Self-Love and How to Feel It

 In America

I recently saw a post on Facebook regarding self-love. The post invited people to share what types of self-care they engaged in to make them feel better. I immediately thought “Self-love has nothing to do with external activities”. Whether it’s a massage, pedicure, shopping for a new outfit or whatever, these activities may make us feel better in the moment, but they do not change the thoughts in our brain which judge, criticize and tell us that we need other people’s approval to be okay. I should know.

 If massages and pedicures produced self-love, I would have developed it years ago. Sure, afterwards I would feel relaxed, my toes looked pretty, but it didn’t change the onslaught of negative thoughts constantly swirling in my head that created overwelming feelings of self-doubt, depression, and anxiety. Thoughts like “Why wasn’t I invited to that party?;” “She is doing so much better in her career than I am;” “Why don’t my kids play sports…everyone else’s do;” “ Their marriage is so much better than mine”.

With thoughts like these, I was pretty much always fighting feelings of depression and anxiety. I didn’t feel self-love and didn’t have a clue as to how to get it. It was like trying to figure out how fly a plane without instruction. Years of therapy didn’t help me either. Instead, therapy just seemed to reinforce all the reasons why I should be depressed; after all–if you had my childhood, you’d be depressed too.

Thankfully a few years ago a loving and wise friend kept pointing out how perpetually negative my thoughts were. I realized that I was addicted to my “sad story,” and to the toxic thoughts in my brain. I started to make the connection that these thoughts generated awful feelings. So I began to question all these negative thoughts; when they cropped up I chose instead to be grateful for something in my life. Over time this practice of gratitude shifted my perspective so much that I began to feel good–even great much of the time.

This extended into more intentional thought analysis. When thoughts popped into my head like “You’re no good at this,” “You don’t have many friends,” or “You’re a bad mother”, I would “fight back” with thoughts like “I’m doing this just fine;” “I have some really close friends who love me;” “I’m a good mother because I keep trying to do the best I can, even when I fall short sometimes.” 

Soon, an unfamiliar feeling began to well up in me.  It was self-love!  And the more I felt it, the more I wanted it. So, I began to compliment myself on EVERYTHING…”What a great dinner you made!” “What a great job you did mowing the lawn!” “You are so passionate about music…that’s so cool!!!” I still do this every day. I am not depressed anymore and I am thrilled with my life–even though it still has hard, challenging elements.

Self-love is a beautiful thing. So, by all means, enjoy the massage or pedicure. But take time to look inside your mind and weed out those thoughts that don’t serve you. Replace them with thoughts that support and nourish you. You will fall in love with you.
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