When was the last time you honestly asked yourself, "How do I feel about me?" "How do I see myself?" Simple and obvious? Maybe not so much.
How we feel about ourselves and bodies affects much more than I think we realize. Our self image, confidence and feelings of self worth ricochet out through the universe — and certainly the universe of our daily lives and interactions. Our feelings impact other people, shaping their feelings about us as well as about themselves.
Do you feel happy? Confident? Beautiful? Centered in your place and mission in your workplace? At home? In relationship? With your children? With self and others?
Self-love is the battery that powers every other kind of love.
I believe many of us suffer the effects of living on an autopilot of low self esteem and negativity. We’re shut down, dismissing the very need to be in healthy dialogue with our inner selves. The relationship with self must be nurtured first before we can expect to experience fulfilling and reciprocated relationships in other areas of our lives. Self-love is the battery that powers every other kind of love.
By inquiring inwardly about the exact nature of the relationship we have with our self we can identify where that nurturing might need to take place. Let me explain what that looks like.
A decade ago, when I was actively working on recovering from 20 years of anorexia, I began to unravel and understand the exact dialogue I was unconsciously having with myself. I used harsh words of judgement and criticism to cover up the fear and loneliness I was experiencing. I was angry, but I was persevering in my healing process.
One day, after a long session with my therapist, I was at home attempting to prepare a meal. Food preparation was part of my therapy and it invoked fear and dread. I was still convinced food equalled fat and that my body would betray me. As I numbly cut vegetables and watched the clock on my brown rice, I became acutely aware of the discussion that was going on within. “Bad. Fat. Ugly.” The words grew louder. Like a cruel mantra these words encircled me. I was amazed and saddened. Was this really the way I spoke to myself? I picked up the phone to report this discovery to my therapist. I felt like finally the crust of ignorance had been cracked and I finally knew exactly what that unconscious dialogue was.
For the first time, crucially, I experienced true compassion for myself. I felt heartbroken for the woman standing alone in the kitchen. Saddened that anyone, let alone my own self would call her such terrible names. Intellectually, I knew I wasn’t bad or fat or ugly, but those words had played automatically in my head for so long that I believed them almost at my core.
Over the next few months I worked diligently to break this automatic response. My mantra shifted, slowly, to one of love and affirmation. I counteracted the negative every time I caught it and learned to closely monitor my triggers, understanding that any time I felt frightened or alone I tended to go on an abusive inner rant.
Meditating on this carefully and patiently helped to arm me with some basic defenses. Deep breathing and journaling did their healing work. Slowly, and it was slowly, my relationship with myself became one of love, respect and compassion.
It took years of solo work and transformation to see how this inner relationship with self affected every single thing around me, from job opportunities to relationships with friends and lovers.
By taking responsibility for how I felt about myself I was able to transform my relationship with the outside world.
There are some questions that we must ask ourselves. And as hard as the search for the true answers will be, the transformation we experience and the gifts that come from the resulting balance are worth the work. But we can’t leave a single stone unturned.