How does one fall in love with oneself?
In my years of coaching, working with street teens, working in the homeless sector, learning what it means to live as ‘an artist’ of my own heart, running art programs, teaching story-telling and delving into the power of Love and writing about it, there is a common thread that runs through our psyches, no matter where we’ve been, what we’ve done, how we’ve gotten to where ever we are at.
We are burdened with shame and gratitude depleted.
Brené Brown writes about shame. She studies it, researches it and expresses its debilitating effects with great clarity in her may books on the subject.
“Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling.”
“Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
We can be shame driven or heart full.
We can be shame full or heart driven.
We can be heart driven and heart full and in the fullness of living from our heart-centered wholeness, we can set ourselves free.
It’s all in where we put our attention. Whatever we put our attention on becomes stronger in our life.
When I focus on avoiding shame, my avoidance grows stronger giving shame little chance to flow free.
When I put my attention on how unworthy I am of love, how undeserving of grace or kindness or tender loving care, my story becomes all about how unworthy, undeserving I am. It also gives me an excuse not to change, not to face my fears and step through the threshold of my shame.
It is easier to hate myself when I’m constantly telling myself how much I hate myself, my life and the world around me. The story of why I have the right to feel this way, to tell myself this is true, is a powerful story. Staying connected to the story I’m telling myself, even when it hurts, is safer than letting it go.
Change your story. Change your life.
How do you fall in love with yourself? Stop hating yourself.
Here’s an exercise.
- Go stand in front of a mirror and look into your eyes. (It’s okay. You can keep your clothes on. You’re looking into your eyes, not at your body – and it’s not about judging what you see. It’s about being open to looking in). Look deeply, yes deeply, into your eyes and repeat OUT LOUD 10x (slowly, breathing between each repetition) “I love you.” (repeat 10x) Remember — Keep your eyes open and look deeply within them, not at them.
- Breathe. Yes. Breathe. It’s okay. Telling yourself you love yourself is a good thing to do. It’s a place to start. Sure, you may feel silly, stupid, uncomfortable. You might even tell yourself ‘well, that’s a lie’. But, think about it. Is the statement “I love me” any different than “I hate me”? You are your thoughts. If your thoughts are all about hating yourself, that will become what you believe to be the truth. So, start gently, lovingly, even if you’re afraid, by changing the message you tell yourself.
- Repeat many times, every day, until it comes as naturally as breathing. Eventually, dispense with the mirror. Just keep telling yourself, I Love You. I Love Me.
Think of the alternative. Do you want to tell yourself 10x in the mirror, “I hate you.”? What if you chose instead to just love yourself, even within hating yourself?
Do you want to keep repeating out loud how small, useless, unworthy, undeserving you are?
Even if that feels like the truth, it’s not. It’s just your attention has been on hating yourself for so long, there’s been no room to allow the truth of Love to appear in your eyes.
And yes, I have most definitely simplified the process of falling in love with yourself. It is a journey, an adventure, a grand expedition to choose to fall in love with yourself, even when your mind is telling you ‘Well that’s dangerous. Don’t go there. You’ll get hurt. Let down. Betrayed. Destroyed….”
You have to begin somewhere. Why not here?
Loving yourself is not for sissies.
It’s for everyone. Each of us. All of us.
Loving yourself takes courage. Passion. Fortitude. Hope.
Loving yourself takes heart.