I am a lover and a giver. I give without regret or restraint and rarely expect anything in return. Admittedly, this combination can be lethal to my well-being.
I know many like me and see a discouraging pattern: those who have it in their nature to love without limits ironically impede the pathways of self-love. The more they love another, it seems, the less they are able to love themselves.
Along with many other things in life, introspection and inner evolution taught me an invaluable lesson in caring for myself. Having recently escaped a five-year relationship, I found my love levels dangerously low. My adoring energy had been exhausted on another person and now I, newly single, was left unknowing how to rebuild that force within me... until a stranger gave me the answer.
A man standing next to me on New Year's Eve casually asked what I did for a living. I told him I managed my mom's psychology business, to which he replied, "Do you know there's one answer to your clients' problems? It's simple: have a love affair with yourself. But don't tell them that, or you won't have a business!" He chuckled and wandered off. Committing to memory his words, I took the fleeting encounter as a signal to live out the coming year differently. I resolved to make this a year in which I practiced the art of self-love.
My journey began with a few simple questions: had I really lost any love for myself, or had I stubbornly stowed it under a layer of false admiration for another? Could it be that my self-love was just as intact as it was five years ago? I would come to find out that there was nothing missing within me -- nothing wrong with me and nothing that I didn't deserve. Through honest reflection and a mindful shift, I rediscovered the secret hiding place of my self-love. It was all there where I had left it -- perfectly, wholly and plainly there, shrouded by a veil of self-imposed doubt, which I immediately worked to remove.
Through daily efforts, I am able to live by my new-found sense of self-worth. I've found the following simple actions key in creating a positive switch in mentality and reestablishing a profound love of the self:
Forgive yourself. Every one of us makes mistakes -- in relationships, finances, personal decisions, and so on. Mistakes can be costly reminders to think before we act, but they are also encompassed by greater lessons. Remembering this can help us forgive our former failures and discern their higher purpose. When we forgive ourselves for our shortcomings we can redirect our attention to new efforts that produce new results.
Put yourself first. There lies beauty in sacrifice. But when you constantly put yourself second, you set up an inevitable pattern of behavior. In time, you settle for second place in more than one area of life. Reevaluate what it means to put yourself first: engaging in your interests, pursuing your ambitions, and ensuring your well-being. Practice this mantra in all difficult situations: If it doesn't bring me good, it isn't worth my effort.
Say I love you. Speak it to yourself every morning; look in a mirror and say "I love you" in a loud voice. We automatically critique, blame, and fault ourselves for nearly everything, rarely acknowledging the things we do well or those we ought to be proud of. Show yourself daily doses of well-deserved appreciation.
Recognize your strengths. Recognizing your strongest traits endows you with deep knowledge of the self, a precious tool you can use to cultivate your best assets. Understand what are your shining qualities and showcase them with beaming confidence. Once you acknowledge your strengths, you can raise your standards in all elements of life. The moment you begin to believe that you deserve better is the moment you receive better.
Do something you love each day. When was the last time you did something you truly loved? Our ambition is admirable, but our lives have become so busy that we often dismiss simple pleasures to take care of business. Whether it's a hobby, talent, or special craft, take thirty minutes out of your day, each day, to practice what nourishes your soul. Everything can wait while you indulge in your beloved self.
Cut out all negative influences. Make a list of the people in your life who have no place being there. You know who they are -- those who drain you physically, emotionally, or mentally, who take advantage of you or cause you any form of stagnation. Literally cut your list in half and let this be reflective of the way in which you will trim away these negative influences in real life.
Release love to yourself. We hoard our abundant love of the self within us, as if waiting to release it to the right person. In reality this love was meant to be released only to ourselves. Allow your self-love to flow freely by eliminating criticisms, insecurities, and doubts. The attention you should show another person is secondary to the attention you should show yourself. Why wait for someone else to love you when you can love yourself first?
Celebrate your worth. It's easy to become distracted by potential achievements and neglect past accomplishments. Celebrate your personal triumphs, both big and small, and let every former victory be a fervent reminder that future wins await, too. Don't be afraid to raise your glass and toast to that amazing person who's conquered their every challenge: you.
Thrive on creativity. We are all remarkably creative, but our originality may be stunted by external factors. For example, your job may not allow you to express your true ingenuity. Our imagination allows us to manifest our most brilliant ideas to life if only we can open the inventive doors inside. Incorporate your creative tendencies into everyday life, from the way you dress, speak, decorate your home, etc. Expand your creative potential to reach its peak in time.
Extending too much love to others can leave us lacking in love for ourselves. We must walk the fine line of attending to others and tending to ourselves, all the while never falling second to the needs of another. Because to love ourselves is to know ourselves, and to know ourselves is to recognize the full spectrum of our powers.