**This article starts with a little background, then some things you have to realize and then goes into some practical exercises and visualizations that I found helpful. So you might want to read this one when you have a little extra time on your hands =)***
I have always been full of love.
Sometimes I am so full of love that I just start crying because I am overwhelmed by the feeling. Loving other people has never been a problem for me. Every person I have ever befriended I have loved. Every man I have ever kissed had my love. I have been in love so many times because every relationship I involved myself in, I went full in…all or nothing. They would leave, I would be heartbroken and I would STILL love them. No matter how many times my heart got broken, my pattern never changed. In my darkest times of heartbreak my motto was...
(Cliche and cheesy yes, but helpful nonetheless! Sometimes you just can't be picky about the sayings and mantras that get you through the tough times. You just have to be grateful for them.)
They say not to throw the word "Love" around because it loses its power. That you should be careful who you say "I love you" to. I always disagreed. Love is love. It is not a limited resource that you somehow run out of if you use up too much of it and I gave and gave and gave away my love to anyone who would accept it.
Despite the fact that loving others was my superpower, I could never figure out how to love myself. Honestly, I couldn’t even imagine how I would start to love myself. Everyone in the world, anyone in the world, was more worthy of my love than I was. Every time I looked in the mirror, I couldn't even say "I like my eyes, or I am having a freak'n awesome hair day!", never mind " I love you".
It makes me so sad to think about those times, because I wanted love. I really did. I just was searching for it everywhere except form myself. It was only a couple of years ago, after I met my husband, that I even started to be open to the concept of liking myself, and only in the past year has loving myself become a true fulfilling and amazing practice.
I don’t know exactly when I stopped loving myself, but I can’t remember loving myself as a child (so it must have been pretty early on). In high school and college, I was familiar with the idea that I should love myself, that it was something good to do, but the concept was so foreign to me that I had no idea where to even start.
The funny thing is that no one tells you HOW to love yourself, only that you need to do it. I am sure that everyone’s methods are different, but I would like to share my HOW and see if it resonates with you.
SOME REALIZATIONS THAT HAVE TO TAKE PLACE FIRST:
You have to come to the realization that loving yourself is not selfish or vain, egotistical or wrong in any way!
You have to know that true unconditional love is never wrong. Loving yourself causes no harm to others; it only increases your capacity to be a force for good in the world.
They say that you “Can’t pour out of an empty cup”, that you can’t love others without loving yourself. I would strongly disagree with that. I have loved strongly and deeply and truly all my life, regardless of how I felt about myself. However, I would say that the way I love has deepened and expanded since I started loving myself.
My ability to love unconditionally has blossomed. I am able to love people because they ARE, not because they are something to me. This love doesn’t need to compare or come up with reasons why. It is just there, pure and infinite. I wish that I could explain it better, but I am not sure the perfect words exist. You will feel what I mean soon enough.
You need to know that no one can love you so much that you just start loving yourself.
Having the support of others is helpful, but loving yourself is a choice and a daily practice that only YOU can do. I was stuck in co-dependency for the majority of my life so far. The relationship I have with my husband is the only healthy independent romantic relationship I have ever had. That goes to show that I have been down this road. I believed for a very long time that if I could just find the perfect relationship, that perfect person who just loved me for who I am, than I would be able to love myself. I made the possibility of loving myself conditional.
IF I find this special person who meets these totally unhealthy and unrealistic needs, THEN loving myself will just happen with no intention or effort.
I placed the responsibility of loving myself on my romantic partners. This ALWAYS leads to disappointment and unhealthy relationships because NO ONE wants that burden. No one wants to be responsible for you loving yourself and it is not right or fair for you to ask (even unconsciously) for anyone else to do this for you. Just think about being in their shoes. Would you want someone's self love to be your responsibility?....I didn't think so.
This is why loving yourself is one of the best gifts that you can bring to a relationship, because it takes the pressure off. You are not in a partnership because you NEED the other person to love you because you can't love yourself. You are in a partnership because you WANT to be with them. It adds FREEDOM to your relationship!
Loving yourself is as easy as loving others.
We just have some serious mental blocks going on. Society conditions us to stay small. We are told…
To not to get full of ourselves
That humility is a virtue (which is true, but has absolutely nothing to do with loving ourselves!)
That we should stop focusing on our own desires and happiness and start focusing on making others happy
That love is a finite resource that we need to save for other people
But I am telling you right now that if you are open to the idea of loving yourself, if you have the desire to love yourself and if you are capable of loving others...
You are capable of loving yourself.
PRACTICES AND VISUALIZATIONS:
Here are a couple of the concepts, practices and visualizations that have really helped me to love myself this past year. I still have days when I am sad, or I get caught up in my ego, or I am just in a plain old bad mood, but since I made the switch to loving myself, I have never once not loved myself. It was truly like a ON switch. I hope that it is the same for you!
1. Have some faith in the Sameness!
If you check out the about page of this site, you can read a little bit about my philosophy and how I view the world. In a nutshell, I believe that we are all made of the same atoms and that all atoms are held together and organized by the same energetic forces. I call the most basic connecting energy of the universe LOVE, but you can call it whatever you want. Some people call it God or Spirit or The Universe, whatever floats your boat. This energy makes up all things. At the most basis root level, we are all the same.
At the most basic level, you are just as worthy of love as that person that you love with all your heart, because you are both made of LOVE.
Take some time now to sit quietly and visualize:
Picture yourself in your mind, use your imagination. Picture your entire body, as if looking at it from the outside. Now go one level down, picture your bones and muscles and organs. Now one more, picture your cells and organelles that make up your tissues and blood and bones. Now the molecules and atoms that make up your cells. Now the protons, neutrons and electrons that make up the atoms. Finally, picture the energy that holds those parts of the atom together.
Imagine this energy is a golden light that flows and shifts and holds and connects. Your whole body is made of this beautiful golden light. Take a look around you. This energy is everything. It is the chair your sitting in, the house you live in. It is the mountains and the oceans, the plants and the animals. This golden energy is the people that you love, the stars and the moon and the sky. You are made up of the same energy as the stars! How cool is that!
Now picture someone that you love unconditionally. See them clearly in your mind. Now look at them at the energetic level. See them as golden light, flowing and shifting, holding and connecting. Picture yourself next to that person. Hold their hands in your hands and watch the energy flow easily from you to them and from them to you. Notice that right now, you look the same. You are both just human shaped vessels of golden light. Fill that person with golden energy, now fill yourself with golden energy. Feel the tingling warmth of the energy as it builds up inside of you until you are overflowing with it. Now name that golden energy LOVE. Say it to yourself …. “I AM LOVE”. Say it as many times as you need to.
The fact that you are LOVE has nothing to do with your personality, your character, your ego. It has to do with your BEING. The fact that you ARE, is something that you cannot deny. If you ARE, then you are LOVE. If you are LOVE, and everything in the universe is also LOVE, then if you can love others, you can love yourself just as easily. Just acknowledge the energy and call it by name.
2. Start with yourself as a child and move forward through time.
**This is a version of an exercise that I learned from reading The Map to Abundance by Boni Lonnsburry- so go read that book if you haven’t already, she has some great visualizations and exercises in there!***
Okay I know that the concept of “Your inner child” has been used so many times that it is just cliché at this point. Just humor me okay? This practice really helped me out!
Go find a picture of you as a little kid. If you don’t have a picture handy, just imagine yourself as a little kid. Now step away. Dis-identify. This is just a child like any other child, innocent. This is just a child who doesn’t love themselves and doesn’t know how. This is a child who needs help, who needs love.
In your mind picture walking into a room and seeing this little child crying on the other side, what do you want to do instinctually? Maybe you open your arms and the child runs into them, maybe you walk over and put your arms around the crying child. It doesn’t matter what you do. Just feel how easy it is to love this child. This child never did anything wrong. There is nothing about this child that doesn’t deserve your love. So go ahead. Open your arms and give this child a big hug. Tell them anything you need to, to make them know that they are loved. Listen to what they have to say and respond as best you can. Then when it is time to go, reassure them that you will be back soon and that you love them. Now acknowledge that that little innocent human that you made such a loving connection with is YOU. Acknowledge that you are capable of loving you child self. You REALLY love your child self and it was so easy!
When I did this exercise I honestly pictured my little niece who is three years old (she looks a lot like I did as a child). When I mentally / emotionally / spiritually walked into the room, I fell to my knees and opened my arms and watched her run to me and fling her arms around my neck. She cried into my shoulder and I cried into her hair. I told her that everything is going to be okay. I said “I love you so, so much. There is nothing that you could ever do to make me not love you. You are perfect and amazing and beautiful. I love you.” She asked me where I had been for so long? Why I hadn’t ever come to visit her? I told her “I was afraid to come and visit. I was afraid that I would not be able to love, that I would be a bad person for loving you. That I would show up ready to love and you wouldn’t love me back”. She laughed and told me how silly I was and I laughed too. Then when it was time to go, I gave her one last squeeze and promised that I would always love her and that I would visit again soon.
I keep my promise too. I visit my inner child on a regular basis whenever I feel like there is a blockage in my past that is keeping my present self from growing. Sometimes, I even just visit when I feel like I need a little extra love.
This exercise was a game changer for me. It was so much easier for me to love myself as a little innocent child than it was for me to think about loving my present self. When that recognition hit that that child IS ME, that the essence of my being has not really changed all that much, That was the ON switch.
She is still there in me, just a little girl who wants to be loved. I can now give her that love and that is super powerful!
Now travel forward through time:
Do this exercise for each of the main points in your life.
the elementary school you
the middle school you
the high school you
the young adult you
any past version of you that you feel might be helpful
Then finally, visit the you that you were yesterday.
Let each version of you tell you all about the mistakes that they made, then tell them that you forgive them.
Listen as they tell you all the reasons why they can’t love themselves, then tell them all the reasons why you love them anyway.
Let them release all of their fears about not being good enough and not being lovable, then tell them that they could never do something that would make you not love them. Tell them that you love them unconditionally and that you will NEVER turn your back on them again.
Finally when you get to your yesterday self, forgive yourself for not loving yourself for all this time. You did the best that you could with the tools that you had. You are perfect and amazing and now you get to choose to love yourself everyday from this moment forwards!
I was so surprised at how easy it was to just extend a little more love the next version of me, because there really wasn't any difference between them. They all just need love. They all did the best that they could with the tools that they were given. I was able to forgive them all and love them all as easily and completely as I was able to love my childhood self.
This was the exercise that proved to me that loving myself was easy. I hope that it works for you as well. Now I can look in the mirror and say “I love you” and mean it.
***The other super cool thing about this practice is that once you are able to do it for yourself, it is a really useful perspective for forgiving and extending loving compassion to others*****
3. Practice Daily:
Start an experiment where you study all the different ways that you are able to show love and compassion to yourself. Feel free to start small and work your way up. Or if you are feeling invincible after that last exercise, start as big as you want. Here are some examples:
Take a look in the mirror every morning. Take a good long look. Look deep into your own eyes and say “I love you” to yourself as many times as you need to in order for it to feel true and powerful!
Take some times to write out some loving affirmations about yourself in a journal everyday. They can be deep things or simple superficial things.
Every time you do something that is even a little awesome during the day, acknowledge it. Say to yourself, wow I love that I am great at __________.
Every time that you do something embarrassing or forgetful, just say “There is nothing that I can do that I can’t forgive. There is nothing I can do to make me not love myself. It’s okay, everyone makes mistakes, it does not change the fact that I am LOVE” (Even if you need to imaging your child self making the same mistake and speaking to them instead. It is okay to start small and work your way up.)
Whenever you have some free time (I like to do this when I am driving in the car) go back and imagine yourself as the golden light energy of love. Feel the connection between you and the universe. Open yourself to this universal energy and fill yourself with love until you are overflowing with loving energy and then start sending the excess love to other people. It feels so amazing to do this and can really sift your mood around.
Create your own love rituals. Go do a bunch of research. Read a bunch of books, watch YouTube, whatever. Get some tools in your tool belt and adapt them to your specific needs.
I hope these things help you. They really helped me. Let me know in the comments what rituals have helped you to love yourself! I will keep sharing new self love tools as I come across them, I hope that you will do the same.
Sending lots of golden light love energy your way!