How do you love yourself? Well, there is a question that is not easy to answer. We all know that when we hear those three little words "I Love You" the hope is we feel a spark of warmth in our heart; however, is the feeling the same when you speak to yourself? Are you able to say "I Love You" to yourself? If you were to sit down with yourself, perhaps over a cup of coffee and a long conversation, could you really say "I love You"?
Imagine this with me for a moment: You sit across from yourself. The conversation begins and soon, you are sharing what is really on your heart. Imagine what you would say after listening to your story. The tricky part here is that you KNOW the whole story. There would be no editing of events. There would be no room to dazzle with bright tidbits of accomplishment because this time, those tidbits come with the full package. You would hear the failures, the mistakes, and see the possible places where a different choice could have been made.
So could you say it? Would you mean it?
Tough to openly and honestly answer that question. So what if I asked this from the other side of the question? Instead of offering love and acceptance, would you offer up doubt?
Would you begin your "advice" by listing those mistakes of the past? "You always do things like this, so what do you expect." Perhaps you would be quick to say: "Well, that is just not how your life goes. It may work out for some people, but you just need to realize you are not those people.” Maybe you would tell yourself to put those dreams to rest: “Stop with this nonsense. You need to focus on reality and not what you wish things could be.” Would you be quick to list all the skills and abilities you don't have or enumerate the things you have not accomplished?
These types of statements often just spill out and the rest of society is quick to affirm those negative feelings in our head. I have to admit, the conversations I have with myself walk a fine line between encouraging balm for the soul and destructive splintering.
Even when we read those destructive thoughts, we all resonate on some level, and what equally resonates is our hunger for that feeling of contentment and love. If we could give that to ourselves, even if it was only once in awhile, that would truly be fantastic.
Loving yourself is a difficult task. A daily task. And although I do not have one magic key, I do know it is possible to change those conversations with yourself, even if that means one less conversation that ends with doubt. Just as we have to work on how we talk with others in all of our relationships, we have to make a conscious decision to dish out love instead of doubt in our own heart. I have learned that if the relationship with our self is broken, other relationships we have are facing an uphill battle. YOU have to come first.
So how do you love yourself? Change the conversations you are having with yourself.
This year I have decided to change many things, but the most important thing I have been working on is how I talk to myself. That does not mean I have simply sugar-coated everything, but I realized that the self-talk had to shift towards the positive. At my personal lowest point in the past two years, I started to reflect on the many people I knew who were living out their dreams boldly. As I began to listen to their journeys more intently, I realized that the people I admired most were telling themselves a very different story than I was speaking to my soul. And so I decided that these people were really the elders in my tribe, and it was time to listen to their wisdom. So here are five lessons in self-love that I have taken from these elders about the kind of conversations we should be having with ourselves...
1. Self talk must be about making the impossible into the possible.
The first thing I noticed was that theses elders spoke of living out those dreams in their head. No matter how insane others may think you are; those dreams ARE possible. It had worked with them, so I began to encourage my heart to dream, and dream BIG. I began to let my heart wander in the possible, and when that doubt would start to infuse the process, I simply took another step toward those dreams. I have found that even if those steps were very small, they add up! Many of the dreams have come true, and although others are still in process, I can say that they never would have happened if I had not let my heart wander and dream. You have to start somewhere, so tell yourself to dream. Oh the beauty that unfolds! Re-work the word impossible. Try using I'Mpossible and let that thought be yours.
2. Self Talk should be about accepting yourself where you are, always being thankful for what you DO have to offer.
There are some incredible people in my life, but each of them have faults and they are very much human, but what sets them apart is the fact that they use every bit of talent in them - never getting stuck on the faults for long. They know that if they let fear and doubt take over, nothing is going to get done. The most beautiful talent is wasted in the muck of doubt. These people just keep putting themselves out there, never looking back for long. So I began to remind myself of the unique talents and gifts I have been given. I made myself look back over the things I had done, and funny, I began to see that nothing had been a total failure. Most of what I considered a failure had in fact been the exact thing needed to continue the shift forward. I also found that once I focused more on my current gifts and talents, I found many new ways to use those talents to make a difference. Let the faults go, you are so much more than that muck of self-doubt. Trust you are right where you need to be with just the right gifts, and speak those words to your heart. Encouraging yourself is a great form of self love.
3. To have good thoughts, feed yourself positive in every way and every day.
Let me say that this step is critical. All the people I deeply admire feed on a virtual buffet of good. They make a conscious effort to spend time with motivating people. They read inspirational material that challenges them to higher ground. They watch movies and television programs that encourage and motivate. But, the key to this is that they take these steps to feed themselves good on a DAILY basis. Not once a week, not once a month, not just when the moment arose, but DAILY. It all affects the self-talk we will have, so why not give yourself good things to think about. I began to shift my intake of the friends I talked with, the thoughts of others I listened to, films I watched, and what I was reading. I want to fuel my motivation, not deplete it. I can't tell you what amazing things happen when you decide to only feed on the good. And don't be surprised if you begin meeting more incredible people, for the more you let the good in the more the good will find you. And most importantly, my thoughts were naturally turning more positive. With the positive in view, self-love gets a whole lot easier.
4. Remind yourself growth is the goal, not perfection.
The people who have been the most influential in my life truly know that we are always growing and changing. Growth is a part of life, and we have to see it ALL as growth. Perfection can never be the goal. At the end of the day, these people I admire were always looking for ways to grow from the day's events. "Perfect days" only came when they were content in their hearts, no outside event could bring this about. It has to be about growing, not arriving. Therefore, I have tried to encourage myself to grow. Mistakes will creep in, but growth is a choice. And it is not easy, but perfection will destroy your heart faster than anything else. So I ask myself "How is this helping me grow?" I changed the conversation in my head. Funny, now, how I love seeing where life will take me next, for I know with growth comes an ability to have a larger view of what is around you. Great stuff. Growth has to be the focus if we are ever to love ourselves.
5. Don't go it alone.
The biggest mistake in trying to talk to ourselves is that we often get stuck in our heads turning thoughts over and over, and soon we are more lost than when we started. This is the hard one. Self-talk is an alone task, right? Well, at times, yes, but the beauty comes when we invite others to engage with us as we tromp through our thoughts. This is where good friends and family are invaluable. All the people I have ever admired have a team. Now this does not mean that everything is done with others, but having strong-hearted people who can come along side you is essential. They motivate us when we are wounded, direct us when we are blinded, and at the core, they teach us to see what is most lovable about ourselves. Consider it practice. Allowing others to love you when you don't necessarily feel lovable will strengthen your heart, so later when you are alone with those thoughts you will have experience to draw on of how that self-talk should make you feel. This is hard. Very hard, but this is the beauty in love, letting someone into your heart. Find a good "team", share your thoughts, and don't be afraid to add new people or to get rid of those that no longer fit as they once did.
Loving ourselves is one of the hardest tasks we face, and it is one task we have to "practice" daily to keep doubt away. Think through these steps, and as you do, try to love yourself more by shifting that conversation in your head. I challenge you to look at those you admire and pull from their journeys. Circle up with the elders of wisdom in your life, maybe even find a few from the past, and then take that wisdom to heart and plant it in your head. We are here to back you up any time that self-talk gets a little cloudy, and trust we are all right here practicing with you!
You are loved!!
Heidi Rickard is the Creative Director for The Authenticity Project, you can contact Heidi at TheAuthenticityProject@gmail.com.