The first thing I’ve learnt during my year of research for The Love Project was that I had to love myself if I stood any chance of being loved by anybody else. Or to be able to love someone other than myself.
I know it’s hard to believe and even harder to recognise but there is a crazy majority of us out there who have a hard time loving our very own selves.
When complaining about the lack of male attention, a friend asked me a year ago whether I loved myself. Of course I did, I hadn’t spent years of reading self-help literature not to get to that point of balance when I would love myself dearly. I was almost offended by the question. It wasn’t until months later that I realised self-approval did not equate self-love.
Self-approval was what I had been trying to do for a very long time. ‘I will love myself when I go to the gym 3 times a week’, ‘I would love myself if I stopped wasting time with the wrong guys’, ‘I will love myself when I lose weight’, ‘I would love myself if I stopped smoking’ were the kind of bargaining I use to conduct in my head. Not once did I say ‘I just love myself right now just as I am’.
Because I couldn’t. Not after years of conditioning. It wasn’t enough to look in the mirror and suddenly find all the love for myself right then and there, with all the things I didn’t like about myself, with all the past, and the mistakes, and the things I did, and the things I said. No, I had to find some practical ways of breaking down that conditioning little by little. And Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’ has proven to be an incredible ally, because she talks a lot about ways of how to nurture your creative inner child, which I found equally useful in increasing the flow of love towards your inner everything: the good, the bad and the ugly. These are 5 things that worked for me and I’m sure would work for you too!
1. Take yourself out on a date
Julia calls in an artist date, but I’d say call it anyway you like, just treat it like it’s something special. Being alone on a Saturday night doesn’t have to equate with eating doughnuts and drinking red wine on the sofa watching bad TV, it means you have the chance to take yourself out on a date. Dress up as if you’re dressing up for a lover and go somewhere nice. Maybe have dinner alone in a fancy place, go watch an extravagant film you’d much rather watch alone, eat a sumptuous cake and then take a walk somewhere you really like. It doesn’t matter what you do, imagine you are somebody else who is taking YOU on a date. Learn to get used with how that feels.
2. Do something extravagant
Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, like taking a dance class, or have a day at the spa, buy an expensive scented candle, a new computer, take a trip, I don’t know, something you’ve denied yourself because it was too expensive or too extravagant. Learn to appreciate that you’re treating yourself better if you’re giving yourself one good thing instead on many bad things.
3. Do something you are proud of
A great deal of self-esteem comes from achieving something difficult. Set yourself a goal and work hard to get there. It can be anything from running a marathon to volunteering for your local charity, from starting up that business you’ve been postponing to learning a new language, we all have dreams we set aside for far too long. The procrastination of getting out of your comfort zone slowly erodes your belief in yourself [Tweet this] and it’s difficult to love someone you’re not proud of. Make yourself proud and loving yourself would be an easier task.
4. Break one bad habit
We all know our vices. With some we can live, others are destructive. Some we admit, others we don’t. When I decided to start looking for love, I gave up sex until I found the right man. It was one of the best decisions of my life and I never regretted it. For me sex was a trigger for dating behaviour that never got me anywhere, so I needed something to make me feel grounded and strong. Giving up something that I knew wasn’t good for me, skyrocketed the loving feelings I started to develop for myself.
5. Repeat it to yourself everyday
I know I’m not saying anything new here, but to break established neurological paths, we must form new ones that through repetition become stronger than the original pathways. You don’t have to say ‘I love myself’ a hundred times a day until it becomes void of meaning. Instead find an affirmation, a quality about yourself that you want to train your brain to believe in and once it will, it will automatically produce loving emotions about your person. Such as: ‘I, Christina, am a talented copywriter, an excellent cook and a very reliable friend.’
I wrote this on a piece of cardboard and stuck it on my wardrobe so I could read it every day: ‘Iulia, you are a beautiful, wonderful, talented, sensitive, special, kind, loving, creative, strong and inspiring person’
Somehow, by taking baby steps every day, I’ve managed to love myself. In all my imperfect glory.
What about you? What do you do to love yourself more? Share your tips here, let’s spread the self love 😉