The How of Self-Love and Acceptance
My message, work, and sense of purpose is about women. I advocate for women to live lives of opportunity and equality on a level playing field. While certainly many of our attitudes and institutions need adjusting in this regard, the work of becoming strong, confident women is an inside job. We owe it to ourselves to know ourselves well and to strive toward self-love and acceptance. These are phrases that fall easily off the lips, but are often difficult to develop and nourish in our day-to-lives. The question of “how” lingers nearby.
The reason why it's important to cultivate and nourish self-love and self acceptance is that it's the foundation for what builds strength and confidence. Self-love and acceptance grounds us to more easily stand in the light of our truth and speak our truth. We can strive toward career and attainment, accomplishment and goals, but without the development of self-love, those things don’t mean much.
Self-love is both a mind-set and a deliberate action. Mind-set is the result of how we talk to ourselves and how we can train that self-talk to better nourish and serve us. Self-talk is the chatter in our mind. Imagine that you’re standing at the bathroom sink. You’re about to put on some makeup and brush your hair. You look into the mirror. Maybe you hear a voice in your head that says “Geeze, I look like crap this morning.” You might even say it out loud. Chances are you are on autopilot and you don’t really know how many mornings you’ve been greeting yourself with a negative affirmation. What if when you looked in the mirror, you made a conscious effort to say out loud, “Good morning. This is going to be a good day.” What if you set an intention to speak as kindly to yourself as you do to others?
Can you catch yourself throughout the day and change a negative into a positive? You won’t get this right all the time – not ever. But the striving toward self love with positive and soul nourishing self-talk is a worthy and purposeful daily goal.
We know that words matter. We know that if we say to someone else, “Geeze, you look like crap today,” that we will hurt their feelings. But we often fail to realize that negative talk toward ourselves hurts us too. You can train your brain to create a new habit of kinder self-talk, that is more positive and less stressful. Being hard on ourselves is always stressful.
And self-love doesn’t mean that we push away difficult emotions. If I’m sad about something, the kindest thing that I can do for myself is to acknowledge that I’m sad and think about what I need. Sometimes a good cry and a walk will soothe me. Sometimes just sitting with the sorrow helps to release it. A lot about self-love and acceptance is not judging any emotion.
The course of chatter in our brain can also be worked with through meditative practices. In sitting quietly and following the breath, letting go of each thought as it enters the mind, we slow our brain down enough to then enter the day in a relaxed state. Now add some gratitude into the mix. In your mind, you can list three things every morning that make you feel thankful and appreciative for how your life is. Positive self-talk, slowing down the chatter, and gratitude practice present a platform for the self-love mindset.
The deliberate action part of self-love is when we consciously choose behaviors that are nourishing to our heart. For instance, a walk when we’re feeling stressed is an action of self-love. A warm bath at the end of a tiring day and then crawling into bed early is an action of self-love. Being kind with people that you encounter throughout the day, whether by phone or in person. It can feel wonderfully warm and nourishing to extend compliments, kindness and encouragement to others – these things are are actions of self-love too.
Balance in life isn’t a destination. In other words, I don’t know anyone who has figured it all out, and as a result is constantly in balance. We are all correcting course everyday. When I screw up, I find it best to own it, apologize to myself and others and then move on. Moving on and letting go are also actions of self-love.
In writing this post today, I had a keen sense that I was writing this as much for myself as anyone else who might benefit from it. I’m one of those who needs to remind myself of the value of self-love and acceptance. I see it as part of maturing into a full human being, a woman filled with a sense of purpose about living life well. As women, we lift ourselves up when we can be kind to ourselves.