Hacking Self Love, For Beginners
You can’t love yourself conditionally!
It’s not easy to begin to love yourself, and once you find it it is not always easy to keep it up. For me, self-love is the route of all good, and as my ultimate hero says “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” Yes RuPaul, you can get an ‘Amen’ up in here! The longer I live trying to be a person I can love, the more I know that that statement is 100% true.
I know how off putting a lot of articles and blogs on self-love can be, at best they can sound lovely, yet unachievable, or at worst they can sound smug and impossible for us mere muggles. When a beautiful, flexible, vegan, aspirational influencer type tells me about finding time to ‘honour ourselves’ I think ‘I’d love myself too but I’ve got a hangover and a stack of demons crawling out my butt telling me that I’m a failure.’ It’s hard when you feel like you don’t deserve love, or kindness. I find myself grumbling ‘Your lovely hemp yoga pants are not helping me today perfect mediation lady!’ then I give up and cry in bed… or well I used to. Now is a different story!
Stop giving yourself crap!
Self-love is not a blissed-out affair with one’s self. Many of us hold our self-love to ransom saying ‘I’ll love myself when…’. You don’t have to be perfect for yourself, you just have to be brave enough to give yourself a tenth of the love you probably give to your best friend, your partner, your child, your parent, whoever. I would bet that you wouldn’t say any of those hurtful things you say to yourself to those people you care about. I would also bet that you treat them with kindness and compassion, unconditionally. If you could afford just a little part of that love for yourself you would find a seed that you could really nurture into a full self-loving life.
So on to the hard part, how do you do it?! On the days where you are your own worst enemy, and vile critic, how do you push pause on shame, and hit play on love?
The key to self-love is the ‘self’ part, it works differently for everyone so you can’t expect a one size fits all approach. I’ve done my best to break this into some fundamentals, with some suggestions on how to actions them, though you may have to tweak everything a little to get it to serve you best.
You can give yourself love any moment. Liberate yourself from this idea of ‘Needing time to’ or ‘Needing permission to’ because it only takes a moment and you can choose any moment to do it or start.
Method: Close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine something super kind you could say to your ‘best friend’ at that moment to make them feel good and then apply it to yourself. If you can’t think of anything nice to say to yourself then just remind yourself that even though you have nothing nice to say this doesn’t validate any feeling that there is nothing nice to say, you are not being kind enough to yourself to see it at that moment. Even acknowledging that is a good start. In these times just fill in with “I am XXX and I deserve kindness from myself and others” and I usually follow this with visualizing my negative thoughts as horrid little goblins and asking them to leave. I shut the door behind them and carry on with my day. Repeating as necessary.
The Short Session
Once you get to grips with giving yourself just a little kindness here and there, you might find enough love for yourself to carve out a half hour to an hour to really go to work. Now it’s time to show yourself some love. Identify something that will make you feel good and do it, for you. No need to tell anyone, or seek permission from anyone, take the time and action the good feelings, you deserve it.
Method: Give yourself a treat, that doesn’t damage you, so not half a bottle of Malbec! For some of us, there is probably a list of lovely beauty treatments you could do for half hour that would just leave you feeling brand new, however, that has never been my bag, especially as a big part of the beauty industry is built on shaming us into not feeling good enough! The critical thing is to identify something that works for you that carries no additional feelings of shame or damages the body. Suggestions could be cooking, painting something, swimming, sitting in a massage chair, finding a good cause to give to, clearing out some clutter that’s holding you back, writing that journal entry or poem you’ve been meaning to do, soaking your feet, playing an instrument, yoga, even a little shopping for something that will make you feel warm inside would be okay.
The easiest way I find to treat myself is taking a very particular kind of bath. Lights off, just candles, some chill out soul music on, half a bag (250-500g) of Epsom salts, 10 drops of lavender essential oil and 10 of eucalyptus or bergamot, and/or a Black As Your Soul Hexbomb Bathbomb. This particular bath bomb is crucial for me as it turns the water solid black so I can’t lay there fat-shaming myself the whole time. If you are good at self-loving then that kind of behaviour subsides but lets never pretend that even the best of us on a low day might still attack the body instead of focusing on healing the mind. I’d rather be honest about it than give myself more crap for not being perfectly strong.
The Long Evening
(Oh lucky you if you have time for this!) Once you are giving yourself some daily moments of self-love and a few short sessions a week (if not daily) you are probably self-loving enough to allow yourself a diarised evening. Love yourself enough to write in your diary ‘Me Time’ and spend it guiltlessly and shamelessly on you. Doing only things you WANT to do and nothing that you feel like you should do. It really doesn’t matter what you do in that time, what matters is that you acknowledge you deserve it and that you are kind and respectful enough to yourself to allow it.
Method: I can’t really suggest what you do at that time as it is so personal and has to be just right for you, however, I will make some suggestions as to things you might want to avoid.
Don’t spend it on Facebook, IG, Pinterest, Twitter, or Snapchat. These channels are often an unseen source of anxiety, feelings of shame, and feelings of low-self esteem. Do not touch! This evening is about everything that feels good, guiltless and unconditionally loving on yourself… don’t throw in pictures of Mrs.PerfectLife or Mr.AbsForDays as they can be super triggering (plus those people are hardly ever as happy as you would imagine, and that’s a blog in its self)
Avoid drinking Alcohol. Trust me I love a drink, to the point of fault if I am honest, and it’s one thing to enjoy a glass of wine in the bath but enjoying a bottle will most likely end in some emotional fallout. I don’t know about you, but I struggle just to have one, so I tend to avoid it if I need to do some self-loving healing. Alcohol is a depressive, and even if it feels great at the time, you are often borrowing your happiness from tomorrow. Something to be aware of.
Find ways to feel good without consuming. If you can nail this you’ll be flying. If you find things that feel good without consuming calories or buying things you will have an endless ‘feel good’ resource. Bathing and stretching come high on my list, and to be perfectly frank, masturbation is a great idea too. Anything that sends the message ‘I am worthy of feeling good’
Advanced Self Love
When you have hit a good stretch of finding those loving feelings for yourself, I recommend trying to spend time alone with yourself without distraction. Often people enjoy music, reading, even a bit of Netflix and Youtube in their ‘Me Time’ ..but I like to campaign the idea of spending time getting comfortable listening to yourself. It is very satisfying to exist without distraction and stimulation, to explore your thoughts and emotions landscape. More on that to follow!
See my ‘Bite-Sized Self Love Ideas’ for self-love tips on the run!