Writing in the sand, hearts, people skipping with balloons (weird), and running through wheat fields (really weird). This is the imagery we have for self love.
I grew up on a ranch. Never once did I see anyone running through a wheat field unless they’d just been stung by ants or horned by a bull.
Anyone who finds their self love in a wheat field will be pretty damn itchy when they get out with it, but at least they've found it. And that is truly a beautiful thing, because it's not easy.
Finding and cultivating unconditional love for ourselves is difficult, because it’s not something we ever learned how to do.
We know we want something else, something different, and that practicing compassion for ourselves might help, but it still feels pretty vague.
In ambiguous and general terms, self-love looks like this:
Taking more actions toward remembering we are lovable, and less back to the status quo in which we thought we weren’t lovable.
Aim for more moments toward the new paradigm, and less moments that re-create the old one.
In more concrete terms, it looks like this:
1. Stop spending time with people that drain your energy.
Surround yourself with people you love, and people that love you – those that inspire you to be more of what you already are.
We should be as loving as humanly possible to everyone around us. But we must first learn to set boundaries and honor ourselves.
In the long run, this makes us more selfless and more tolerant, but we can’t skip the first step.
2. Forgive yourself.
If you’ve done anything that you’re beating yourself up for, you must find a way to let it go. If you can’t do that on your own, find someone that can help you.
We have this idea in our society that guilt is the best punishment going. It is. That’s why it’s so effective at keeping us down.
3. Take happiness into your own hands.
We’ve also taken on an idea that we need someone to complete us. This nonsense happens only in Hollywood movies.
There are not many “happy ever after” relationships in the actual, real lives of Hollywood couples, because they are just doing life like everyone else.
You have to be happy with yourself, if you’re going to be happy in a relationship.
And if you ARE in a relationship, there are compromises, difficulties, heartbreak and a whole lot of learning.
Not long after I was married, I picked up the book Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix. “Wonderful!” I thought, “this must be about how to get my husband to change.” It was decidedly not, and it forever changed my view on relationship and its purpose.
4. Stop believing that you are what other people/society tell you.
You are not your career. You are not your possessions. You are not the role you are playing.
It’s great to have a career if that’s what you want.
It’s great to have stuff if that’s what you want.
It’s great to have roles. We rely on them for the functioning of our society.
But we are none of that.
You can change your job. You can get rid of stuff. You can’t stop being a parent, or a child, or a sibling.
But you can change the dynamics of how your relationships impact you, and how you are prepared to be within them.
You can start by engaging more in what you want all of it to look like, and disengaging from what anyone else (besides you) thinks it should look like.
5. Be nice.
I know a lot of the nasty things people say to themselves in their heads. I know the nasty things I’ve said to myself. Stop it. If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, don’t say it to yourself.
Your thoughts about yourself turn into beliefs – either empowering or self-limiting. So when you see or hear a thought that is not serving you, it behooves you to STOP IT.
Work on stopping it, and replacing it with something better. Like, “You sexy thing, you are SO already good enough.”
Keep practicing and practicing and practicing.
6 .Do something you love, much more often.
Eat chocolate in the closet where no one can find you. Lock yourself in the bathroom where no one can find you. Jump on the trampoline (in an undisclosed location). Whatever you love and feel like you need, MAKE TIME.
I know this sounds trite, especially if you’re not used to putting yourself nearer the top of the list, but there is nothing more important than your happiness. There really is not.
And look, if it helps, it’s benefitting everyone around you too. Even your kids, who need dinner and can’t find you.
7. Give yourself permission.
None of these will get you closer to the wheat, if you don’t have your own permission to participate.
We make up stories that tell us we can’t. Our families, our to-do lists, our myriad of shoulds and shouldn’ts.
WHEN do you do this? Every chance you get. Every moment that you can identify as an opportunity.
You as much as anyone else, deserve your own attention and your own affection, even if it’s fleeting.
Keep searching for the love you lost. It can be found.