Can you love yourself exactly as you are?
Many of us would initially answer “Yes” to this question.
“Yes” seems to be the rational and logical answer. “Yes” is the response that we think the world wants to hear.
But when we actually get down to it, strip away the expectations, spend time alone with ourselves (and perhaps get naked in front of the mirror) and then re-ask the question, many of us might find ourselves uttering a timid “No” or a “Yes, but…”.
We often have goals related to our bodies that we haven’t quite achieved yet and/or unique symptoms, quirks or “problems” that we struggle to accept.
Take my story for instance. I could happily tell you that I love myself and genuinely want that to be true, but then…
- I experience those pesky, unpleasant tummy symptoms that I haven’t quite figured out yet and become frustrated about it.
- And then I become self-conscious of my crooked teeth when I meet new people and wish that I had a prettier smile.
- And then I break down into tears while getting a bikini wax because I believe that I’m defective when I think about how bad my lady parts look and feel after having a child. (Thankfully my waxing therapist is a loving and understanding mother herself).
Even though I can accept all of these things in my mind, even though I have done healing work on each of these issues and even though I sincerely want to love and accept myself as I am right now, the truth is that I don’t.
And that is hard to admit but I want you to know that it’s ok for you to admit it too.
Once we’ve admitted that perhaps we don’t love ourselves as much as we’d hoped, I propose that we ask ourselves a new question about self love.
Are you able to send love to all parts of yourself?
Doesn’t that feel softer, kinder and more achievable?
If you have parts of your body that you’re struggling to accept and love, this reframed question then invites you to participate in your own healing and wellbeing by compassionately giving love to the part of you that cannot yet accept.
The first question was about restricting love from the parts of yourself that didn’t satisfy you but the second question allows you to offer love to all parts of you whether you approve of them or not.
Then instead of viewing self-love as a (seemingly unattainable) goal to aspire to, you can simply offer yourself love and compassion whenever you find that you’re being self critical, everyday, whenever you wish.
When I apply this, I feel open, hopeful and warm. I don’t feel as though I have to be perfect, fixed, better or prettier. I can be exactly as I am, but now I’m nurturing myself, caring for myself AND I get this incredible bonus of being filled with love!
So in my example, whenever I have painful thoughts about how my body has changed, instead of allowing myself to get pulled into that story and continue on the downward spiral, I open my heart, let the love flow and treat myself the same way that I would treat a dear friend, a family member or a child who was suffering.
I simultaneously imagine that I am physically holding and supporting someone in need as well as feeling that I am being held by loving and nurturing arms. I am both the nurturer and the nurtured.
Here’s some steps to get you started on sending love to yourself:
- Breathe into your heart and feel it expand with every breath.
- Picture someone you care about deeply to get the compassion flowing or simply visualise the part of you that is hurting or not yet accepted.
- Visualise and/or feel the love flowing from your heart to the part of you that you’re struggling with.
- Use the affirmation “I send love to my ….”.
- Breath in to your heart and expand the love so that it may continue to overflow.
Do this exercise for as long as you need to, as often as you wish. And if you don’t have time to set aside for this practice, just use the affirmation above to get that love flowing!
This article originally appeared in issue #32 of Wild Sister Magazine