When I say "self-love," I don't mean narcissism. And I also don't mean that "yeah, sure I love myself" kind of love where it's more like you put up with yourself. This is a higher love where you listen to your own hopes and dreams and encourage yourself. The kind of acceptance and admiration you may give others but shy away from when talking about yourself. Self-love is when you are kind to yourself even when you screw up or say something stupid—when you accept yourself for who you are at this very moment.
I've been onto this idea of self-love since the end of January and have been doing a little experiment of my own. I decided that I wanted to be more self-nurturing, so I've been taking care of myself and talking to myself as if I were someone else, meaning, being as nice to myself as I am to other people. (I tend to give everyone but me the benefit of the doubt, which I know goes for a lot of you too.) So to get the self-nurturing ball rolling, I'd say stuff like, "I'm taking a nice relaxing bath because I am self-nurturing" to hold my hand through the awkwardness of serving myself. I'd also stop and think, "Okay, if I were self-nurturing, what would I do? . . . I would take a quick nap instead pushing through the mental fog." I suddenly felt a new acceptance of myself. For the first time I was considering my own needs and wants just like I'd always considered everyone else's. It's slowly sinking in that I have nothing to prove to anyone, and I don't need such unreasonable expectations for myself.
Even though I've been telling myself that I am self-nurturing for a month now, the breakthrough didn't happen until Tuesday (two days ago). By breakthrough I mean, my mind and my heart connected—my thoughts and feelings were united. The words I'd been saying (e.g., "I am good enough," "I am important," "I am magnificent," "I am self-nurturing," etc.) had mostly just been words that then led to actions (e.g., letting myself curl up on the couch with cookies, ice cream, a huge blanket, and a good book with candles lit even though I still had more studying to do). These were positive actions that helped me go through the motions of noticing my needs and being thoughtful to myself, BUT these words had no't yet registered in my heart. Until Tuesday.
Tuesday was a busy day, like most of our days are, right? I had projects and papers and errands to do before I left for a meeting. Everything on my to-do list had to do with school, work, or household tasks. As I was hurrying home from errands, I was about to pass my chiropractor's office. I have a package deal going on where I can work out in their exercise room as much as I want. That usually ends up being a meager one to two times a week. Well, I was about to pass the building when I made a split-second decision to stop. I was a little annoyed at myself because I knew I'd be more stressed later when I had less time to finish my paper, but I did it anyway.
I worked out for 20 minutes and then did laser treatment on my joints for another 20, and then headed home. Everything worked out fine, and I finished my paper just in time to head to my meeting. As I was driving up my street, my mind started thinking through the morning's events. My brain slowed down as I thought about me going to the chiropractor, and the thought came, "I made time to work out because I am important." Then I realized what I'd just done without any prodding—I'd acknowledged that I am important. Bam! I literally was hit with a wave of love and gratitude and genuine acceptance of myself. I've never, ever felt such approval of myself and genuine joy for being counted as a top priority in my life.
Just a minute ago I was reading an article in the February 2011 Yoga Journal called "Nurturing the New You." The title jumped out at me because of this journey of self-nurturing I've been on. The most effective way to change something in ourselves is through compassion, not self-criticism, impatience, or anger. I recently read in Feelings Buried Alive Never Die that it is not humanly possible to be without flaw, but we are all fundamentally perfect when we are in a state of change. (Which is basically the case for every one of us!) The only way to be changing in a positive direction is to accept and love yourself for your weaknesses and be forgiving of yourself when you don't change as quickly as you'd like. You are worthy of your own love.