That is seriously annoying advice.
For one thing, it’s vague. How do you act on it? How do you know if you’ve got it right? If you’re feeling isolated, does that mean you are bad at loving yourself?
Love yourself better you big loser! (See how that’s ineffective?)
For another, who says people who love themselves are so great? Some of them are smug, egomaniacs with TV shows.
Right, but on the other hand, the Buddha did say “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
And Brené Brown’s research shows that people who enjoy healthy, loving relationships of any kind are those who believe themselves to be “worthy of love and belonging.”
Even Lucille Ball famously said, “You really have to love yourself to get anything done in the world.”
Well, I for one would like to get something done in the world. I would like to finish my newsletter, at least.
So if it’s true that we must love ourselves to get to the good stuff in life, whether it be a Jamie and Claire style romance, happy friendships, or merely getting something, anything done in the world, we’ll need to get specific about how.
Here are my best ideas for actualizing the self-love axiom (a love yourself how-to):
1) Give yourself some big-picture perspective. None of us know why we are here on this planet, let alone what we should to be doing. What we do know is that pain and suffering exist and that we will die. Of course we’re going to be a little neurotic! You’re doing the best you can. It’s adorable. Don’t worry.
2) Add a movie montage soundtrack. You know that part in the story when the main character is totally discouraged, everything is going wrong, and then there’s a make-over sequence where they sweat and struggle and pull themselves together bit by bit? The whole process may take months or years, but in the movie it’s edited down to the length of one great song. Those scenes are awesome, and so are you. Try seeing yourself as a hero in the making. When you feel low and uncertain, you are simply at the start of your own montage. Root for yourself. Play all the music you need to pull through. Eye of the Tiger, baby.
3) Take a full inventory of the whole you. Look for the discarded parts: the ones that didn’t mesh with the family that raised you, the ones that were burned away in the embarrassment of middle school, the ones that were too wild or weird in high school, the ones your spouse doesn’t like and the ones you lie about. You don’t have to let those parts call the shots, but it would be wise to offer them your love. Sit with them. Let them tell you their hopes and fears. That’s where compassion comes from.
4) Whole you inventory part 2: Look for the parts that are easy to love. Remember the best compliments you’ve received. Note in particular the ones you believe to be true. Dwell on your accomplishments and unique skills. Make long lists of them.
5) Know your values and live according to them, as best you can. This one’s on the serious side. Pick your top five values, such as kindness, honesty, courage, loyalty and responsibility. Or freedom, honor, beauty, secrecy and fight club. Whatever. Walk your talk. It is much easier to love yourself if you like yourself.
6) Love what you love. Pay attention to what you truly enjoy. If you have a great time doing something, someone’s going to love the way you share it.
I have an example for that last item. I enjoy yoga, books, and talking to smart, funny, supportive women. I lead a Yoga Book Club which amazing women have joined and we have a great time. I love it, and I will share some of it:
In our last meeting, this passage from DARING GREATLY struck us all as important. After interviewing people about loss Brené Brown writes:
“Without exception, all the participants who spoke to me… about what they missed most, spoke about ordinary moments. ‘If I could come downstairs and see my husband sitting at the table and cursing at the newspaper…’ ‘If I could hear my son giggling in the backyard…’ ‘My mom sent me the craziest texts–she never knew how to work her phone. I’d give anything to get one of those texts right now.’”
We all understand that, right? We know we’d miss the simple moments that blessed our lives if we lost them.
I think a great way to love yourself is to cherish the ordinary moments of being you. Hear your own laugh. Smile at the wonky ways you repeatedly screw up. Have a soft spot for meeting your own grumpy self at the breakfast table.
When we’re done being ourselves in this mysterious life, those are the things we might miss most.
Look at you checking your email, reading away. So cute! Thank you. You are just the sweetest.
PS – Speaking of Yoga Book Club, and breakfast, our next book is BREAKFAST WITH BUDDHA by Roland Merullo. We start Oct. 23rd. Get in on it. Info here.