My path to self-love has been littered with the many lies I’ve been told. Lies I heard about my gender, my culture, told by my family, my religion, and society--they all conspired to keep me in a box. Like many women, I was taught to be “nice”, be quiet, be small. My father liked to say his children were good-for-nothings that would not amount to anything, a mantra he’d recite whenever he was the least bit frustrated with his role as a father. My mother was a model of the submissive wife, a good Christian woman, honoring her husband and religion at the same time with obedience. The Catholic religion I grew up with constantly told me how hard I needed to work to earn forgiveness, let alone love. At home I beared witness to a double standard that was no less apparent when I stepped outside, and into a society that objectifies women with demands on how we need to look and act to be sufficient. Everywhere I looked I saw implicit and explicit messages that I was a second class citizen. Geez! How did I make it out alive?
I have love and compassion for my parents, I know they operate from the consciousness of their time and their experience. I, however, operate from a different consciousness. Guided by my intuition, I know that I am worthy of more! This is where self-love comes in.
For me, self-love is about knowing that I am enough. It means I don’t need permission from any external source to be true to myself, whether that means allowing myself time for quiet contemplation or following a passion or dream that is ready to come to fruition. Self-love is knowing that I don’t need to earn love or achieve anything to receive love--rather I am worthy of love simply because I am. Self-love is the realization that looking outside for validation gives my power away, but having the utmost respect and love for myself--that empowers me.
When I practice self-love, I can practice self-care. There is no room for guilt here. Guilt is a construct that serves no one. Our society has painted a picture of the good woman who sacrifices her health, her passions, herself for her husband and family. I know, as women we can still feel guilty when we choose to serve ourselves. So I urge us all to remember, (and repeat this regularly if you need to) “even good women practice excellent self-care.” Taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually means you will have more energy physically, emotionally, and spiritually to love your spouse, your children, and your community. This has nothing to do with selfishness but everything to do with fulfilling your life purpose.
Self-love is really about being kind and compassionate with myself, and in turn I look at others with more love and compassion. When I embody self-love, I know I don’t need permission, I know I am empowered to express my passion and live my life purpose. From self-love, I help others move toward living the life they are meant to live--a life they love.
So now I invite you to join the many who have come before us, and the brave women of our generation, who challenge the cultural messages that women are not enough, messages that ask us to play small. I invite you to join the women who take the path less popular to their family, religion, or culture, the path to claim your personal power. It is our right to stand in our truth with all our greatness, and it all starts with self-love.
How do you practice self-love? Are you waiting for permission? What passion have you been hesitant to pursue because you feel guilty about taking the time for yourself? How could you serve others if you practiced excellent self-love and self-care?
Here are 10 ways you can practice self-love/self-care, everyday:
Take a quiet moment. Meditate, write, read, or enjoy a sunrise or sunset.
Move your body. Do any physical exercise that you enjoy, even a nice walk will do.
Eat well. Plan for healthy eating so you’ll have energy for yourself and loved ones.
Go outside. Breath deeply and notice the fresh air in your lungs and beauty of nature.
Say “no.” Try not to overbook yourself--being busy is not the same as being productive.
Smile. Tell a joke, watch a video, remember the last time you had a deep belly laugh and you can’t help but smile.
Cry, if you need to. Take a private moment, watch a sad movie, process your grief in a way that helps you.
Dream, always. Don’t stop dreaming of the things you can be and do.
Sleep more. It is so valuable and underappreciated.
Connect with others. Reach out to your loved ones, your friends, your community.