“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.”
This quote by San Keen may be referring to loving others, but it also applies to practicing self-love. We must learn to see our self as the imperfectly perfect person. We must love our self unconditionally.
Self-love is critical, because before we can fully love others, we must love ourselves. And if we don’t believe we are worthy of love, well then, how do we expect others to love us?
So, how do we begin? What are some ways we can incorporate a little self-love into our day? Eat clean, practice gratitude, light candles, get out in nature, use essential oils, buy fresh flowers, take a warm bath—ah, I’m feeling the love already.
There are so many ways we can begin to practice. Finding those ways that are special to you, that cultivate and strengthen your love, will be an exploration.
Here are five of my favorites help start you on your journey of self-love:
1) Love Your Body, Buck Naked.
Strip down and stand naked in front of a full-length mirror. Resist the urge to run, shudder or chatter any of that negative self-talk. Your thighs, belly and bum are just perfect—so please, no judgment. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. If you like, you can also imagine your heart opening, visualizing it expanding—maybe even pulling your shoulders slightly back and away from your ears to physically open your body.
Now open your eyes and begin to slowly scan your body from head to toe. As you rest your attention on each body part, send your love there along with a loving affirmation. Think of something that has meaning to you. I like to say, “I love you. You are beautiful and healthy.” Remember to bite your tongue if any unkind thoughts come up—again, no negative self talk. Your body hears all you say. Repeat your affirmation with sincerity.
Next, thank your body for all that it does. Thank your eyes for allowing you to see. Thank your arms for how they can reach out and hug your loved ones. Thank your legs and feet for how they allow you to move forward in life, one step at a time. When you are done, close your eyes and repeat your affirmation. Smile and slowly open your eyes. Now you can put your clothes back on.
2) Get Blindfolded.
Whether from 50 Shades of Gray or a long transatlantic flight, dig out that blindfold you may have buried in your dresser drawer, or use a scarf, bandana, dish towel, anything to cover your eyes. Veil yourself from the outside world, and start to move inward. Turn up some of your favorite beats, something that inspires you to move.
Clear the furniture, and just dance. Start to feel the rhythm of your body. Let go. Be free and uninhibited. Move like nobody is watching, because nobody is—not even you. Love the way your body moves. Love the way your body feels.
3) Be Kind To Your Body.
I have always been one to push my body. I’ve run marathons, biked centuries, completed triathlons and participated in crazy 200-mile running relays. Just recently, my sister was telling me about a hard-core boot camp class she just finished. The instructor was encouraging everyone to “give it 110 percent.” My sister half-seriously, half-jokingly said, “You know, I was thinking that giving it about 70 percent is just fine.”
At that moment, it all made sense. She was right: 70 percent is just fine! If I had given it 70 percent, I probably wouldn’t have injured my knee. If I had given it 70 percent, I would probably still be able to run. Be kind to your body. Listen to your body when it tells you “enough is enough.” Honor your limits.
4) Stop Apologizing.
I’m sorry for crying, for being sick. I’m sorry I can’t cancel my birthday plans to drive you and your five friends to the midnight showing of Star Wars. Yes, there are times when we should truly be remorseful for our shortcomings. But for the love of Pete, stop apologizing when you don’t have to for things that aren’t worth apologizing for. And I’m sorry, but I have a question: Why are we always apologizing? Do we want to be likable, lovable? Let’s start with loving our self first, unapologetically.
5) Loving Kindness Meditation.
Loving kindness meditation (sometimes called Metta), is a heart-centered meditation practiced to cultivate feelings of love and compassion toward our self, those we love, those we are having difficulty with and even those we have never met. Loving kindness meditation teaches us to extend love to all living beings.
When I guide this meditation, many of my students struggle when they have to extend a loving phrase to themselves. Loving others is often easier than self-love. This meditation can open the heart and strengthen relationships—including the relationship we have with our self.
Be kind to yourself. Practicing self-love is a life-long practice. A missed day of meditation, a sleep-starved night, a splurge of Ben & Jerry’s is not to be “punished.”
Self-love includes self-compassion. Self-love is not about being perfect; it is simply loving yourself—loving the imperfectly perfect you.
So go ahead and love yourself. All of you.
Author: Christine Rolfe
Apprentice Editor: Esther Fiore / Editor: Toby Israel