Self-love gets made to mean a lot of things.
From confusion with narcissism to actions such as eating donuts and masturbation, self-love is a strange catchall that can mean a lot of things I don't necessarily mean for it to mean.
At its base, self-love is simply love that is given by you for you.
Therefore, self-love is not damaging or harmful or hurtful but instead helpful and supportive.
For example, if you have an addiction, self-love does not mean the self-indulgence of that addiction.
In case that needs to be said.
To further complicate things...
Self-love can involve any number of practices and have potentially endless applications that vary greatly from person to person. For example...
I could love myself by buying EDM festival tickets and dancing for two days straight. Or running in the mountains. Or jumping in cold water. Or joining a Crossfit gym. Or by doing all these things on an ongoing basis. But maybe you're like my wife, and one to none of those things sound at all appealing. (Ergo, not the way you would love yourself.)
Some things that would be loving for you would not be loving for me, and vice versa, so, in what follows, I offer only ways of being and practices that are broad enough to speak to anyone but are realms that I have personal experience.
4 Ways to Cultivate Ongoing, Sustainable, and Resilient Self-Love:
1. Learn Your Love Languages: Muse on what makes you happy and brings you joy.
Give thought to what you like, to who you are. Write it down. Make a dream board. Hold space and time to think about what delights you, excites you, calms you, nourishes you. Maybe you are not cultivating self-love because you have not even given thought to it... You have not given thought to you! So think about what makes you feel joyful and alive. Learn your love languages so you can speak them fluently.
2. Observe your Outlook: Recognize all thoughts, events, and circumstances as opportunities to love yourself (and others and what is).
I know that my own mind has often been an unfriendly place to me. I have tilled toxic psychological soil and have had a malnourished mindset because of that. When we catch ourselves in the downward spiral of what is wrong and what is not working and "woe is me" it is an opportunity and an invitation to love. The limitations of your circumstances are an opportunity for you to choose love. Everything is an opportunity to love. Even our failure to recognize those opportunities is itself an opportunity! Creating the pause of recognition that this is an opportunity to love myself can interrupt the fear and help you find a third way through what you are experiencing. Meditation is the practice where we recognize our thoughts as thoughts, as illusory additions to reality. I have used my sacred spaces as times to rehearse my hurts instead of questioning them with a posture of love. Our fear-based stories begin to dissolve when we can be genuinely loving to ourselves. We can meditate while we run, while we eat, while we dance, while we play. Life can be a living love-meditation, and it can also be a lot of other things! So I am cultivating the former instead of the latter. :)
3. Vacate and Venerate the premises: Get outside and experience the world around you AND Retreat to your sacred space.
Just like our mindsets can inhibit and limit, so too can our physical spaces affect our felt space to be with and for ourselves. Maybe you do not have a space that you can just be in. For me, I tend to feel claustrophobic after being indoors for too long and find that I am most myself and most alive when I am expanding beyond the walls of our constructed environment. So getting outside with my hands or feet in the dirt and feeling the sunshine and/or rain on my skin is truly sacred space for me. AND, it is also important to cultivate those spaces and places where we can be, pray, journal, and do whatever brings you joy. Maybe you do not have a space that you can just be in. Creating a sacred space for YOU to be or go to will nourish your self-love practice even by cueing your brain with the reminder that you are in a place you curate or care about. Have an icon or a statue if that's your thing. Decorate and hang art. Make it your own. Make sure that your going and your coming are marked with ways of being that are loving for you.
4. Express Yourself: Share your Heart and Do your Art.
Everybody has art within them. For some, their medium involves a computer. For others, a canvas. Still others, a dancefloor. For some polymaths among us, all of the above and more. Your self-expression need not be boisterous and loud (although mine very well may be). Write a poem that no one else reads. Sing a song in the shower. Even the act of sitting down and having a conversation with a dear friend can be an act of self-love. So whether alone or together, in a craft or in a conversation, express yourself. You will thank you.
This is by no means an exhaustive list and is here with the purpose of nurturing your loving care for you. These are ideas and suggestions given in love, not metrics for you to return to self-judgment or shame. I would love to hear what inspired you from this in an email or comment. How do you practice self-love? What ideas or reminders did you take away from the post today?
In love and through love and to love and for love,