This post is part of Mara Glatzel & Tamarisk Saunders Davies’s Perfecly Imperfect Project, a self love blog hop. 19 bloggers are telling the truth about their own self care. Good stuff.
I have a bad attitude about self love.
It’s because it seems dumb. Life coachy. Weak. Because it conjures up images of Stuart Smalley ranting on about how doggone good enough he is. Honestly, I’m afraid you’ll think I’m dumb, life coachy, weak. I don’t want you to think I’m unworthy of your attention.
I am a smart woman. Creative. Courageous. Funny. I believe strongly, wildly in Self Love. I’m naming it and claiming it. Self love is the foundation of my life. I actively love myself because Love feels better than indifference. It’s not in the same universe as selfishness. Instead, it fuels and supports real generosity and selflessness.
The foundation of my foundation is The Truth.
When I was invited to be part of this project I was thrilled. Moi?!? You want moi to be part of your party. Yes! I’m worthy! I’m doggone good enough, Stuart!
When I sat down to write this post, I danced around it half a dozen ways. One option: In Defense of Self Love. In that post I would have waxed on about how it’s a really good thing. Really. It’s not stupid. I’m not stupid for believing in it. My plan was wholly defensive and unnecessary.
So I planned a different kind of defense. In this one I would admit that I believed in it, but I would still hold back. Stay cold and reserved. The truth about self love encased in a list post.
I stayed shallow to defend myself from being shallow
The coachy things that I don’t like are the things that are trying to be deep and meaningful but lack substance. They feel superficial and silly. I actually think the “shallow” stuff is the deep stuff. Dirty jokes, TV, mystery novels, going to the grocery store. Whatever–the dailies and the irreverent. Although I do love me a good, deep, feeling rich conversation.
The toughest task. The greatest reward.
Like I often do when writing about a tough topic, I started a conversation on Facebook. My friend Cliff, called “the coolest Ponka ever” by Sherman Alexie, changed the whole conversation for me. Here’s Cliff:
“For me, and for a lot of us, we have these large, dominant layers of our background, past and childhoods that are painfully full of messaging that screams anything and everything but to love yourself. Such internal layers of self-identity make the idea of self-love seem like maybe one of those glowing enlightened guru’s over in India that were all the rage back in the 60’s: sounds great but that’s on the other side of the world and I live here, in fucking Nebraska. So, without going on too much more, self-love, what a doozy.
We can intellectually know that we are good, valuable, loved, beautiful, sacred, unique, creative, excellent people. We can even have experiences of all kinds on a daily basis that reaffirm this. But man, when you’re dealing with maybe two decades or more of experience of say getting abused or being drowned in a culture of violence, alcoholism, self-destruction, inter-generational trauma, etcetera…the idea that we too are worth loving inside the privacy of ourselves and then to actually, actively, bravely and courageously pull it off…that can be a tough, tough task.“
You and me. Let’s actively, bravely and courageously pull this shit off. One radical, messy, imperfect act of self love at a time.
The Ten Commandments of Self Love. The Greatest of These is Love
1. Meet yourself where you are.
You might as well. Pretending you’re somewhere else doesn’t change reality. Let’s say your husband didn’t clean up after dinner. Again. Even though you have an idea about how you would like to respond, you’re not going to jump there immediately. Admit that you’re pissed/disappointed/hurt/tired, then give yourself whatever you need so that you feel more peaceful. Then, and only then, will you move past it.
2. Be kind.
Treat yourself like you would a beloved child or pet. Name calling is off limits. Stupid, idiot, pansy, weak. Bitch. These are names. They’re not nice. Don’t say them to anyone else or yourself.
3. Listen to your desires.
Your dream might be couched in a fantasy you can’t or wouldn’t want to pursue. Just because you want to quit your job and lie on a beach for a month doesn’t mean you necessarily should. The real desire underneath that fantasy is a deep need for rest and relaxation. Maybe you have an unbearable crush but you don’t want to leave your marriage. What about him is so appealing? Does he listen to you? Maybe you feel ignored and want your partner to pay more attention to you. What would it take to get that? Is he well read? Maybe you need to use your brain more or in different ways. Revisit some poetry or good fiction. Work on that abandoned novel again. Do you want sugar? Maybe you’re bored and what you really want is that pop of excitement in your mouth to wake you up. Then give yourself something more interesting than a bowl of ice cream.
4. Listen to your emotions.
They are partly the result of thoughts you’re believing. If your emotions feel crappy, you can change the thoughts causing them. They are often beacons and are there to let you know what you need. If you’re pissed off, you need to look at how your boundaries are being crossed. If you’re overwhelmed, this means you’re trying to do too much at once. Pull it back until you don’t feel overwhelmed anymore and then get moving again. If you’re sad, you’ve lost something important to you. Know that you’ll have something else important to you.
5. Treat Self Love like a way of life.
It’s not an activity to check off your to-do list. It’s not something you do in addition to everything else you do. It’s the guiding force for everything. You are the foundation in your life. The better you’re cared for, the better your life will be.
6. If you’re tired, rest.
This one is a bit tricky because there are a lot of things that cause fatigue. You need to find the thing causing your tired and rest that. Let’s say you’re exercising and you feel tired. This could be caused by a number of things. The rest you need will depend on what’s causing it. If you’re telling yourself how much it sucks, you’ll have less energy. Quit focusing on the suckiness and you’ll have more energy. If you’re in the beginning of your work out and aren’t warmed up yet, it’s harder to keep going. You don’t actually need to stop to rest. You just need to rest your expectation that it will be easy the whole time. If you didn’t get much sleep the night before and aren’t well hydrated, you need to exercise less hard than if you had full nourishment on board. If you’re trying to run a 5K but have only huffed and puffed through a 1/2 mile up to this point, you need to rest your expectations and back off. See # 1: meet yourself where you are.
7. If you’re hungry, eat.
When you’re full, stop. If it feels good after you eat it, that’s good. If you feel bad after you eat it, don’t eat it. Food is not bad or evil. How you use it is. Some desert, eaten with awareness won’t hurt you. A lot of desert eaten to numb until you feel sick will hurt you. The desert isn’t the problem.
8. If you’re horny, horn.
Preferably not in the middle of Starbucks after the hot barista holds your gaze a second longer than usual. Sex is the second most powerful force in the universe. It’s God-Given. It’s good. It’s goooood. Do it. With your partner or alone. Or both. Whatever you need, give yourself.
9. Feed yourself more positive thoughts.
Actively practice thinking thoughts that feel good. I’m not talking about thoughts that are supposed to feel good but don’t. But find ones that do feel good and remind yourself of them. Then look for evidence that they’re true. Actively practice gratitude by looking for the good in difficult situations. Pay more attention to what is working than what isn’t.
10. Believe fewer negative thoughts.
Ask yourself if what you’re thinking is helpful. You may be able to find plenty of evidence that it’s true. But is it helpful? If it’s not, quit entertaining it. My two favorite ways to let go of negative thoughts are Byron Katie’s The Work and Brooke Castillo’s Self Coaching 101.
Temper all of the above with Ahimsa
This is the yogic concept about avoiding violence. Practically, it means to do no harm. Don’t harm your future self. What would feel good right this second might be harmful in the long run. Don’t harm others. Sometimes self love is inconvenient to ourselves or others but it should never harm anyone.