With Valentine's Day here, for some of us love is in the air and for others it only makes us feel more alone. With movies, Hallmark cards and societal expectations it can feel like we should be with someone. But, while we can learn a lot in our relationships, being with someone isn't going to "complete" us. Real love starts, first and foremost, within. If we can't fully love ourselves (the "good", the "bad" and the "ugly"), it will be impossible to fully love others.
Throughout my whole life I'd looked to my mom to love me the way I'd always wanted to be loved: unconditionally. I looked to her, not only for our treasured heart-to-heart talks but, to boost my self-confidence, to give me advice, to share her wisdom and to make me laugh. She had this way of looking at me as if she could already see the best version of me, even when I was at my worst.
When she passed away I'd not only lost my mom, I'd lost my best friend and soul mate. I'd lost the very love I felt I needed to get through this life. A couple of years after her death, I still felt lost without her. I had a reading done with a medium, in hopes for answers with some struggles I was having and my mom came through with a message for me. It's a message that was instrumental to me and one you need to hear too.
Her message was this: "You're on the right path. Once you learn how to love yourself, everything else will fall into place."
It sounded so simple and easy. And, yes, it actually is simple but it's not always easy--only because we get in our own way. After the medium left I sat there stumped. I did what anybody with a burning question does nowadays. I Googled it. Yup, "how do I love myself?" At the time, the concept of self love was more about drawing yourself a bubble bath, booking yourself a massage or getting a pedicure. While these are all wonderful things, they're not real love because they're relying on external circumstances to make you feel good about yourself.
So I contemplated the idea of loving myself at a time when my heart was broken from missing her so badly and here's what came to me in a meditation: "The 7 Principles of Self Love."
PRINCIPLE #1: TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY
We are only given one body in this life; it is the lifelong home for our spirit and should be treated as the temple it is. So exercise in a way that is fun for you. Whether, it's yoga, dance, tennis, weight lifting or a stroll around your neighborhood, get moving! There's this saying "sitting is the new smoking" because regularly sitting for long periods of time is detrimental to your health. If you're working in an office, set an alarm to go off every 30 or 60 minutes and get up and stretch or do a quick walk around the office. And if you're bedridden for any reason, gently move and stretch what you can from your bed.
Get the amount of sleep you need, drink plenty of water and eat nourishing foods for your body. And just as important (if not, even more so), be kind and loving to your body. How many times have you stood in front of the mirror and nitpicked at some body part (or perhaps all of your body) that's not how you wish it would look? (I've certainly been there and I still catch myself from time to time). Stop being so hard on yourself and see your body for the incredible miracle it is: a complex combination and integration of systems including skeletal, muscular, digestive, respiratory, circulatory and so forth. The fact that you are breathing is a miracle. Don't take that for granted. Love your body. Love yourself.
PRINCIPLE #2: TAKE CARE OF YOUR MIND
Experts estimate we have anywhere between 50,000-80,000 thoughts per day. That's a mind-boggling thought, isn't it? It's estimated that 95% of those thoughts are repetitive and 80% are negative. Now here's the kicker. There's another saying that goes, "the last thing a fish would notice is water." That's how we are with our thoughts. We go about our days, often on auto-pilot, and then wonder why things never change. Start with your thoughts. What kinds of thoughts are you feeding yourself everyday?
This is where meditation helped me. Instead of sitting down and trying to quiet my mind for an extended period of time (that's a tall order for most of us, myself included!), I first started regularly meditating as a way to observe my thoughts. I then started to see how negative I'd been, worrying about things beyond my control, pondering worst-case scenarios and how to be prepared for them, and constantly racking my brain trying to figure out and plan out how everything in my life was going to go. Whew, was that tiring. And no wonder life felt difficult.
Observe your thoughts. Notice any negative patterns that keep coming up and work on replacing those negative thoughts with new positive ones that are in alignment with how you wish to live. It will take practice, patience and consistency but we are the masters of our own minds and, when we take back control of them, we get to direct how we experience our lives. Love your mind. Love yourself.
PRINCIPLE #3: TRUST YOURSELF
No matter how many books, seminars, teachers and tools you use (which can all be a helpful and often necessary guide along your path), YOU are ultimately the expert of you. All the answers you already need lie within. Stop seeking outside of yourself to find them. Your body, your gut and your intuition are always communicating with you.
I painfully learned the lesson of not listening to my intuition at an early age. In 8th grade summer camp, my friends and I were headed down to the stables to go horseback riding when a vision popped into my head of me lying face down on the ground with a horse running away, as if I'd fallen. I dismissed it, thinking I was just psyching myself out and scared that I hadn't been on a horse in awhile. Even after picking the slowest horse to ride that day (for good measure), the horse, whose name was Sara, had a panic attack and abruptly galloped uncontrollably through the woods while tree branches slapped in my face. In seconds I'd lost the reigns and was catapulted over her head, landing face down onto the ground and narrowly missing being trampled. Boy was I lucky but I still ended up with a bloody face, broken nose and twisted neck.
So trust your gut. Learn to listen to your body's signals. If something isn't right for you, it won't feel right. Deep down, you know. You know what the answers are. You know what you need.
There are no mistakes, only lessons, so what's to fear by trusting yourself? Every step you take, no matter the direction, shapes who you are. So maybe you take a step in a direction in which you don't feel right. Simply take a step back. Walk another way. That's all. Don't beat yourself up for it. You've got a good head on your shoulders. You'll find a new way. Trust yourself. Love yourself.
PRINCIPLE #4: DISCIPLINE YOURSELF
The word "discipline" was not one I particularly liked, let alone loved. It used to conjure images of me back in school slaving over hours of complex trigonometry homework for which I knew I'd have zero use in my life. It's the annoying "I have to get up for work early tomorrow morning so I can't stay out late with you tonight." It's choosing to skip that double fudge brownie when you're trying to cut down on sugar and calories.
BUT...it's also crossing that finish line in record time after months of sweaty grueling training. It's getting that reward, bonus or raise that you've steadily worked so hard to earn. It's getting a clean bill of health after consistently choosing more nutritious food options. It's pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone to achieve what you once thought impossible.
Discipline is what landed man on the moon. It's what led to the discovery of quantum physics. All of mankind's greatest achievements involved discipline. To love yourself is to be your best self. And to be your best self, you must discipline yourself--everything from the foods you eat, the amount of sleep you get, the behaviors you engage in, the actions you take, etc.
This doesn't need to mean "don't have fun". Remember life is a balancing act of discipline and Divine guidance, so learn when to be strict with your needs and when to let go, loosen up and go with the flow. Over time, you'll see that it can be fun taking care of yourself through discipline because you will feel better. Discipline yourself. Love yourself.
PRINCIPLE #5: KNOW YOUR SELF-WORTH
So often we put value into the physical and external sources in our life: money, beauty, status, our partners and loved ones. But what happens when we lose our jobs? When we age? When someone stronger, smarter and younger replaces us? When someone we love breaks our heart or leaves us (whether by free will or death)? Suddenly we feel worthless.
This is why it's so important to learn to love ourselves, as we are in this very moment without the title, without the partner, without the salary, without the brand names. Who are we at the core--our spirit--and can we value that?
Placing value in ourselves is sometimes difficult and awkward. We may be afraid to be too proud. We may be afraid to come off as being pompous or self-centered. We may be afraid to toot our own horns and share with others our accomplishments.
But when we learn to see the value in ourselves, we can begin to see the value in others. And we realize we are all connected. There is no competition. There is no envy. There is no one person better than another. We each have something unique and powerful to contribute to our families, our loved ones, our communities, and to this planet.
As someone who's struggled with self worth over the years, I'm slowly but surely learning to acknowledge and celebrate my accomplishments, big and small, while also reminding myself it's not my accomplishments that make me "better". As a spirit having a human experience, we are already born worthy. There's nothing we need to do or prove to ourselves or to anyone else. Know your self worth. Love yourself.
PRINCIPLE # 6: BE OK WITH BEING IMPERFECT
We are all here in the same boat learning the same lessons. So why are we so worried about how we look, what we're going to say, how life is going to play out...? Why are we so afraid of failure or of making mistakes?
Life will always have its ups and downs, as will we along our path of growth. Growth, in itself, implies the ups and downs of the challenges life presents us. It means pushing past the limits of our comfort zone and it generally takes some, if not a lot of, stumbling forward.
Just like when we find ourselves waiting for that perfect moment that will magically make us happy or bring us peace, we shouldn't find ourselves waiting before we become "perfect" to take action on our life dreams. As a recovering perfectionist (ohh how I love things to be perfect, at least according to my unrealistic standards!), I'm learning that to achieve my goals, I've got take imperfect action and trust that I'll learn along the way.
Don't be so hard on yourself in the process of learning your life lessons. We will always be "in the process" throughout our lifetime, which is why it's absolutely necessary to be ok with being imperfect. Perhaps we can even learn to love our imperfections because those are the very things that make us special. Love your imperfections. Love yourself.
PRINCIPLE #7: LOVE IS THE HIGHEST VIBRATION
Love is not just a feeling. It's an act. And when we move into full self expression of self love, we are able to fully love others.
That's what this final Principle is about. Love is the highest vibration in the Universe. It's the most powerful energy in existence. Love heals. It conquers our fears. It takes away our pain. It moves mountains. Love is what binds us all together.
Love is the highest vibration. Love yourself and love others without abandon. We always have a choice. Hate or love. Fear or love. What will you choose for yourself? For our planet?
These are the 7 Principles of Self Love. BONUS: Another principle that recently rang true for me as an act of self love is to always be honest with yourself. As an example, the past couple of days I felt drained and frustrated so I had to be honest with myself that I wasn't disciplining myself to go to bed on time which had a domino effect on the rest of the following day. So I went to bed on time last night and am back in the flow again today, feeling good.
I know this is by no means a comprehensive list of ways to love yourself. This is just what resonated for me. I'd love to hear from you--how do you love yourself? What has helped you unconditionally love and accept yourself for the beautiful human being you are?
"If you're searching for that one person that will change your life, take a look in the mirror."