A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror.- Ken Keyes
We have the privilege of living in a time where people seem to wake up to the value and importance of self love. After decades of preaching from philosophers, psychologists, coaches and psychotherapists on why self love is the cornerstone for a happy existence, I think we are finally saying ”roger” to the messwatage.
Working on practicing self-love massively pays off; it creates a balanced, strong and loving inner mental and emotional environment that can afterwards support us in everything that we need to do: maintaining physical health, self confidence and self expression, courage to take on risks, new projects, asking for everything we need in relationships, being less and less dependent on external validation and approval. We just grow to have a very strong, healthy and supportive relationship with ourselves.
At the beginning of our life journey, the most important relationship is the one we had with our parents in our childhood; after we become more conscious, we instead start creating a bond with our own self, and that becomes the focal point through which anything else will be experienced.
But for many people, the encouragement of working on self-love is a bit too vague or too complex. Even if we want to do it, it is hard to know where to start. And truth be told, there is numerous ways through which we can release trauma, and surround ourselves with support as we uncover self-love. We can use therapy that focuses on cognitive or emotional aspects, coaching, journalling, art therapy, body work, and also the classical ”fake it until you make it” – act as if you have self love, which is an important component of the healing process. I highly recommend you to explore all of them, as a shift in self love is something that impacts your entire system: body, mind and soul, so you get more profound effects as you enroll all of these in your work.
So in order to make things a bit easier, I am going to share with you my model of 5 pillars of self-love. This is the result of my own experience in personal development and working with others, and probably of many of the books, articles and videos I have encountered during time.
With this model, you get a more specific understanding of how self-love looks like, and I hope you get inspired to put these things to practice!
1st Pillar: Self Responsibility
Self responsibility means understanding, at a deep level, that you, and only you, are the sole responsible for your happiness and your wellbeing. There is no saviour. There is no Prince Charming and no Fairy Godmother that can redeem you from your pain, as long as you don′t take charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your actions.
This is a realisation that can bring loneliness and sadness at first; but through time, it brings inner peace, stability and a deep rooted sense of self-reliance.
I show self responsibility when I:
Accept that I am the only one who decides what I think, feel, and do
If I need something, I take care of myself and provide for myself (this does not exclude accepting help, it is just knowing that you can and will give yourself what you need in case nobody else will)
Stop feeling like a victim and stop putting the blame on external factors for what I do
2nd Pillar: Self Acceptance
Self acceptance refers to an ability of being at peace with the entirety of our own selves, accepting both our gifts, our strength, our weakness, and our Shadow. When we talk about Shadow, we usually refer to that side of us that we deem as unacceptable, condemned by society, that we usually refuse to acknowledge and try to hide. The more we push it down, though, the fiercer it becomes, and the higher the probability for those traits to show up at unexpected times will be. Our Shadow can be about the fact that we are manipulative, overly-seductive, crave attention, selfish, arrogant, etc.
But we also keep our strengths in our Shadow. We may keep our power, our beauty, our decisiveness, our independence in the Shadow, refusing to acknowledge them. Why would we ever do that? Well, we may have trauma around accepting them – for example, a beautiful girl who has been bullied by her envious classmates for her physical appearance might learn that being beautiful means not being safe. Or a woman who has lost a partner for being independent and needing more personal space might learn that when she is in her power, she can not be loved.
Self acceptance does not mean that we change nothing about ourselves. Self acceptance is just being able to still be friends with myself and look at myself in the mirror as I work through the things I want to heal and release.
I show self acceptance when I:
I am aware of my gifts, and my flaws
I express both my gifts, and my flaws
I don’t feel like hiding under a rock when I receive critical feedback; I can remain present and open to what I can learn
I can be there for me both in times of success, and in times where I feel I have failed myself or others.
3rd Pillar: Self Compassion
When you get confused of whether or not you are acting with self love, there is a really simple exercise you can do; consider this – how would you be treating a person that you are really fond of? Then go ahead and do that to yourself.
Self compassion is about being kind to oneself.
I show self compassion when I:
Take it easier when I need it, instead of always pushing myself for more
Give myself rest, breaks, understanding
Forgive myself whenever I think I have done wrong
Am kind and understanding with myself, instead of judging and punishing myself
Observe my self talk (whether it is external or internal) and choose to be nurturing and supportive with self
4th Pillar: Self Worth
Self worth is, in my opinion, a much better alternative for the old concept of self esteem.
As Dr. Christina Hibbert says,
Self-esteem is what we think and feel and believe about ourselves. Self-worth is recognizing “I am greater than all of those things”. It is a deep knowing that I am of value, that I am lovable, necessary to this life, and of incomprehensible worth. It is possible to feel “high self-esteem,” or in other words, to think I’m good at something, yet still not feel convinced that I am lovable and worthy. Self-esteem doesn’t last or “work” without self-worth. That’s why I believe the pursuit of self-esteem is a myth.
Self worth is a mindset and a deep conviction; it is something I choose to believe about myself and life, and I choose it to the point it becomes more natural.
I show self worth when I:
Value my opinions and my contribution
Express myself in the world
Believe that I deserve good things and aim for the best (by my own definition of what best is)
Stand up and walk tall and wide – actually, embodying confidence through standing tall, with chest expanded, feet firmly planted on the ground and looking people directly in the eye can do wonders with changing our inner state. The extent to which you occupy physical space is the extent to which you generally occupy space in your life and in the world.
I advocate for myself – I claim my rights, I promote my values and worth, I refrain from making self-deprecating comments
5th Pillar: Self respect
To me, self respect is really cool and probably the easiest pillar we can work with. I like to say that having self respect is like having excellent customer focus, when the customer is our own selves. How would you treat your highest paying client, the one that accounts for a high portion of your income? And then again, go ahead and do that with yourself.
Self respect is so healthy and it has such an impact not only on how we feel, but also on how others perceive and react to us. We teach others how to treat us through how we treat ourselves.
I show self respect when I:
Respect and honour my boundaries – and ask others to do the same
Am clear about what I do not accept
Give myself the best experience in everything – what I eat, how I choose to spend my time, people I surround myself with, the books I read, the movies I watch, etc.
Trust and follow on my inner knowing and my inner intuition. I do and say what I know I should do and say.
I honour promises made to myself
There is something really important I want you to understand. We might worry about what would happen to us if we loved ourselves a bit more – would we turn into selfish, arrogant, heartless and insensitive persons? And I want to tell you that the risk of that happening is 0, sweetheart. Actually, the more you genuinely love yourself and make peace with yourself, the more you have to give to others. Have you ever heard the phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup”? That is exactly how it works. I especially need to state this when I talk to parents – they are so focused on their children, so giving and generous, that it takes a real shift for them to actually nurture themselves. But nothing makes you a better, happier and more balanced parent than taking care of yourself. And something that is really magical is that when you put yourself on your list of priorities, you model self-love to your kids, which is an immensely valuable gift to give. Also, if children were asked, they would tell you what they most want in this world is to see their parents happy.
Think about it – if you were starving to death, how willing would you be to share your food with someone else? And even if you were willing, how far would that sharing from an empty cup lead you? How different things were if you were well fed and happy…
Time to practice:
1. Which one of these 5 pillars needs your attention most?
2. What are 3 things you could do right now to grow your self love?