Self-love has become a major buzzword over the last few years, and it can be pretty confusing for a lot of people. It can even lead to feeling of being broken in some way for not experiencing it in the shiny way others seem to be able to. At its worst, it can become another weapon we use against ourselves, instead of a savior.
As I sat in the middle of a circle of fifteen women, teaching my group health coaching program a few years back, I could see that one of the participants had something on her mind. She cradled a pillow on her lap and her eyes lowered as I congratulated some of the women on their accomplishments in their relationship with food.
“Are you alright?” I asked her.
“I just don’t get it,” She continued. “How am I supposed to eat healthy food if I don’t even love myself?”
We locked eyes. I could see her confusion, and that it took guts to ask the question. I was stumped. I had never heard that question before in the years I had been teaching the program.
“Is it true that you don’t love yourself?” I asked.
“Well, it doesn’t feel like I do. And that makes it feel impossible to want to drink green smoothies or eat the damn vegetables.”
She had a point. How does one act in self-love when we don’t feel self-loving? If we feel down-right self-loathing?
I realized something, however, in that moment.
Just because it doesn’t FEEL like we don’t love ourselves doesn’t mean that we don’t.
FEELINGS are incredible teachers for what is going on within, but they aren’t facts. They are a somatic response to our thoughts and can change at the whim of the wind, as our thoughts change.
This woman wouldn’t have been in the room of that group coaching program if she didn’t love herself on some level. Somewhere inside of her there was a self that felt her dreams were worth fighting for, even if that voice was so small she couldn’t hear it. In her case, the dream was to find peace with food and start respecting her body after a history of binge eating and destruction. Where did that desire come from if not from self-love? Just because she didn’t have access to the “feeling” that of love that day, week or year doesn’t mean there wasn’t a flame burning inside, waiting to be fed.
Love is a noun. It is a thing, a force, a feeling, but love is also a verb. Sometimes it is an immediate explosion that ripples through us, changing us forever (like when I met my son for the first time). But more often, it is a subtle build that happens without our noticing as a result of connection, of learning to trust, of experience with another. Love grows over time, and the beautiful thing is that there isn’t a cap on it. There isn’t a cap on how much you can love someone.
And how does that connection form with others?
Through action; a word, a touch, consistent action, thoughtfulness, generosity, by teaching that we can be trusted, giving them the benefit of the doubt, by showing them we aren’t going anywhere. Others fall in love because of how we make them feel.
We need to begin by assuming that WE are someone we are in a relationship with. Our body is a being that we are in a relationship with. Our mind is an entity that we are in a relationship with, as is our soul. We are the caretaker. We are the parent. We are the responsible party and they are vulnerable and dependent on us. They need our attention and presence to grow and thrive, and as long as we are living, we are a unit.
Most of the time, when someone isn’t experiencing self-love is it because the relationship with self has been severed.
Both sides are holding grudges from the past. There is no longer communication or healing happening. Both parties have their backs turned, and it is up to US (because we are the adults), to turn in first and extend our hand, even if we are still angry or hurt by them.
We may not choose to have the body we are in, the qualities we have inherited, or the actions of our past selves but the more we water these relationships, the more the feelings of connections with fortify and strengthen, the more we will experience feelings of love.
It is okay to take the action first and wait for the feelings of love and connection to follow.
Instead of asking if we FEEL like committing to our desires, ask: If I DID feel like it, how might I show up differently?
One of the most liberating things I ever learned was that how we follow through doesn’t have to have ANYTHING to do with how we feel. Of course, you want to make sure your deep desires are aligned with your commitment to yourself, but beyond that, the daily shifts in our feelings don’t have to have anything to do with our follow-through.
How we follow through doesn’t have to have ANYTHING to do with how we feel. @SoulBodyLife (Click to Tweet!)
We can follow through on a day when we feel damn near self-loathing, simply because we made the commitment to. And more often than not, just showing up for yourself may start to shift that feeling. If we committed to eating healthily because on SOME level, we are desiring it (even if we aren’t sure we love ourselves), it’s okay to eat the salad and feel annoyed and resistant the entire time.
The more you earn our own trust back, the more you show up for yourself, the more you do the things that make your body and heart feel good, the more you will feel like doing it. Momentum will start to build and compound effortlessly. It’s your job to take the first step and commit to build a bridge back to yourself, to your body, to your heart. We don’t need to feel loving to do so.
Beth Clayton is a TedX speaker and life coach. She helps open-hearted people connect to their intuition and release from old belief systems and past pain so they can break through their own glass ceiling and accelerate momentum. You can check her out at www.soulbodylife.com and get her free e-book, “The Secrets in Your Sabotage.”
Image courtesy of Tobi Dami.