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There has never been a time when the need for self-love is greater than now. If you are learning how to manage the energy in your life it’s even more important! You will tolerate far more people and things that deplete energy when you aren’t in a place of self-love. But what does self-love actually look like?
There is a lot of talk about learning to love oneself. But many people don’t know how to start or what that even looks like. In order to live your best life, it’s important to learn how to fall in love with who you are. And that may require you to have a “get to know you” period in your life. For some, however, they are so afraid to uncover the dark, shadow parts of themselves that they spend a lifetime detached from who they truly are. Or they live in the fear that if they take a look at who they are, they will discover that they are really a terrible person. And so they choose to stay stuck living behind a mask. They continue to just exist, not living as their own authentic self.
We were not designed to live like this. But often social conditioning pushes us to feel as if we need external approval to be okay. So many spend their lives chasing external approval and validation. But this is a superficial way to live and creates a life that lacks fulfillment and purpose.
If you are willing to spend the time getting to know who you truly are, the first step is learning self-love. But what does this even mean? And what does self-love look like?
Taking time to listen to you
When is the last time you really spent just listening to yourself? The sitting in the silence, focusing on what is going on deep within yourself kind of listening? Most people never do this, and definitely not on a regular basis. But in order to practice self-love, you must become your own best friend. You must learn how to fall in love with yourself! And that requires listening to everything that is going on within you.
Did you know that many of the thoughts and beliefs you have in your head aren’t actually from you at all? Nope! They are things that you learned at some point in your life from external sources. Often these are things that you were taught as a child. And it’s extremely common for negative things that have been said by others to become part of the endless loop that you hear in your own mind.
But behind the noise of that loop is the quiet voice of who you really are. In the chaos of all of the noise in the world, it can be difficult to hear. But when you begin to sit with yourself in the quiet and stillness, you can begin to hear what that voice is telling you. It is easy to second guess that voice, but once you learn to trust your own inner voice, it won’t steer your wrong.
Self-love means embracing your shadow side
Perfectionism is running rampant these days. I fully own that I used to be a serious perfectionist. I spent much of my life striving to be a “good” person. But the nature of all humans is one of polarity. So as someone who wanted so badly to be nice and kind, I struggled with the human moments when I wasn’t so kind or when I spoke or acted badly to someone else. For every characteristic, you feel is good, there is the opposite, a shadow aspect that exists.
As humans, we all experience moments when the shadow side comes out, even when we spend most of our time connected with the positive aspects. To me, I felt like those moments when the shadow aspects reared their heads made me a bad person. But that isn’t the truth. Once I embraced the idea that those aspects made me beautifully and imperfectly human, I was able to look at those aspects without judgment. This has allowed me to learn valuable lessons about how I am and has truly allowed me to accept myself more fully.
Learning to Enjoy Your Own Company
Let me ask you a serious question…do you enjoy your own company? Do you enjoy spending time with yourself? Or do you need to find people to be with all the time? Those who need external validation often need to be surrounded by friends, partners, and other people. They can find it uncomfortable to be with themselves because they feel as if they are “not enough” on their own.
Others may not enjoy being around other people, but spend their alone time lost in social media, games, reading, watching television…or anything that distracts them from being present with themselves. This can come from the fear that looking within may uncover just how horrible a person will be found there. But that fear is not true. That is a false belief. And I’m speaking from my own experience as a recovering perfectionist. I used to be terrified looking within myself. But once I became brave enough to get to know myself, I recognized that I’m not a horrible person…just a human one.
We all make mistakes and bad choices in our lives at times. We are all flawed and imperfect. But we also do good things and contribute positive things to the world. All of those things make us human. When you accept your own humanity, you may find that you actually enjoy getting to know who you really are. You can indeed learn how to enjoy your own company. And you learn to validate and approve of yourself which allows you to not need that from external sources.
Being willing to question everything in your life
2014 was a pivotal year for me. I dealt with major traumatic events in the second half of the year. I lost my mom, who was my best friend, to cancer. My marriage ended within two months of my mother’s passing. And the stress of those events caused me to lose my voice and couldn’t speak for almost six months. As someone who uses her voice to make a living, this was devastating to me. And I couldn’t sit down and talk to anyone to process the grief I was experiencing at that time.
But the beauty of that difficult time was that I was forced to be with myself in a way that I’d never been before. It started with me asking myself questions about how I really was feeling about the things in my life. I realized that in my entire adult life I hadn’t bothered to check in to see if any of the different facets of my life actually aligned with who I am on a soul level. I began asking myself two questions about everything from political and religious beliefs to how I was feeling about different things in my life.
Two important questions
I asked myself “how do I really feel about this?”, always giving myself time to tune in to my heart. I would also ask “is this really right for me?”. Once again I took the time to listen and tune in. During that time I shed a lot of beliefs that were not in line with who I am. And I also walked away from activities, people, and emotions that weren’t right for me. I now question things regularly. It is one of the most loving things I do for myself. It helps to keep me aligned with people, places, emotions, and situations that are right for who I really am. And it helps me to break through all of the social conditioning and be more of who I truly am.
Self-love means being Willing to Feel All of Your Feelings
There is a big move towards positivity in the self-help world these days. And this site is focused on living a high vibrational life. But there is a difference between stuffing down or ignoring the heavier, more difficult emotions rather than actually allowing yourself to honor, be present with, and feel those feelings.
Let me give you an example. When I was younger, I was a negative Nellie! I loved feeling sorry for myself and dealt with a whole lot of depression, anxiety, and even panic attacks. I hated who I was and was pretty miserable. When difficult emotions came up, I didn’t allow myself to actually feel those emotions. I stuffed down those emotions with food, pretended they weren’t there and stuffed them down anyway I could. Eventually, that emotional energy couldn’t be contained and I would explode and have a meltdown. It was a pretty crappy way to live.
Moving to “positive living”
I got to a place where I was tired of feeling crappy all the time, so I decided to focus on living a positive life. But I kept stuffing down emotions because I was “supposed” to be happy and positive. It didn’t work. It just made me sick and I was still miserable…I just had it hidden behind a mask like so many people do these days.
The true change for me came when I learned about being present with my emotions when they came up. If I felt angry, sad, ashamed, or fearful, to just allow myself to feel it at the moment without judgment. To honor that emotion and when possible, learn the lesson that needed to be learned from it. When you allow yourself to recognize, feel and honor an emotion, it is amazing how much more quickly it passes. That energy dissipates and you are no longer left holding onto that burden. It can take some practice to get used to doing that and not just responding or stuffing it down…but it’s worth it!
Learning to set boundaries
The people that love you in your life often have ideas of what they think you should do, who you should be, how you should act, and how you should behave. Society at large also does this. We are conditioned from the time we are children to act a certain way, believe certain things, feel certain ways about situations….you get the idea. But as you begin the journey to self-love and connecting with your authentic self, you may discover that some of the ideas your loved ones and society have for you are not in line with who you really are. Your journey and life are unique and only you can make the choices that are true for you, even if it makes family and friends uncomfortable or angry.
You must live your truth and honor your own journey, no matter what others want for you. And that often means setting boundaries with those in your life. This means that you may have to speak up about what is true for you when those around you are trying to push you to do or be something that isn’t in line with who you really are.
What is a boundary?
A boundary is a rule or limit that you set on how others behave towards you and what the repercussions will be if that rule or limit is broken. If you’ve been living with a lack of self-love, then it’s highly probable that you have a difficult time setting boundaries with the people in your life. Learning to set boundaries will require practice, but can be learned.
Self-love means being okay with walking away
This can be a difficult thing to do. Yet it is so important to be willing to walk away from relationships, jobs, beliefs, and situations that are toxic and that continually drain you. So often we hold onto these things much longer than we should because they’ve become comfortable. Self-love means that you love yourself enough to know that holding toxic people, jobs, situations, and beliefs are not for your greatest good….then let them go.
This part of self-love was extremely difficult for me for a long time. I was notorious for staying in jobs and relationships way past their expiration date. And I certainly have held onto beliefs that hadn’t served me for decades. The good news is that, while not always fun, walking away from the things that are bad for me or that don’t align with my authentic self has gotten much easier. Part of that is because it’s much easier for me to love myself these days. And so I don’t tolerate BS in my life the way I used to!
In order to live a happy, fulfilled, high vibrational life, self-love must come first. The beautiful thing about learning to love oneself is that once you do, you have a great deal of love left over to give to others as well! And because you love yourself enough to make sure your own needs are met, you also have the emotional resources needed to serve others as well. And that helps spread some much-needed, high vibrational energy in the world!