At the root of all the behaviors, experiences, relationships, jobs, conflicts, passions … is how I feel about my Self. I believe it is the same for all of us.
And the way that I feel about my Self? It’s changed over the years, through different relationships and experiences and awarenesses. What was once a set of feelings based in judgment and expectation, negativity and critique, has evolved into a much gentler, accepting, and encouraging inner experience.
Let me tell you though, it has taken a lot of work and a fair amount of time to get here.
I want to share some thoughts about how I’ve gotten to a place where I can say that I do have a healthy, loving relationship with my Self, despite my flaws and mistakes. My ability to shift came from viewing my Self and my relationship with me as if it were a relationship with someone else.
Allow me to walk you through what that looks like.
Think of the relationship in which you have experienced the deepest, most unconditional, and most joyful love. Do you remember what it felt like to live in the magic of another person seeing you so deeply? Sharing in your heart? Holding you with care?
Have you ever felt this way about your Self? What would change if you offered your Self the same devotion, care, and unconditional acceptance that you shared with this person?
Quite a question, right?!
It kind of blew my socks off when I considered it this way, and it led me to taking steps toward Self-love as if they were steps in a dating relationship.
Step 1 – Get to Know Your Self
This is like the first date. It’s when you feel an interest, a curiosity, and a connection, but you need to take the time to get out there and spend time together, explore what makes that other person tick, find out their story, and share new experiences.
Think about this in terms of your relationship with your Self. How well do you actually know YOU? How would you get to know you?
For me, this meant going out and doing new things, both alone and with others. It meant reading, and therapy, and walks and sitting in the park talking with my dog. I started to date my Self.
Step 2 – Grow in Understanding
Think of this step as the dates that happen after the first few … you know where your partner likes to go out to eat, but you’re curious why they always order the same thing. Or you’ve noticed that your partner is really into reading, and you want to know what kind of books they choose.
You want to know more, because it helps you understand the other in more detail, and gives you more opportunities for connection.
Apply this to your Self. Increase your understanding … if it’s emotions, identifying them is the first step. Exploring the information they give you is the second (Why is that feeling strong? What is it telling me?). If it’s your spirit or intellect, you may have learned what your beliefs are, and now you’ll take that information and explore how those inform your choices. Look at your physical Self as well: your body, its needs, and required space are acknowledged; now, the awareness can turn toward how that all really feels.
Step 3 – Acceptance
Think of this as the moment you commit to your partner officially, with an unconditional and deep love for all that they are … and all that they are not. This is the experience of accepting the other and everything that makes them special.
In the same way, fully accepting your Self is the critical piece to forging a loving, caring, and real relationship with you. Here’s my own example:
I know I like to have control (Step 1). I understand it comes from a place of not wanting to disappoint others because I want to ensure I’m loved. This is a deep awareness that comes from my growing up and resonates as truth. I feel it deeply (Step 2). Getting to a place of actually accepting this about my Self took me a whole lot more time and work than the knowing and the understanding (Step 3)!
This is likely to be the same for all of us. This step is a big one, and it can take some time. It may even require you to get some help to work through (I know I needed it). Whatever it takes, though, it is crucial.
Step 4 – Celebration and Sharing
This is the party after the commitment ceremony. The dancing, the music, the great food, and the joy. It’s the looking forward to a life of happiness and an increasing connection and acceptance of each other. It’s the real, true, caring and opening kind of love.
But it’s all for you. From you.
It’s Self-love. And it grows and changes as you grow and change, allowing you to be supported, authentic, and healthy with each step in your personal evolution.
What do with all of this? Start small. Get curious and start asking how well you know your Self. Here are some ideas…
- What do you love about your Self? Start with the smallest thing. The freckle on your nose, the way you can whistle a tune, your impeccable taste in shoes. Write it down where you can see it every day. Add to the list as you learn more.
- Take your Self out somewhere new. It could be a walk, or a coffee shop, or even a virtual tour of a museum or landmark.
- Meditate, stretch or dance … whatever makes you feel your body in a deep way.
Here are some resources to help as well: