Showing myself some love
If you had asked me before my burnout if I loved myself, I would have said I did. Years later, turns out, it wasn’t enough to think so, I also had to act lovingly towards myself. I was sure I accepted myself the way I was, was perfectly happy with my alleged flaws. What I didn’t notice was that I wasn’t showing myself much self-love at all.
I felt I had to endure
Looking back on many decisions I made in my life, they were not always made from a position of self-love but more out of expectations, self-criticism, self-abandonment (and people pleasing, obvs!). All these things were not obvious to me. Thinking back, I am now aware of how much I felt I HAD to endure and take on. Again, I didn’t realise I had a choice. I wasn’t aware of how much damage these decisions were doing to my self-love and my self-worth.
Feeling bad about myself
If I got into a disagreement or argument or any other uncomfortable situation, in which someone was being belittling, insulting or judgemental, I would come away feeling bad. Feeling bad about myself. That feeling was very hard to shake, and the experience would go round and round in my mind. I would try and figure out how I SHOULD have behaved in that situation, what I should have said, how I should have acted to defend myself or even attack the other person(!). I was not accepting of the fact that I behaved the way I did because I had no other option at the time.
“Shoulda Woulda Coulda”
Trying to re-live a situation with a different outcome is of course impossible, it can take a lot of time and effort and essentially it will lead me nowhere. I didn’t realise at the time that this was my inner critic at work. “Shoulda, woulda, coulda” is about self-criticism. Self-Love is compassion, kindness, love, and comfort. As you would comfort an upset child or dear friend or loved one. Sad fact: We are mostly kinder and more compassionate to others than we are to ourselves!
On my way to burnout I spent some time becoming aware of my inner critic (thank you Ruth Bleakley-Thiessen). This part of me rarely uses language but rather drops feelings into my system to let me know that my behaviour (or ME in general) is not perfect, I must be wrong, I should be ashamed and I must try harder. It wasn’t until I upped my Self-Love practice that I got better at noticing when my inner critic turned up and meeting it with compassion, and not identifying with it. The truth is: I don’t have to be the perfect person, I just have to be me.
Upping the Self-Love
So how did I up my Self-Love? By practising many, many new exercises which lead to more and more awareness. First of all, ALL the lovely exercises I learned during my training at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine. Secondly doing things which make my mind and my body feel good. Meditation, moving to music, being with people who are lovely to each other, just lying down when I feel tired or overwhelmed, eating when I feel hungry, going out for some great coffee and a delicious piece of cake.
The Love from my higher Self
The most profound shift came after cultivating the relationship to my inner wise woman, wise guide, higher Self, etc. Learning to be kind, compassionate and loving towards myself in EVERY situation is the best act of Self-Love I have experienced so far. That part of me wants what is best for me and knows no limits.
Lies, lies, lies, yeah!
That inner critical voice or feeling is one that has limited me a LOT over many years. It is the voice that tells me I had to endure terrible situations, not show my feelings, I do not deserve to be seen or heard, that I am useless at everything so trying to change something is not going to make any difference. All lies by the way!
Bring on the love
There are many ways I like to express my Self-Love: Rest and sleep. Joy and laughter. Cooking and eating delicious, healthy food. Hot baths. Buying myself flowers. Singing along to my favourite songs. Connecting with my heart’s desires. Expressing my needs. Saying no to things I do not want to do. Cancelling things I do not feel like doing. Letting other people down so as not to disappoint or hurt myself.
Gratitude and appreciation for my body
Also, appreciating my own body and all it does for me was also a profound exercise. It really got me away from having a certain ideal of how I wanted my body to LOOK and allowed me to feel more gratitude towards my body as a highly functioning system which was actually perfect in every way, even capable of healing itself. Quite the miracle.
A message from my Self-Love to yours
You are fantastic! You are doing brilliantly! I love you! You are capable of such amazing things! You are so important, and you matter so much! I am so grateful you are here! You add such beauty and joy to this world! You make it a wonderful place to be! Thank you for joining me today. The love in me sees the love in you. Show yourself some LOVE.