When I first started on my journey towards a greater sense in inner peace and happiness I found Louise Hay’s book, “You Can Heal Your Life”, extremely helpful – practicing the mantra “I approve of myself” until the words felt right and familiar. My twenties had been characterised by a disharmonic hum of self loathing, until I reached a place where I could no longer tolerate it. This is when I started to seek help. Paul McKenna’s hypnosis cds at bedtime gave me just enough lift to remember what happiness felt like. Counseling, retreats, nlp and wild tantric festivals were a major pastime of my early 30s. One midwinter’s eve at a dance session I had the realisation that I didn’t have to be a person who thought she was fundamentally not ok, things could be profoundly different – I could fall in love with myself.
Self love felt like something I had solved.
A friend helped me to question this a little, I could with ease tell people “I love myself”, but the day to day, moment to moment, treatment of myself were not necessarily a match. I still set myself impossibly high standards and berated myself for failing, quietly criticising myself for feeling anxious or numb, carrying the belief that I’m not who or where I should be. My internalised critic is sneaky and it has taken a long time to notice those subtle habits, so that I can replace them with self compassion.
Weave Self Love into your Life…
…internally this can look like offering yourself reassurance, for example, “you’re ok, you’re doing ok, you’re loveable as you are”, or empathy, “things are so hard for you right now”, or allowing self forgiveness, when we slip up or feel like we are going backwards. It can also take the form of practical action, moments to pause and breathe throughout the day, reaching out for support, pursuing our dreams, eating cake, not eating cake… There are many different ways to be self loving, for me they are often accompanied by a feeling of wellbeing or relief a sense of harmony.
We tend to treat others, especially those closest to us, the way we treat ourselves. Doing the gentle work of, moment by moment, bringing in more self compassion can also be a gift to those around us. We can become kinder as the respect we show to ourselves drifts out into the world.
My main work is in supporting parents and I find encouraging the radical acceptance of themselves can help them to spark the realisation that they are enough. It’s easy for parents who are struggling to slip into self judgement which can cause them to spiral downwards; low mood can make it harder for them to access engaged, responsive parenting making them feel worse about themselves and so it continues.
A way to start to break the cycle is through a compassion focused meditation, I do this by sitting with my hand on my heart and letting myself know I am welcome as I am and imagining love as a soft golden light radiating from the heart around my body: Resting in this love and breathing deeply with a long out breath. I feel that love is a powerful force we can tap into, when we do so the love we feel for self and other can melt into one.
Go gently, life can be trying and you deserve all of the love in the world.