When I hear the words self-love, I am transported 5000 miles away to a temple village in southern India. In 2014 I set off on a 10-day trip which would change my life. There were many, many memorable experiences on this trip, one of which you can read about in the beautiful book, “Unfolding Journeys”, but the one I want to focus on today is how I started my journey into self-love. I can recall sitting in the puja hall, wondering what I was doing 5000 miles from home when, clear as day, I heard my teachers voice in my head. She said “You’re here to learn to love yourself”. Seven years later I am still doing just that! Not because I haven’t grasped this, but because I believe it’s an ever-evolving process.
So what is self-love? And how do we find it?
When I looked at the definition of love, nearly all references mention fond regards for another. I don’t actually think that’s what love is, love is so much more than “a fond regard for another”, but that is a whole other story, perhaps one I will leave for another day. Let’s explore self-love.
Self-love can be seen as an acceptance of self, a fondness for self, compassion for the self, looking after our needs, a commitment to understanding the self and seeing the best in the self. I like to think of this in the context of parenting. When my child has a tantrum because the yellow square is the wrong colour yellow, as their mum I am able to love them, know that they are tired / hungry / frustrated etc, and love them, help them and support them. I don’t believe they are unworthy of love and affection because their behaviour is irrational. So with self-love, I believe we are able to parent our self through life’s difficulties, and be our own best cheerleader, encouraging and supporting.
But the key is HOW you do these things. Often it’s about the intention and energy we give to something. Slow down, be in the moment and give yourself the time and attention you deserve.
In order to love ourselves, it helps to have a reference point. I have therefore categorised self-love practices under 6 main headings.