How do I love myself?
Lets just get this clear: loving yourself isn’t as easy as it sounds. We come to the table with years of conditioning that’s taught us that we aren't worthy of love. Most of us feel flawed in some way. We aren't able to accept ourselves or we feel that love must come from another person in order to show that we’re valuable. It’s painful programming and it makes a simple idea like (insert bubbly newscaster voice) “just love yourself!” seem totally out of reach.
So let’s give love another name, we’ll call it connection. When you’re learning to love yourself, what you’re really doing is practicing connecting in with who you are. The goal is to cultivate a relationship with you, one in which you're able to be present and supportive no matter what’s happening. This is something that must be learned; because while we were born knowing how to do it, it’s completely conditioned out of us in childhood.
Being young and at the mercy of our imperfect parents, we learn fast that when we’re upset about something, it upsets them. They put a lot of effort into trying to change our negative responses into positive ones. Because of this, we realize that many of our wants and needs aren’t acceptable and so as they arise, we try to change them, we ignore them, we condemn ourselves for having them. When our responses are met with disapproval from the very people we depend on for survival, we learn to smile and conform, quick.
So now that you’re no longer a child, how do you begin to love yourself? Start with this simple exercise. Close your eyes and begin to breathe into your stomach area. Breathe until you feel yourself relax. When you’re feeling settled, continue to breath deeply but give your attention to your heart. See if you can feel it beating inside your chest. Begin to explore what you feel in there. Name some of the emotions you notice and just let them be there without trying to change them. For example, if you notice that you feel some sadness in your heart, let yourself just experience the sadness without trying to make it any different. Now, ask this question of your heart; “What do you need from me?” Let that answer arise and process it for a minute. There’s so much information to be gleaned from that simple question.
This is a single answer to a question of which the answers are endless. There are so many ways to dip your toes in the water of learning to love yourself. Start here and do this exercise as often as you think of it. This will help you develop a connection with your heart which is one of the first and most profound steps you can take in developing a practice of self love.
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