How well and often do you love yourself? Are you your own best friend? How kindly and exquisitely do you tend to your own soul? Your answers to these questions may reveal an opportunity to practice more self-love. In my book: Fabulous Friendship Festival; Loving Wildly, Learning Deeply, Living Fully with Our Friends, I write about self-friendship, and have discovered through teaching workshops about it, that about 85% of people do not identify or describe themselves as their own closest friend.
We are taught to love ourselves, from many sources, such as the bible; "Love thy neighbor as thyself" to every metaphysical teaching, yet the actual practice of it is not often or openly discussed. It's as if we're just supposed to do it "naturally" and not need support, permission, reminders or examples.
Most of us are practicing being outer focused first, tending to the needs and requests of others before ourselves. Then somehow, it seems that there isn't enough time left over for ourselves. That's because we're doing it backwards. To truly love and be friends with others, we must practice loving ourselves well and fully on a daily basis. If we don't, we all witness and experience crabby unloved people walking around, living their lives not experiencing self-love (or loving others.)
While in New York city recently, I met a hotel manager who projected absolute radiant positive energy. When I complimented him and told him how much I appreciated it, he enthusiastically said; "I know! I am just so in love with myself!" I felt that love in every cell of my body, and stuck to him like a magnet during my stay at that hotel. When I share this story with groups of people, they laugh because it just sounds so unusual and strange. Yet, when we fall in love with another person, it's perfectly acceptable and expected to exclaim about our love, and everyone cheers and applauds.
We still think that self-love is selfish and narcissistic, forgetting that conscious selfishness is necessary for loving ourselves, and that we cannot truly love others without these experiences of self-loving. We are all selfish-in the best sense of what that means- to care for ourselves first.
I've been practicing loving myself more deeply in a number of new ways, beginning and ending my days
by hugging myself. It began with a moment or two, and it's now escalated to 5-10 minutes at a time. I can feel all my endorphins being elevated, and always end up grinning and beaming. I've begun saying out loud in certain situations; "I'm just so in love with myself!" and noticing the responses. Most people love it and want to join in. As I expand my experiences of self-love, I've observed that I'm more available and loving to friends and family too. It's as if my own inside well is so full of love, that I just naturally share the overflow.
I think I used to feel a little scared that if I really loved myself, I'd become so self-absorbed that there wouldn't be room for anyone else. The opposite is truly occurring and I'm steeped in self-love, friendship with myself and exquisite self-care practices that radiate out directly to the world. I keep a daily joy and gratitude journal, and fill pages with wonderful experiences and morsels of goodness. I'm always on the lookout for more, and this draws more of those kinds of experiences to me. Practicing self-friendship and love also means tending to, and being present for the the times I don't feel positive or self-loving at all.
How do we practice self-love during those times too?
It's easy to love ourselves when we feel good and "things are going our way," it's less easy when we experience self-criticism, frustration, negativity or self-abandonment.
How unconditional is your love for your self?
We are all made up of light and shadows, and many of us try to flee the shadows and stay in the light.
Wanting to live in the light isn't the problem, attempting to flee the shadows is. As long as we continue to turn away from the parts of ourselves that we judge as unworthy, unacceptable or unlovable, we will continue to experience separation and lack of love.
In order to more deeply and consistently practice self-love and self-friendship, it is helpful to have resources. Here are some I personally utilize and recommend:
Self-healing is available to each one of us, and we forget the power of it, and don't often include ourselves on such lists. We may be tempted to endow "someone else" with the knowledge or way to go, forgetting that we do the actual work and apply the teachings.
So, become the most marvelous friend to yourself first. Find your broken places and gain strength there too. Practice looking into your shadows (you can use a flashlight) and become aware of how to best care for yourself during those times also, and experience loving yourself unconditionally more often.
Turn your wide heart and loving eyes towards yourself and awaken what you already know: