By Dr. Shar Rai
When I say the word “love”, what comes to mind? Do you think of your children, your spouse, maybe your pet? Do you think about a romantic partner or an occasion where you felt fully immersed in joy? These thoughts will all evoke feelings of love. But, did “YOU” cross your mind? Most of us have a hard time liking ourselves, let alone “loving” ourselves. Loving yourself wholeheartedly requires you to build a relationship with “YOU”. It is truly the most important relationship you will ever have.
The question that often follows this statement is “How do I do that? How do I love myself?”
Trying to understand what that would look like can be overwhelming. Believe me, I know. After having my first daughter, I knew I had to do some inner work and build my own self-love practice, in order to give my own child the opportunity to build a loving relationship with herself. So here is how I broke it down:
1) Acceptance -Loving yourself means being good with who and what you are in this very moment-physically emotionally, mentally; it means embracing ALL your baggage, beliefs and events that have shaped you to be who you are today. When we consciously choose to venture through the journey of self-love, accepting what your life looks like in that moment is crucial. Shame and guilt have to be checked at the door! Acceptance is being ok with it all.
2) Compassion and Kindness- Reconciling with your past can be a gruelling process. The fact that you opened the door and accepted your previous experiences is no small feat. Showing yourself compassion and kindness for mistakes helps to soften the sharpness of these incidents in your life. Think about it…would you not offer that to a friend? I would often look at my past life (life before self-love) and remind myself that whatever I’ve experienced has been designed to serve my highest good. That helped me move forward and even set boundaries to create more respect for myself.
3) Forgiveness- Forgiving is not about forgetting, but remembering without emotion. When you offer yourselves the kindness and compassion, the act of forgiving becomes easier. The past will never change and when you surrender to this fact, it frees up so much of your brain that would otherwise remain stuck ruminating with past memories. I know that this takes time, but is so important because all consuming thoughts and feelings can alter the state of your body and make you physically ill.
4) Gratitude- Gratitude is about focusing on what's good in your life (like choosing “YOU” and the relationship with yourself first) and being thankful for the things you have. When you train yourself to find the “silver lining” in everything that happens to you, life seems brighter. You begin to notice and appreciate the things that you’ve taken for granted, like having a place to live, food, clean water, friends, family, even your past experiences. Your brain responds to gratitude with a greater ability to make connections, making better decisions and moral judgment.
As you go through these steps, take your time. Seek support from your friends, family and professionals that can help you navigate through this process. It may get ugly and difficult at times and you may find yourself going back and forth, but it is so worth it! Falling in love with yourself is truly he greatest love story.