Love Yourself from the Inside Out
This past Monday night, I led a soul circle on the power of love. A soul circle is where women of all ages gather together for a time of connection, inspiration, and healing. Through meditation, movement, group activities, and small group discussions, soul circling provides a safe place where women can unconditionally support one another. Since this is the month of February, I chose to focus on love and the impact it has in our lives. When we think of love, it comes in many forms: romantic love, family love, friendship love, pet love, universal love and everything in between. But the most important love of all is self-love, which forms the foundation for all other types of love. If we cannot truly love ourselves, how can we truly love others? We need to believe in our own worth and value, learning to listen and trust our inner voices. We must love ourselves for who we truly are – perfect, whole and complete. There is nothing we need to fix, change, convert, or heal. All we have to do is be. Through accepting, allowing, and loving ourselves, we come to know we are worthy and enough just as we are. And once we believe in that, we can openly share our love with others, no longer needing to find love outside of ourselves.
Yet, many of us struggle with loving ourselves in this way. We are often our own worst critics, demanding perfection from ourselves all the time. But why is that? Why are we unable to love ourselves so completely? For some of us, it can be traced back to our families of origin. Ever since we were young, we felt as though we had to live up to certain expectations, and we didn’t want to disappoint anyone. Soon, with all that pressure, we came to view ourselves as less than. For others of us, school or society played a role. These institutions often portray people in a certain way: smart, beautiful, athletic, or talented. If we didn’t easily fit into one of these categories, we were often viewed as dumb, ugly, clumsy, or weird. After years of classifying ourselves in this way, we began to believe that we really were “dumb” or “weird” and soon found ourselves wanting to be someone else. For others of us, we came to question our worth because of our own personal experiences with love. Perhaps we gave our love freely to others without question. We loved everyone and everything. But, sadly, our love was stepped on and disregarded as though it didn’t have value. Soon, we came to believe that we didn’t have value either. Or perhaps we had an experience where we had been hurt so badly by love that we learned to harden our hearts. We believed if we didn’t let people in, then we couldn’t be hurt again. But in doing so, we no longer let our own love in, and that was the most damaging of all.
Since all our past experiences greatly influence the way we love ourselves, it’s very important for us to reflect upon those experiences and explore what it means to accept ourselves for who we truly are. We must learn to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made and realize they have taught us some important life lessons along the way. Gradually, by facing our past, we are able to release the shame and pain that we have carried with us for years as well as any self-doubts about our abilities. We are doing our best, and that is always enough. Once we believe in our worth and value, regardless of anyone else’s opinions, we finally accept who we really are – the whole package, even the parts we don’t like very much. Then we will look within with love rather than judgment and everything will seem a little bit better – a little bit brighter. We will fully believe in our abilities and listen to our inner voices, ready to face the world exactly as we are.
Once we learn to love ourselves, we must also learn to take good care of ourselves. We do this by honoring what our bodies, minds, and spirits need. Meditating or spending time in nature can help us stay grounded and centered. Eating well and exercising can help our bodies stay fit and healthy. Being creative and following our passions can help us express ourselves in entirely new ways. Getting a massage or going out to dinner with friends can help rejuvenate our spirits. It’s about “feeling into” what we need. If enjoying hot bubble baths and listening to soft jazz music is what we love, then that is what we should do. Taking care of ourselves is not selfish, it’s necessary. For when we love and honor ourselves and our needs, we are better able to share that love freely with others.
This week as Valentine’s Day approaches, listen to your inner voice and show yourself some love. Buy some chocolates, enjoy a hot bath, get a massage, walk in the woods, buy a new dress, or go out to a movie. Love yourself wholly and completely. Self-love is truly the most important love of all. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. Trust that you are doing the best you can and that is always enough. Believe in your worth and see things a little more brightly. There is nothing wrong with you. All you have to do is be. And once you appreciate and love yourself, you will know you are perfect, whole, and complete exactly as you are.