I used to think that self-love was all about self-admiration.
"I love this about myself... I love that about myself... I love how I'm so ________ and so not ___________..."
I had no problem looking at myself in the mirror and saying, "I love you." And I really thought I meant it.
But then I began to notice that every "I love you" was silently followed by a reason why.
"I love myself because I wrote a book that helps lots of people... I love myself because I'm an awesome artist... I love myself because of x, y, and z accomplishments..."
But is that really love? In short, the answer is no. Sure it's really nice, but it's not love. In fact, it's 100% conditional love. Which is not love at all.
I "loved" myself for every accomplishment and talent, but hated myself for every failure and flaw.
"Conditional love is not really love at all."
What Self-Love Is and Isn't
Only lately have I become clear about what self-love really is. And It's not all about taking bubble baths, although many blogs will define it as such. It's also not about working out every day, because if you truly loved yourself you wouldn't need to change your body to feel better. And it's definitely not (just) about saying "I love you" in front of the mirror. Because, let's be honest, any narcissist can do that one in their sleep!
Self-love is really about self-acceptance. It's about accepting and loving yourself just as you are, just for being you. What a concept!
No changing is necessary. No accomplishments are required. It's just you, the real and the raw, loving yourself for the beautiful, magnificent, miracle that you are.
What Self-Love Looks Like in Action
If only it were that easy, right? Well, I'm not claiming that it's easy, but it's definitely possible. It takes some practice and getting used to, as I can tell you from experience, but it's doable. And like anything, you get better at it the more you do it. So let's start today, shall we?
Now we are only left with the question of how. How can we actually love ourselves? (Especially in this day and age when society gives us so many reasons not to.) Heck, what does self-love even look like?! It's hard to say when you don't see it that often!
The answer only becomes clear when we look at the qualities of love itself.
Love is all encompassing. Love is kind. Love is patient. Love is forgiving and compassionate. Love, real love, is unconditional.
If love is all encompassing, we must love all the parts of ourselves, (the good, the bad, and the ugly). If love is kind, we must always be kind to ourselves. If love is patient, we must be patient with ourselves. If love is forgiving, we must forgive ourselves. (And quite frequently, I might add!) If love is compassionate, we must show ourselves a little compassion. If love is unconditional, we must learn to accept and embrace ourselves as we are.
If love is all encompassing we must learn to love all the parts of ourselves.
And while theory is always nice, I like to keep things real. So to drive my point home, here are some examples of what these concepts actually look like in daily life:
Self-love is when you give yourself permission to take a nap when you are tired.
Self-love is when you forgive yourself for not picking up the kids from school on time.
Self-love is when you're disappointed in yourself, but you keep your inner dialogue as kind as a mother would speak to her young child.
Self-love is when you honor your self and your standards by not giving in to peer pressure at the party.
Self-love is making the time to go to yoga because it makes you feel good. (Not because you think you need to lose ten pounds.)
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to start loving yourself today. So start now, practice often, and take it one moment at a time. And when you feel stuck, just ask yourself, "What would someone who loves themselves do?" and then do that. Works every time. :)
As always, I would love yo hear how you plan on loving yourself today in the comments! If you're looking for more ways to love yourself be sure to check out my book #ActuallyICan: The Art of Affirming Yourself to Greatness and maybe even sign up for my 30-Day Challenge!