Each and every single day of our lives, we work toward love. The one thing we don’t need to work for at all, yet it is the one thing we work the hardest at. So much so, we never fail at it, searching and finding love.
We don’t always know we’re doing it, but we are. We seek to be loved, to feel loved and to know we’re loved. And we effort toward that through any means necessary.
We search and we find it however we can. Through compliments, awards, sex, food, drugs, gossip, Instagram, shopping, comparing, belittling…
A lot or a little at a time, we distract ourselves from true love and gravitate toward good-for-now. We’ve become addicted to those small detours away from self-judgment. Anything that gets our minds off what we hate about ourselves.
Doesn’t sound like love at all.
Nothing external can be a source (er, a reminder) of love, unless we first love ourselves. Love that comes inside-out is able to recognize love that comes outside-in. We see, feel and know only what’s already inside of us.
Our seeking love in the form of external distraction and validation started at infancy, when we got all that we needed from our mothers. Eventually we forgot about our inherent access to love, and stayed looking outside for love and approval. Adolescence into adulthood, always chasing.
But we tap into that internal source of love often and don’t realize it. Whenever we feel overflowing love for a person, pet, place, etc., it is because we’ve tapped into the geyser of love erupting from within.
Compassion is born from self-love. Empathy, as well. Forgiveness. Generosity. Kindness.
So if that’s the trick to love—first loving ourselves—let’s learn how to do it.
How To Love Yourself First
It’s only when we love ourselves that we can freely express love for others. Then, it’s essential that we love ourselves first, right?
Here is a 3-step technique to get you doing just that.
Look at yourself in a full-length mirror, preferably standing naked. Point out all the things you see on your body that you appreciate. List out loud 3 things, from the beauty mark on your nose to your long, strong legs.
Utilize all senses as you point out what you love and admire about your appearance. Show gratitude for it by placing a hand there, breathing adoration straight into that area. Smile as you do this.
Don’t say anything disparaging or belittling, even if for a quick laugh. Let’s shift away from those powerless thoughts because eventually you start to believe them. This mirror stare is a form of meditation, let it be reverent and intentional.
Listen to what you’re saying about yourself to yourself. Is it favorable? Unfavorable? Really hear what you’re saying to yourself. If the self-talk is favorable, can you turn up the volume? If the self-talk is unfavorable, ask, would I say this to my 5-year old self?
Can you replace the negative talk with something that makes you feel good? If it’s too hard to say something nice about one body part, pick another area that’s easier to appreciate (even if you have to stay on that spot the entire time). Go underneath the skin, too. What’s favorable there? Do you love that your heart beats? That your lungs breathe?
Now is not the time to hide behind facades, labels and other mental clutter. This is the time to get raw and real, down and dirty with your thoughts. When you hear these thoughts, speak them out loud if need be to witness the impact they make on your physiology, harsh or heavenly.
Once you capture the good thoughts about yourself, stay there. Linger in those pleasant thoughts, in those feelings. Stay as long as you can wrapped in appreciation, adoration, admiration. This is self-love.
Allow the time it takes to fall in love with yourself, over and over. Just like you need to be reminders of why you love your partner, why you love your mother, father, sister, brother, you need reminders for why you love yourself.
The objective isn’t to walk away thinking you’re the prettiest thing on the planet—even though, that would be nice. The goal is to begin to focus on what you do love about yourself, because that’s what counts. Love for the pretty parts will expand and become love for the wobbly bits (to steal a funny phrase from Bridget Jones’ Diary).
You have to start somewhere. You have to begin with love in order to end with love. You have to start with a full tank before you hit the road. That way, during the ride, you won’t be tempted to stop for fast love to distract yourself from yourself.
You’ll feel the love when you remember you can replenish your “gas tank” just by thinking about it.
The more you do this, the easier it becomes. Less contrived. Less forced. More effortless. More natural. Loving yourself will become second-nature because you practiced. You reminded yourself what it feels like to have love flow from the inside-out.
You crave attention, accolades and awards, because you chase the good feeling that praise offers you. You’re searching for love. We all are.
We all want to be showered with love from every angle. And we can be! But it starts with pointing that showerhead at ourselves first.
It starts when we turn our own faucet on.