2020.04.26   |   6 min read

Cultivate Self-Love

Cultivating Self-Love may seem like an easy task on the surface. It’s a phrase that’s used often, but when we look beyond the surface, what does it mean? Ideally, we want to feel good about ourselves, our place in this world, have confidence, and have self-esteem. Self Love is the umbrella that encompasses all of these. When we have self-love, we are filled from within, have a deep connection to ourselves, regardless of anything that happens in our external world.

One absolute we all must know is that we are all inherently worthy. It’s intrinsic within all of us and worthiness is our birthright. Along the way, some of us forget this. We attach our worthiness to our accomplishments, what people think of us, and how others treat us, as our worth is something we must earn. When we feel that we have to prove to others that we are worthy; we seek external validation, we compare ourselves to others, and we are prone to feelings of rejection. We all must remember that no matter what, we are innately worthy.

Cultivating Self Love is a customized approach, not every method will be for everyone, rather it’s a choice of which methods to practice. Some will speak to us more than others and we’ll be ready to practice specific ones at different times, at stages in our lives.

7 Ways to Cultivate Self Love

1. Fill our glass first

Ensuring our glass is filled first, will grant us the energy to also fill up other people’s glasses. When we ensure that we are taken care of, when we help others it comes from a place of love and authenticity, rather than duty and obligation. If we tend to put other people’s needs ahead of our own, that becomes a breeding ground for resentments towards the people we are trying to help and can cause us stress and burn us out. Filling our glass can simply look like checking in and asking ourselves questions like: “how am I doing, right now?”, “Do I want to say no to this request?”, “What do I need for myself at this moment?”

2. Boundaries

We need to know our physical and emotional boundaries and what we are willing to tolerate and what we are not. The best way to know our boundaries is to pay attention to our feelings and acknowledge them. Anger isn’t always a bad emotion, it shows where our boundaries have been violated either by someone else or ourself. Anger only becomes toxic to us when we stay in that state for too long. If we experience anger, pain, fear etc. then we need to lovingly and communicate how we feel, where our limit is. If someone continues to violate our boundaries, when we already set and establish that limit, then we need to lovingly distance ourselves or let them go. Not because they are bad people, but because our values do not align. When we set these boundaries, we set the tone in how people are to treat us. People tend to confuse what setting a boundary is and what isn’t.

What a boundary is: “I will be available to pick you up from the airport last minute like this, it is inconsiderate of my time, next time I need to know in advance.” and doesn’t look like: “I’m not you’re personal servant, I’m not taking this anymore, I’m done.”

3. We are not our thoughts

We need to tend to our thoughts as we tend to our garden, we wouldn’t allow weeds to grow in place of our groomed vegetation. We need to diligently pick out those weeds to allow the purposely planted plants to grow. Thoughts will pop into our head and it’s up to us which ones we are to listen to, those are the ones that will grow and cultivate. “Energy goes where attention flows.” — James Redfield. If we put attention to the negative thoughts we will find ourselves focusing more on that negativity. If we focus more on positive thoughts, we will find those feelings will become more prominent.

4. Practice loving affirmations

Positive affirmations are reminders of truth that help to adjust the maladaptive habitual thinking and beliefs that we developed as children. Some beliefs created positive experiences for us, but other beliefs hindered our growth and limited our potential. By practising loving affirmations, we recondition our core beliefs and reaffirm our positive thoughts. Loving affirmations can be “I approve and love myself.” “I am doing my best.” “My prosperity is growing.” This done diligently will recreate beliefs about ourselves and what we can accomplish.

5. Practice gratitude

Practising gratitude works similarly to watching our thoughts and positive affirmations, it helps to reframe our perspective. Practising gratitude allows us to focus on the things that we are grateful for rather than on what we lack. “Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” — Alphonse Karr. When we are thankful for what we have and the simple things in our everyday life it can significantly increase our overall life satisfaction.

6. Self-compassion

In the moments when we feel down and low that the best time to give ourselves compassion, as much as we give compassion to a good friend or a child. We wouldn’t talk to a good friend or child as harshly as we talk to ourselves. It’s the knowing that we all stumble every once in a while, experience failures, times of vulnerability, breakdowns, and disappointments. No person on this planet is perfect, but we all are perfectly imperfect. We need to permit ourselves to be imperfect. It is necessary to show empathy to ourselves since we are all trying the best we can for what we know at the time.

7. Explore our triggers and heal our emotional wounds

Triggers are an exaggerated emotional response to other people’s actions or inactions. Sometimes we don’t even know we have been triggered until we have significantly calmed down and realized that we over-reacted. It’s times like these that allow us to grow and figure out what is the message behind our trigger. “We cannot heal what we don’t acknowledge — Jack Canfield.” Once we have acknowledged that we have been triggered, we are closer to mending that emotional wound. Our wounds tend to come from our childhood beliefs about ourselves. They tell us, “I’m not worthy,” “I’m not loved,” “I’m not respected,” or “I’m not understood.” How we react is to become overly angry, cling, withdrawal, or defensive. When we heal, our triggers dissipate and we can view situations with objectivity and discernment.

Triggers show us what we need to heal. We have these breakdowns, for us to put each piece back to where it was meant to be. Tara Brach, an American psychologist, has a method she teaches, using the introspective technique called RAIN, which is an acronym for Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Nurture. When we are in our emotional state of reactivity we want to allow space to:

R: Recognize what is occurring. I am triggered, I am angry, hurt, and feel shame.

A: Allow the space for feeling the emotions. Allow ourselves to feel the emotion through, if we want to cry, then allow ourself to cry.

I: Investigate what is happening and to determine the source of our reactivity.Is it that we don’t feel good enough, cared for, loved, appreciated, etc.

N: Nurture that part of ourselves that needs that attention, comfort, love, appreciation. This could be an affirmation such as I am worthy, I am loved, or giving compassion to ourselves at this moment.

This whole process can take a matter of minutes, hours, days, weeks or months. It all depends on how well developed we have built our emotional muscles.