I feel like I’ve been making some serious progress with self love.
As I explained in my previous post on the subject, I’ve gone through a gradual evolution here. First, I noticed that I didn’t like aggressive forms of self motivation (“self discipline”). While working on that, I found a question that seemed to get to the root of how I could motivate myself gently: “How can I be kind to myself right now?”. This question both seemed to prevent me from being too lazy when stuff needed to get done, and too active when I needed to rest. The fact is, with both work and rest I never paid attention to my own needs; and this is why I never found balance there.
I began asking myself that question more frequently and found it went beyond just motivation. I could get out of a cycle of depression by reminding myself to be kind to myself. Apparently depression for me seemed to have a lot to do with mentally beating myself up — without being overly aware that that was what I was doing. Even suicidal feelings seemed to come from that place.
Recently, though, my approach has taken a new turn. I no longer feel so much drawn to asking “How can I be kind to myself right now?”. Instead, it seems more direct to focus on self love itself.
This has become possible for the first time. Before, I just couldn’t locate a feeling of self love in myself, no matter how hard I tried. Now, I seem to have advanced to the point where I actually can.
Now, I often simply say to myself, “I love myself”, and focus on the warm feeling that those words seem to evoke. I let it spread through my body. It often causes me to breathe in deeply, and to adjust my posture to hold myself a little more proudly and more confidently. I repeat those words whenever I need to re-center myself in the feeling, and otherwise just try to focus on the raw feeling itself.
Some times it’s harder for me to locate the feeling than other times. When I don’t immediately feel self love when I say “I love myself”, there’s a couple of things I do.
First is, I ask myself, “What is my relationship to myself right now?”.
This is a powerful question, and I think I’d also recommend it for people who haven’t reached the point of being able to feel self love on demand. What it does is it makes self hate and other negative self attitudes conscious. When I ask myself this question, I might be able to visualise my own thoughts stabbing in at my body, or a dark cloud of negative energy representing a self-hating attitude.
When you’re conscious of something, you can change it. For me this was absolutely key in working on self love. I could only discover self love, when I realised I had been hating myself.
It’s often the case for me now that simply by seeing what I’m doing to myself, I can let that energy drop away. As well as that, I can also move into active self love much easier.
Another thing that seems to help is to take consciousness of myself. If I’m alone, I might touch every part of my body, feeling its presence. Otherwise, or as well as that, I’ll visualise myself from the outside; visualise my image. I try to remember that I am a beautiful person. I affirm to myself that I am on my own side. Whatever happens, whatever anyone else says, I am my first, unconditional ally. There will never be a moment where I don’t support myself.
I just try and feel my presence, my identity, my self. As I do so, I try to come at that with a positive attitude. I am on my own side.
These two exercises seem to make it easier to access self love if I’m finding it difficult. Then, I simply center myself in that warm feeling, and try and make it expand. I try and live from that feeling, let it permeate everything I do.
Seeing as self hate has a lot of inertia to it, I will fall back into self hating patterns. When this happens, I will simply try to return to self love again, and let it permeate what I do.
At the moment, I try to do this at least once a day; I remember to do it in quiet moments, such as while going for a walk or lying in bed. If I get into a negative state, I try to do it then, too. And if I find myself acting excessively harsh to myself, that might be a trigger for me to remember to re-center myself in self love. I occasionally check in with myself in the usual moments where I used to act most cruelly to myself; in moments of lethargy and moments of activity most of all. Thankfully, it now seems to be much less of a rule that I act cruelly towards myself in these times.
Funnily enough, I’ve found that as I’ve done this exercise, I’ve had the feeling of… not being special. I might see that I’m fat, or not perfectly cis-passing, or not stunningly much more intelligent than anyone else… and that’s okay. Somehow, my self hating part can’t accept me being ordinary. It thinks I’m extraordinarily good, or fears that I’m the opposite. It puts me above others.
By self loving, I don’t need to stand out. I become much the same as anyone else. Okay, I’m unique – but, you know, so is everyone else. Even my bad aspects don’t seem to matter so much. I have my faults, just like everyone else.
Though releasing a sense of uniqueness might seem negative on the surface, in reality I find it very liberating. I don’t need to struggle to be anyone else. I can just be me, little me, flawed me; beautiful me, beautiful like everyone else. It also makes it way easier to accept the things I don’t like about myself. I may be fat, but why the heck would I hold myself to higher standards than I hold other people to? There are plenty of fat people I think are totally awesome. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.
I’ve also noticed some very practical changes in my life as my skill in self love has grown. I’ve noticed that I see romantic relationships differently now. Before I tended jump into romantic relationships without taking care to choose a partner carefully. Nowadays part of that seems to have come from naivety, a lack of experience; yet I can’t put it all down to that, as I’d gotten burnt enough to have learnt a lesson by now. I now think part of it was that I just didn’t care enough about myself to try and take measures to avoid getting burnt. I focused on the joy of relationships and sort of refused to see the possible danger, sort of an “if I can’t see it, it can’t see me” attitude.
I also feel different about work. I had a huge block regarding financial stuff all my life. I felt like I couldn’t possibly get a “normal job” because all jobs were excessively hierarchical, or because I don’t have enough energy… and I couldn’t find success with my self-directed projects because, well, it just wasn’t working out. (Also, I didn’t put enough work into them, and seemed to have some strange block regarding doing things that I knew were necessary for success).
Now, though, I’ve been plunged into needing to find work fast… and the funny thing is, suddenly, for the first time in my life, it doesn’t feel overwhelming or impossible! Suddenly, what was previously impossibly hard for me just feels like an everyday task.
I’m certain that self love brought me there. Actually, a lot of crappy things happened to me at once – I lost my ID, lost a work opportunity I had really looked forward to, and been told to move out of my apartment – all in the space of a week. Yet, I didn’t feel nearly as bad as I expected to. Mostly, after the initial freak out, I’ve just had a roll-up-the-sleeves-and-get-to-work kind of feeling. I joked that maybe I had just gotten tired of feeling bad all the time. Though actually, I think it’s my progress in self love more than anything that got me to this point.
It’s an exciting time.