by Wanda Badwal.
It is said that we have to love ourselves first in order to love somebody else and share this love. But what does that actually mean `to love yourself?` And how does it show up in everyday life?
“In a society that profits from your self doubt, loving yourself is a rebellious act“
Unfortunately its true, we constantly get told how we have to look, and what we have to buy, do or achieve, in order to be more ´lovable´, to be ´better“´. Through the fashion industry, magazines, movies and commercials we get the idea that we have to look a certain way or be a certain way. The higher, faster, younger, better society we live in, surrounds us all the time and the scary thing is commercials work on a subconscious level. We see hundreds of pictures everyday and whether we want that or not, these images set a certain `tone` of what we think we have to be.
Its a form of brainwashing you could say. Scary but true. And that makes it all the more important to become aware of, because what we choose to let into our minds, becomes our reality.
In my opinion, modern society doesn’t support self love, our individual beauty or the belief that we are already whole and need nothing in order to be loved. Instead, it constantly tries to influence us to buy things we don’t need in order to fill up our self love tank.
Ultimately, we have to take responsibility ourselves, we have to do the work of cleansing our world view and checking our own beliefs. This is really what the paths of Yoga and Meditation are about – cleansing the mind. Yes its work and its uncomfortable, because the mind likes to lay back and hang out in old patterns, but its worth it, because on the other side of the fence lies freedom.
According to the Yoga Tradition, in our essence, we are love, and we are loved. Love is the nature of all living beings.
So what an insanity to think we need to add or change something about ourselves, or look a certain way in order to be loved.
A lot of people, including myself, underestimate our full potential, constantly being hard and unkind towards ourself. For many, it is a lifelong journey to develop an honest, compassionate and loving relationship with ourselves, like a real friendship. I, myself am on this journey right now and want to share with you some insights and practical steps I’ve found along the way.
9 – Steps to love yourself more:
1. Awareness – the first step is to become more aware of our inner world. It starts with our thoughts. In the slower practices like meditation, moon practice and yin yoga we have the time to `observe` and witness our inner voices whilst being invited not to react to it .You are not your thoughts! This is a deep realization, one of the biggest and most liberating for me so far. All the voices in your head, all this talking, it is not you! Yes! Isn’t that great?! And you have the freedom to choose which voice in your head you want to listen to. So: Don’t believe everything you think – about yourself and others!
2. Focus on the positive – Energy flows where our attention goes. This means wherever you put your attention, the energy will follow. If you put yourself or others down by criticizing and judging, negative energy will follow and so on. It’s pretty easy, if you want to feel good, focus on the good in your life, think positive. Focus on what you love about yourself. What to you love about your character? What are your special strengths? What makes you look unique? – Start to write a self-love list right now!
3. Be your own mum – and make your physical health a priority in your life. We all know it, when we are not healthy, nothing works. Take care of yourself means really looking after yourself like a caring mum would do, in a very practical way. Do you drink enough water during the day? Do you eat healthy and regularly? Take supplements that are good for you? Have a rain cape in your scooter? Do you exercise and move your body enough? Learning how to take care of yourself in a good way is one of the most important things in life. What are the basic needs that make yourself feel good, healthy and vibrant?
4. Gratitude – shift your perspective form ´lack` to `abundance`. Realize deeply what a gift this life is and you are too. Just being alive and waking up every morning is a miracle. And you, exactly how you are, you are unique. You are the only YOU on this entire planet. Isn’t that freakin awesome?! So begin to see the special gifts and skills you came onto this earth with and honor that. Honor being alive and start to see the beauty in yourself and around you. Stop judging yourself for everything you are not and start loving yourself for everything you are.
5. Nourish your soul – a great teacher of mine once said to me „Wanda spend your money only on the things that really nourish you, that are good for your soul.“ That seems so obvious, but often we prioritize spending money on not very nourishing things. Do I really need this new t- shirt? Or would my money be better spent on a massage? Do I need this new nail liquor for $30 or is it better spend it on a singing class where I get the opportunity to express myself?! Ask yourself what really nourishes and nurtures your soul and make these things a priority in your life.
6. Bounderies! This is one many have to struggle with, especially people who like to have harmony and like to please others. I am one of those, I can tell you. But setting your boundaries means being able to express when we feel uncomfortable in any situation. Being able to say no when we need to.That can be laying in a massage room and we feel not good with the massage therapist or we meet somebody at a party who talks a lot, which we are not interested in. Learning how to express our needs in a friendly way is an important way to honor and respect ourselves. Even though others may not feel pleased our happy about it, we need to learn to care for ourselves first in order to be honest to ourselves and others.
7. Be compassionate – Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, “If you want others to be happy – be compassionate, If you want yourself to be happy – be compassionate.„ It sounds so simple, but for most of us its not easy to live that. Start being loving and compassionate with yourself today, take away the hardness, the punishing thoughts like `I have to do this, this and that from my to do list, otherwise..…`. Yes, these kinds of thoughts push health away from us and disallow moving slowly, being silent and truly resting. Allow yourself these moments of `doing nothing` as this is essential for our happiness.
8. Laugh about yourself! Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh about your flaws, mistakes and your thoughts. Take it light and easy, things are usually not as important as they seem.
9. Affirmations – These are new positive beliefs about yourself, others and the world. Beliefs you can choose. You can tell yourself everyday out loud or put a note on your mirror or fridge.
Here are some examples for you:
I am loved and love is all around me
I am beautiful and whole
I am worthy of love
I am safe and supported wherever I go
I am abundant
You are invited to work with any affirmation that works for you. Create your own, write a list, start with the two most powerful words in the universe: I AM.