Self Love: Where To Begin?

Self Love: Where To Begin?

Self-love and self-care are hot topics. Most people think they know what self-care is.  Maybe it’s a bath with your favorite products, time to take a nap or a visit to the spa for a massage. Yes, these things can be indulgent, but are they true self-care? 

I must admit, that even I sometimes refer to these things as self-care in conventional small-talk conversations. But, the truth is that, while these activities do feel good and we can take part in them in an effort to “create” self-care, ultimately we are often left feeling unsatisfied.

Why you may ask? Why aren’t these acts of self-pampering enough to fulfill us?

The reason is that, instead of figuring out what makes us feel lit up from the inside, we are following society’s prescribed notions on what self-care is. Things like a luxurious bath might feel nice, but to really do self-care properly, ultimately, you have to figure out what actually fills your cup on your own, through self-awareness and discovery.

You may find out that, for you, sometimes self-care looks like doing NOTHING.  Not “scrolling the phone and ignoring housework” kind of nothing.  An actual reserved time for doing NOTHING.  Letting your mind rest, wander. Sitting, or lying there, and not being productive.  Not thinking about all the things you could or should do. Just BEING.  

I know, we all have to DO things.  And we all have little fires inside our minds and hearts that fuel us with energy to put into our pursuits.  Getting intentional about what you do, and what/when you do NOT do is super important.  

To truly figure out how to find self-fulfillment, first, you must scratch all the ideas you’ve previously conceptualized as self-care, and give yourself permission to look at it from a fresh lens.  Even if you end up with the same routine, something about it having been intentionally chosen will reflect light and good energy back into you. Maybe self-care for you is traveling.  Maybe it’s walking through the forest.  Maybe it’s a fancy coffee drink at the end of a hard week and a seat with a view. 

I remember a moment at the end of a yoga class with my yoga teacher and guru, Karin Eisen.  It was at the end of Savasana (The final resting pose in Yoga). We stretched our bodies out after a soothing relaxation, then rolled onto our sides curled up, and gave ourselves a hug.  

“Before you get up,” she said, “in an effort to cultivate loving-kindness, think of someone who is very beloved to you. Imagine that person. Think about your relationship with that person.  Imagine what you might say to that beloved person you hold in your heart if they were struggling with something.  What are the ways that you talk to that person? Do you think of them kindly and fondly?  Do you give them words to support and encourage them?”

Yes, I think probably you do. 

“Now,” my teacher went on, “I want you to swap out that beloved person for a mirror.  For yourself.”

And let that sink in for a minute.

She continued, “Give yourself permission to be just as kind inside your own mind to yourself as you are to the beloved person you chose in the previous exercise. Speak to yourself an encouraging and supportive word.”

The first time I practiced this, my mind was blown! Holding my own self in kind regard. This, for me, was extremely eye-opening. I realized for the first time how inside my own mind, I was actually horrible to myself! 

I was hyper-critical, exacting, naggy, and mean to myself in my own mind.  Am I like this with my close friend who asks for business advice? Or with my sister when she needs someone to tell her troubles to?  Nope!  For them, I am supportive, optimistic, ready to encourage, or just listen.  

Why then, don’t I do that for myself?  I deserve that encouragement from someone as great as myself.  Where might I go if I stop creating negative pathways in my brain about myself?  What if I created new pathways that empowered, supported, and emboldened me?

This is what self-love means to me. It is not selfish or self-absorbed.  It is a practice of kindness unto oneself, and it is the beginning of a journey of growth and potential. In fact, this exercise was so powerful that I have since incorporated it into the yoga classes that I teach.

Next time, when you find the opportunity for self-care, instead of automatically taking a luxurious bath or visiting a spa, take some time to reflect on the things that actually make you feel fulfilled. You may be surprised at what you discover.

Jessica Otero

Jessica has been teaching yoga for 10 years, and is a professional marketer as well as a mother of three. She is a thinker, writer, and problem-solver. Jessica is most inspired when connecting with others and talking about what they really want out of their one, wild, and precious life.

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