The Gift of Self-Love

I want to share a very valuable secret with you. Of all the things you could ever wish for, there is only one gift you truly need. The very best part of this secret is that you are the only soul who can give this gift. Not a single other being is as qualified or as capable as you are to be the giver. The gift of self-love is the most precious gift you will ever receive, but it is the hardest gift to give until you know why you can’t live without it.

Self-Love

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Gautama Buddha

“I am broken. What’s wrong with me? My head is a mess. I’m so out of shape. My feet are disgusting. I’m exhausted. I don’t have time. I hate my…”
– Inner Monologue

For years I had been trying to fix myself. Therapy, dieting, exercise, volume after volume of self help book, until my very incredible therapist (the one I finally stuck with), said something like this: “You don’t need to fix yourself, you need to love yourself, especially the parts of you that are most human.”

You know that moment when you hear something so true that tears prickle the back of your eyeballs? This was one of those moments. I started to cry. She continued on, explaining how many of our adult hurts are from unresolved experiences in our childhood where we didn’t get the kind of love that we needed. This is not to say we weren’t loved, just that sometimes the love we get and the love we need are not the same.

Healing comes when are able to apply the love we need to those unfulfilled places. Click To Tweet

Notice that I used the word “we”. This is something only we can do for ourselves. I tried to get that healing love from countless girlfriends, boyfriends, significant adults, even pets. I looked for it on stage, on paper, in stores, in restaurants. I’ve frantically unwrapped chocolate bars, yearning for that healing. I’ve looked to Deepak, Oprah, Brene, The Mother Goddess, The Universe, My son. I got close sometimes. Really freakin’ close, but nope, not quite. The funny part was that it was closer than I ever could have thought. It was already in me.

So why do so many of us roll our eyes at the very suggestion of self-love and self-care? If someone suggested that we love and care for our children, our partners, our pets we would think they were ridiculous for stating something so obvious. Why do we continually use the following excuses when it comes to taking care of ourselves?

I don’t have time.

I’ll do it later.

My (kids/work/spouse/family member/etc.) is more important right now.

That’s too selfish.

I don’t need that.

And the biggest one, the one we’re often too afraid to admit, the one that’s the loudest lie:

I don’t deserve that.

The ultimate truth about self-love is delivered thousands of times every single day, in every language, all around the world. Not by health practitioners, not by spiritual or religious leaders, not by pop culture gurus. The truth about self love is doled out by flight attendants, my friends. It’s even printed on that card on the back of the seat in front of you:

Don’t help anyone else until you’ve properly secured your oxygen mask.

Bam. It’s that simple. If we don’t give ourselves the life-sustaining love and nurturing we need in order to survive, we can’t effectively love or care for anyone else. Even if you feel like you don’t deserve it, you need to love yourself in order to thrive.

I see your eyebrows shooting up. I hear you snorting, telling yourselves I’m exaggerating. It’s okay, I did that too for a long, long time.

I want to be clear here. This post isn’t about what to do to better practice self-love. Many of you are already doing all kinds of self-loving things: exercising, eating well, practicing a hobby that you love, getting pampered regularly, getting outdoors, indulging your creative impulses. Today I’m talking about why we all need to do these things.

When you learn to truly love yourself, your love for the world becomes brighter. Click To Tweet

Think of yourself as a lighthouse, shining a beacon out at all of the people you care about and casting your light over all of the things that are important to you. You want the strongest, clearest light to blaze forth, right? In order to generate that mega-watt beam of awesomeness, you need a powerful source. You ARE that powerful source.

I know it doesn’t always feel like it, oh god believe me, I know. I know that sometimes looking inside yourself is about as pleasant as discovering all of the random ickyness that has accumulated under a large piece of furniture. The thing with self-love is that it’s like a muscle that you need to strengthen. All behaviors and attitudes are like muscles. They need to be developed and strengthened before they perform to their very best capacity. This is the basis of cognitive therapy. Even those toxic feelings need to be developed to get as powerful as they are. You gotta work that self-love muscle, and you gotta work it every day.

Imagine a person you really, really love. If you’re not so keen on people, imagine an animal you adore. If that being came to you, and said they felt like a failure today, how would you respond? You’d probably give them a hug, a loving and sincere pep talk to help them realize all of their many successes, you would make sure they knew exactly what you love most about them, and you would send them on their way, maybe with a treat. Actually, I don’t know a lot of animals who suffer these kinds of crises, but imagine your pet just needed some physical affection. You would likely be delighted to indulge this, even if it were interrupting your work.

Now, imagine we did this for ourselves…

The practice of self-love isn’t just about doing things to feel better, to take better care, it’s about slowly re-shaping your mindset and the kind of conversations you have with yourself. I am frequently engaged in some pretty horrible conversations with myself. Are you? Can you imagine ever having that kind of conversation with someone else? Out loud? Pretty awful right?

Remember that jerk move from childhood where someone pins you down and makes you smack yourself over and over again while they taunt you with: “Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself?”

Why ARE we hitting ourselves? What happens if we stop?

What if the next time we start the cycle of “I don’t, I can’t, I won’t, I’m not” we pause and say “I know what this is, but instead of falling into this, I’m going to watch it go by and just breathe.”

Imagine treating your negative inner voice like a sudden bad smell. It’s there, it’s unpleasant, but it’s inevitably going to dissipate.

This, my friends, is the first step in shifting our self-consciousness, our awareness of who we are. It’s the first exercise in building that self-love muscle.

I want you to try something, starting today. Begin to think about ways that you can give yourself better love. For many of us, it’s easier to turn our love outwards, towards the other people in our lives, but just try to shine some light inwards instead. Make a list, a mental list if you prefer, of all of the ways you can start to love yourself better. Don’t just think about things you can do, but think about the thoughts you can try to shift, and the inner conversations you can alter. I believe with my whole heart you deserve an epic dose of self-love, and I believe you have everything it takes to start serving it up.

If I haven’t convinced you, take a look at the list of benefits to a more self-loving approach:

  • you get stronger, both physically and emotionally
  • you feel better, more healthy
  • you gain confidence
  • you are better prepared to move through moments of self-doubt and self-loathing
  • you better understand the value of your passions
  • you are capable of greater love
Wholly embrace the value of self-love, and everything else becomes more possible. Click To Tweet

self-love coloring meditation

Because you are so bright, and beautiful, and wholly deserving, my illustrator buddy Charlene LeBlanc and I made this Self-Love Coloring Meditation for you. Practice some love and print this out, meditating on the quote included on the page.

You can also get FREE access to my entire library of coloring workbooks, doodle sheets, and guided reflections here:

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4 Comments

  1. Jackie
    December 3, 2015 / 4:48 pm

    Today I will take these ideas to my own therapist. I am constantly trying to fight the idea that I am a failure, a sellout, not doing enough, not trying hard enough and it is exhausting. It’s getting better, but it is a slow process. Thank you for these insights to reflect on and talk about.

    • Cat Skinner
      Author
      December 4, 2015 / 9:36 pm

      I’m sorry that you ever feel that way, it’s not a pretty space to occupy, but you are so much more than this collection of ideas, and you shine out your awesome to everyone who meets you. I’d love to hear how your session went with this in your back pocket. xo

  2. Rachelle
    December 4, 2015 / 1:49 am

    Once again. Great advice and beautifully said.
    xo

    • Cat Skinner
      Author
      December 4, 2015 / 9:38 pm

      Thanks so much for reading. I hope you got that quiet space you were hoping for. x

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