done from a place of belligerent, forceful and urgent desperation to put this relentless self loathing to rest.

 

Self Love Began in Utter Darkness

I began my journey as a teen with the question of how to live as far away as possible from the hopeless feelings I was dealing with. I’d often have this visual of my being a human vacuum in which this swirling black hole in my diaphragm sucked in everything that seemed even remotely close to filling it’s deep void. But nothing did, nothing was ever enough. You can read more about that part of my story here

 

Thrive or Die

Because I was coming from a place of such desperate urgency to change my life, I had lazer like attention on what brought immediate relief to my situation and what didn’t.

 

I’d voraciously read self help books and give their suggestions an honest try for about a week before tossing them (teenage “tenacity”). Later on when I had the bandwidth, I would increase my efforts to a few months but again, in those early years, I didn’t have time to spare the way I saw it. Every day felt like I was walking on a slippery slope between despair and some sort of bare essential equilibrium. If I did not fight against the tide of despondent thoughts, I would be easily swept away into making plans of suicide.

 

Our Highly Cerebral Self Help Culture Missed the Mark on Self Love

What became painstakingly clear, early on in my efforts was that,  the approach of trying to change my thoughts on the level of my thoughts, was not working for me at all. I was struggling to live and the  attempt to replace my “negative” thoughts with “positive thoughts” made it more difficult in that the struggle had me feeling like ping pong ball between the two extremes

 

My internal dialogue would sound something like this:

 

“I’m so fat and ugly! Why don’t I lose weight?! , I’m so lazy”

 

“No your great, your smart and talented, you can do anything”

 

No Im not! If I was my life wouldn’t look the way it does today,”

 

“Be positive, everything is great”

 

“Eat *****”

 

My mind and heart were in such a storm that to start there felt like I was trying to stop a fight by coming between two people who were already swinging.

 

Needing To Start From the Ground  Up

I needed my efforts to be more basic than that, so I put all my attention on bringing relief to my body . I tinkered with detoxes, raw food diets and long duration’s of exercise in high school, but in college I finally set my sights on doing small things that I could easily do and most importantly maintain with my hectic schedule.

 

I started with the habit of drinking water in the morning and slowly worked my way to other habits. You can read about my journey with water here. Drinking more water along with making the changes in my diet that Kathleen Desmaisons, Ph.D. suggests in her book “Potatoes Not Prozac” brought me on solid ground in terms of my body.  I was able to finally calm down my screaming body and begin to hear my thoughts. I didn’t know my body was screaming, always felt jumpy and felt like it had ants crawling all over it until those sensations stopped.

 

A Calm Body Opened the Door for Calmer Thoughts

From that place of more bodily silence, it felt natural and most importantly, possible, to start inching towards changing my internal environment of thoughts and feelings. I read up on different ways of journaling, art collages and meditations  and in time began a more serious effort of lengthening my time in solitude, contemplation and internal refueling.

 

Self Love, What?

In the beginning I absolutely did not have an iota of self love but instead was acting from a place of primal instinct to survive because I knew from experience that, to allow myself to get complacent in my efforts, meant to slip into the pull of numbing apathy and eventual suicide.  To me it felt like push forward or die.  

 

One small and relief-giving act of self care, inched me forward to another and then another until the momentum swelled and I could do bigger acts that required more effort in exchange for more relief.
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No Longer Running From, But Moving Towards

In time I was no longer searching for relief but instead following a thread of growing delight that was beginning to sprout in me. My intentions in my self care gradually grew away from urgently needing  relief from pain, towards pursuing a growing curiosity.  I began to relish self care and was in awe of the feelings of joy and levity that my self care sparked.

self love pic 2

Now, long after those initial teenage years and many, many MANY small victories of self care later I can share with you 15 things practicing self care has taught me about self love.

 

  1. Regularly carrying out acts of self care lead to self love even if it was  forced in the beginning. 

    Through most of my explorations with self care in the early years, I acted as my own militant wellness coach that pushed myself to do the things I knew were good for me, even though I absolutely didn’t feel like it.  In those early years, taking a shower felt like a victory.

  2.  Doing kind things for myself transformed my self loathing.

    • My acts of self care transformed my self loathing on  a much more substantial level than simply reading  and thinking about it. As hard as it was to push myself to care for myself, I always felt a degree of relief after having had done it. That relief was as good as self love could get at that time and it was good enough
  3. Facing challenges is a great self love gauge.

    • Times of stress are opportunities to gauge for myself how much deeper my inner reservoir of self love is, depending on two things:
      • 1) How well I can tune into myself to find out what I need and  
      • 2) How well I can give it to myself
  4. From stranger to friend

    • Spending time caring for myself, changed my time in solitude from awkward to treasured. I moved from feeling like a stranger to myself to enjoying my own company.

  5. Natural outgrowth of self love #1 =Discernment

    • I began to have the discernment with which to see those in my life that didn’t hold me in the same regard as I began to hold myself. I was changing from the inside out and so I was able to see things that had escaped me prior.
  6. Natural outgrowth of self love #2 =Conviction

    • My conviction to preserve my self care grew and I began to exercise healthy boundaries no matter how busy life got. Coming out of 2017 still able to blog, maintain my job, health, volunteer activities and home was a testament to that. I know I would of plummeted in despair and been walking that  hauntingly familiar slippery slope again, had I not kept that promise to myself  all these years. To know more about my crucible 2017 and how self care habits pulled me through you can click here.

     

  7. The deeper my self love, the more I’m able to approach my life with verve and resourcefulness.

    • This expands on the point above that, although I was  intensely challenged because I kept my self care consistent, I surprised myself on many occasions with resourcefulness I didn’t know I had. In my most broken state, after having had cried my eyes out to the point where they swelled and felt heavy for days, a verve sometimes in the form of a growl would rumble in me that said “Bring it!” and I’d once again squirt my eyes with Vizine, fill up my ceramic mug and greet my day.
  8. More self love= sharper reading of the signs

    • The more comfortable I felt in my own skin, the less I denied the difficult things I saw in my life. Because I harbored more self acceptance, I was more capable to accept and see things, people and situations for what they were and less for what I wanted them to be.
  9. Inner world is discovered

    • Spending time with myself helped me open my eyes and ears to what was happening inside of me. I didn’t know anything was there until I began to diligently spend time in solitude. I’m surprised to this day at what I continue to learn about myself
  10. Self love helps to prioritize

    • The more I came to discover what things, foods, clothes, situations, interactions and environments really lit me up, the easier it became to say no to the things that were just “alright” .  I began to hunger for more of what my heart deeply desired and less of what was just convenient.
  11. Self love needs context

    • The loving thing to do for myself changes depending on my needs on any given day. Some days I may need to be a firm disciplinarian that tells me to “move it sister!”, other days I may need tender nurturing.
  12. The most loving act

    • The most loving act I can do for myself at any given time is to check in with myself regularly, many times a day, every day by asking myself, “What do I need right now? How can I lovingly give that to  myself right now?”

 

Where are you with your self love?

 

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Sending you love, a reminder to take care of yourself and a big thank you for stopping by!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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