We’ve all heard the saying, “you can’t fully love others until you love yourself.” But, what does that truly mean; to “love ourselves?”
We are taught from a very young age to be loving and compassionate to our family and friends, but rarely are we taught to show that same kind of kindness and care towards ourselves.
As a 40 year old woman, I think I’m finally starting to understand what this means (I can be a slow study). I’ve finally realized that before I can allow myself to be completely vulnerable and open with another person, I have to fully accept who I am. And, not just the pretty and polished exterior; but the raw and authentic interior as well.
Easier said than done.
If your inner thoughts look anything like mine, they are already questioning what this means or how you can do it.
How do we learn to love ourselves first?
What is self-love, anyway?
Isn’t it selfish to care more about yourself than others?
Why do I need to love ME, when I have others to do that?
Good questions. I’ve struggled with these over the years and have come to use a set of practices to embrace the idea of being self-centered. You heard me right - I believe that cultivating an attitude of being Self centered is not only acceptable, but healthy.
Why wouldn’t we be? It doesn’t mean we can’t share ourselves with others. In fact, I would argue it allows us to be centered in who we are so that we can then more openly share our whole self with our loved ones.
Interested in learning how to love yourself first? Try these practices on for size and see how they feel and if they resonate with you.
Define what love means - to you.
You can’t exactly practice self-love if you haven’t taken the time to examine what it means to you. A few years ago I might have said it means to be kind to myself. Through a lot of introspection and self study, I’ve found a much more robust definition that I’ve chosen to live by.
To me (insert your own beliefs here), self-love means being kind to myself in the following ways:
Taking the time for self-care practices like yoga, meditation and running
Listening to my body and honoring when I need to slow down
Making the time to read, listen to music, do things that make my heart happy
Use discernment when being self-critical in thoughts and shift my mindset
Create boundaries to protect my time, energy, and emotions
Practice Saucha by eating whole foods, drinking water and putting good things in my body
2. Uncover what is getting in the way of fully embracing YOU (all of you).
The second step is to uncover your thoughts and behaviors that are getting in the way of accepting yourself, fully. For me, this shows up as thoughts around not being good enough. As a Virgo and former Type A over-achiever, my perfectionism often kicks in and reminds me that I can do or be better. It’s the part of me who is always saying I shoulda, coulda, woulda, instead of practicing contentment and accepting the unique person that I am, right now, in this very moment. And, in the next. And, the next. You get the gist.
Can you discern what thought patterns or repetitive behaviors are keeping you from fully accepting yourself? Doing the work to uncover the answers to that question might just get you closer to loving yourself.
3. Unabashedly open yourself up from the inside out.
In other words, allow yourself to be fully seen. Open your heart, authentically, without apprehension or guilt about the beautiful soul that you are. Recognize all the amazing contributions you provide this world and the people lucky enough to be in your circle. Stop apologizing for not getting everything “right” and appreciate who you are.
Know that by loving yourself first, you might just experience deeper connections and more intimacy with those around you. Build a relationship of love with yourself and your capacity to love others will be that much greater.
In the wise words of spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “Find the love you seek, by first finding the love within yourself. Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home.”