In Defense of Self-Love

I got a bit fired up reading Laurie Penny’s Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless. Part way through I found myself writing this short piece. By the time I got to the end of the article I could see that the author might not disagree with me, yet it seemed worth blogging about. That feels like something worth acting on at the moment, considering this is my first tathra.me blog this year and I have a lot of unpublished work that has been victim to my doona dive.

While I agree that positivity isn’t the answer to a sick society, I think self-care is a worthwhile pursuit on the path to collective wellness. We are more able to collaborate for planetary solutions when we are in a healthy relationship with ourselves.

From my own personal experience in collaboration change agents, I certainly prefer working with people who have a decent relationship with themselves than those whose activism is sourced in misanthropy as a thin veil for their own self-loathing. 

Taking responsibility for our personal wellbeing is the first step, not the only step, toward planetary wellbeing. It can be confronting and our society certainly doesn’t have a lot in the way of role models for taking personal responsibility, much less collective responsibility. And, conversely, of course it’s easier to stay focused on ourselves than trying to make a difference in a world where being able to affect global issues like poverty and climate change seem futile.

Society is mad and messed up, and if we react from despair, what does that lead to? If we can get ourselves from reaction to response, responding with wisdom, it might create a new story, a new future. Easier said than done, I hear you say. But considering our reference point, and taking responsibility for what we bring to the collective table starts with loving ourselves. All of ourselves, including the part of us that has misanthropic tendencies and embracing our darkness/shadow/ego, so we can shine a light alongside those who curse the darkness.

This is also on my mind after reading Umair Haque’s Peace and Violence. If you read it, see my comment at the end.

Money – Moving Through Fear

The idea that we teach what we need to learn is a powerful one. There are those who teach what they know and that’s an important and valid choice. Yet I find myself compelled to teach what I’m learning. I value vulnerability and walking my talk so it’s no wonder that I found myself being vulnerable, opening up a shame filled topic, and teaching what I know, sharing what I’ve learned on my journey. Recognising the value in what I’ve learned along the way and the opportunity I have to help others on theirs, hoping they don’t need to go through the tough slog I did.

Yesterday I co-led a workshop called Money Tools For Conscious Entrepreneurs. Even just two years ago I’d be a very unlikely candidate to be doing this kind of thing. Sure, I’ve worked hard on letting go of my baggage around money but when I think of how far I’ve come, I still shake my head. One of the things I shared in the workshop about my own journey is that I remember taking a screenshot of each of my bank accounts (spending, saving and business) all having less than $10 in each. Today I regularly have 4 digits in each and sometimes my business account has 5. When I took that screenshot of how poor I was I knew it wasn’t going to stay that way and that I’d look back at it when things were different and remember how far I’d come.

From the Workshop Presentation

From the Workshop Presentation

I had another one of those moments yesterday when we were looking at a demo company in Xero, at a profit and loss sheet and what I’d advise the company to do given what I could see in the months of income and expenditures. When I finished speaking, I had a little epiphany. I realised just how much I’d learned in the past year from working with my accountant (that I was running the workshop with) that I could interpret and advise, at least to a limited extent, just from looking at a profit and loss statement!

At the end of the day I checked in with myself about how I was feeling. I was aware that I still have shame around talking about my success as well as my history with money. I anticipated judgement or at least the potential for being judged. Although my story can inspire others who feel like they are crap with money to turn things around, I still have a background concern that people will think less of me for not living up to a standard or being too open about my own history.

It had me thinking about my work and who I am. Yesterday I delivered the workshop from my edge. I wasn’t wholly in my comfort zone. Despite years of facilitation experience, which certainly helped, I felt anxious about sharing my story and offering burgeoning expertise about something I haven’t known about for very long. Who am I to run a workshop on Money? From so many angles it seems ridiculous!

What I do know is about my own journey and I know about mindset shifting and that was the part I was bringing to the workshop, but I surprised myself at how much I had to contribute to the accounting stuff as well. Initially I expected that Bronwyn would be doing that, more or less on her own.

In the past year, I have come a long way. If I can do it, anyone can! When I think of all the people I know struggling to make ends meet, unaware or perhaps marginally aware of their own money blocks, I can only imagine what they could accomplish if a) they moved through those blocks, and b) learned how to manage their business finances.

The work Bronwyn and I did yesterday takes one small step toward enabling this vision. I imagine thousands of hippie millionaires creating subtle shifts as we move mountains. If there were more people with hippie-like values with more money, can you imagine how the world would change? I imagine people buying up land for conservation, protecting wildlife habitat, funding education for women and girls, creating paradigm shifts in social spending and political priorities. This is one of the reasons I want to help people learn about how to manage business finances and empower people to make a difference in the world by working for themselves, earning a great living doing what they love.

Day 12 : Mothering myself

Note to Self: Airplane mode on the mobile doesn’t mean the land line won’t ring during meditation. And doesn’t guarantee the saw used in the renos next door won’t add to the challenge of focusing during meditation. And just because a meditation doesn’t have peaceful circumstances, doesn’t mean you won’t have a sweet self loving mental embrace at the end of your meditation. Keep it up regardless of the circumstances.

Yesterday I noticed myself feeling a bit unsettled as I prepared to head out for the evening. It felt a bit like my body was trying to tell me something. I paused for a moment to check in with myself. It didn’t result in anything that helped me understand where the feeling was coming from or what to pay attention to in the time I gave it.

I noticed it come up again when I was looking out for my friend at the event we were going to. A bit of anxiousness, she’d never been there before, she isn’t from here, all the things that contribute to a mild worry. She arrived and it was all good.

When I was on my way home this feeling brought to mind a technique a friend told me about years ago. It was the kind of thing that struck me so intensely that I can still remember where I was when he told me. We were talking about dealing with being upset or having emotions that may respond well to being nurtured.mother child haring

It’s a simple self soothing technique that I have used a fair bit since then, and want to share it with you. It also feels timely given what’s happening astrologically, based on what I heard in Tom Lesher’s recent report. Emotions are expected to be a bit intense this week.

So here’s the thing, it’s very simple, the trick is to be mindful of it when you’re feeling upset. Imagine yourself being held by a mother figure, if your own mother doesn’t do it for you, imagine a universal mother, or the mother aspect of yourself. Conjure any maternal type entity that you can imagine is unconditionally loving and know that her sole purpose in this moment is to hold the space for you to feel what you’re feeling and be loving and nurturing. Imagine being small and held gently and securely in her arms. Imagine receiving the love and care from this being or aspect of yourself and just allow yourself to be with what you feel, that you have permission to simply be exactly how you are in this moment. Give yourself to this fully and when it feels time or occurs naturally, allow it to pass and know that everything is ok. You’re ok, the world is ok and you have nothing to worry about in this moment. Savor it!

Simple, yes. I didn’t say it was easy. When you’re in the thick of an emotional upset this may be the furthest thing from what you can imagine. It may help to go through the process in your mind a few times when you’re not upset and give some neural pathways a chance to form, so there is a better chance of having it come to mind when you are wanting to self soothe in a healthy way. Chocolate, alcohol, tobacco, being busy, retail therapy, these have all been what I’d turn to in the past, and some, I still use on occasion. But thankfully this technique is increasingly useful to me the more I use it. It allows me to be self loving in the most amazing way.

Day Nine: Reflections & Accomplishments

Reflecting on the last week I feel like the self love challenge has been simultaneously integrated and put to the side. I’m thankful that my mind took it on and brought it immediately to my attention as soon as I woke up the first three days. And that the next few days, tho it didn’t come immediately, I did consciously think of it soon after waking. Sometimes it was when waking well before I got up, and even went back to sleep a few times. It feels like a subconscious part of me is being diligent with having “I love myself” present at least in the first part of the day.accomplishment-key

The other times it’s easy to practise the mantra is when I’m walking the dogs, or in the shower or the loo. And when things are going well. There are times when I haven’t been great, that it’s come to mind, but not generally. It’s only been a week and tho I have had some hard stuff to deal with I find that I am generally able to reside in the positive end of the spectrum. The negative self talk is not top of mind but it may well be there guiding me subconsciously toward the easy stuff rather than calling that potential client back now that she’s returned from holidays.

I’m thankful for having written this earlier in the day and now at the end of the day feeling differently about it again. And I called that client back and made some other progress that feels good to have accomplished. Tomorrow I’m going kiteboarding, a xmas gift from my partner. Very excited about that. Anticipating using muscles I haven’t used in a very long time and thinking of ways to be self loving. Doing more strenuous yoga and stretching tomorrow morning, water resistant sunscreen for being out on the water and some more stretching and yoga afterward, especially the day after. Yup, I’m not so bad at this self loving thing after all!

Day Seven: Shades of Green

Today began with some more diligence than the last few days of the self love challenge. The morning had many more moments of the “I love myself” mantra. After feeding the ducks and chooks I sat for a moment looking out at my back yard, the lush green of the fern tree, ripening fruit of the lemon tree, the nectarine tree in the background and the expanse of grass in between. I was present to gratitude, and then the mantra kicked in. I sat there for several minutes simply staring at the shades of green and reminding myself of my self love commitment and of how blessed I am!Shades of green

The meditation brought a range of experiences. I blended a few different things into it, deep breathing, inhaling self love and letting go of anything else, grounding myself and connecting earth to sky through my body, and getting up to let the dog in. That’s not normally part of my meditation, this time I considered having her barking to be let in for the second half of my meditation or interrupting my relaxed state to have less interruption for the rest of it. I decided that interrupting my meditation was self loving. Thankfully I was able to get back into it and felt glad I did it, in it’s imperfect perfection!

Despite this new diligence, I noticed that I’ve got a fair bit of that ‘if i was loving my self I would…’ stuff going on. And that’s ok. It isn’t wrong or right, it just is. Accepting it takes the power out of it. When I resist it or scold myself for doing that again, it takes on the energy of my resistance. As I write this I’m aware that it feels like a while since I’ve really been down on myself for being conditionally loving of myself (or others). Feels like progress!

Day Four: Don’t go there girlfriend!

As my “I love myself” mantra became a bit sing-song like today a few other things came up. A memory of doing a process with a coach by phone that was about improving my relationship with myself. This was quite a few years ago. I was imagining receiving love from myself. In my mind a figure (an aspect of myself that felt quite masculine) was behind me, putting their arms around me. At first it was ok, in fact if felt quite nice, then the activity became more intimate, tho not sexual (simply my imagination exploring what it meant to love myself) and I reacted. I felt blocked and closed. I was shocked that my own mind could be so resistant to imagining loving myself.

When this memory came to mind I had a sense that the process was being witnessed by a dirty old man of sorts. The energy wasn’t aggressive, simply observing with a sense of control and entitlement. Tho this entity felt separate from me, I recognise it as part of myself. A mental representation of the suppression of self love, intimacy and sexuality by society that I have unconsciously bought into.

As I sang the “I love myself” mantra persistently in my head, I became aware of a belief that loving myself exposes me to a risk of some sort of danger so better to simply avoid it. I’m aware that this is a powerful belief that has stopped me from exploring my relationship with myself despite all of the personal growth work I’ve done. Feels hard to believe! But it’s a real ‘Don’t go there girlfriend!’ kind of feeling. Of course I’m not going to let that stop me from loving myself, and anticipate that this is one of many barriers I will encounter in this journey.

Some victories to share:

For the third morning in a row, I’ve woken up and immediately begun the mantra unprompted other than it coming to mind. I feel proud of my mind’s commitment to this process. It really doesn’t feel conscious. It’s like a gift from my mind bringing it diligently to the surface. At least so far!

Along Merlynston CreekWhen I was walking my dogs, present to the mantra in my head, I started to feel it. Really feeling the love I have for myself, feeling worthy of it (at least for a moment) and aware of the joy of my existence. It helped that I was at the creek, one of my favourite places to be.

In reading some of the other blog posts I saw a line about ‘my self loving act for the day’ and thought, wow, just one!?! It helped me see that I’ve been making a lot of choices that are self loving and quite pleased with myself for it! There’s still a bit of “If I loved myself I would…” but for the most part it’s flowing nicely.

For the first time in years I’m spending time putting lotion of my feet! It feels like I’m more aware of what my body wants or at least what would be the action to take to honour my body. Feels good!

Day Three: Onions

For the second day, as soon as I woke up, I started the “I love myself” mantra. I was sleepy and wasn’t feeling it so much but at least I was doing it. I’ve given myself permission to repeat it in my head without really feel it, better to get into the habit of just doing it and bring feeling in when it’s present and real.

Tho, as much as I’ve not been a fan in the past, I do think there’s something to be said for “fake it till you make it”. Yesterday my housemate told me she was moving out. We’ve lived together for nearly three years, and she’s a big part of my life, she feels very much like a sister. I understand why she’s leaving but there’s some grief for me. Soon after, making dinner, I was chopping onion.sad onion Tears came, and tho it was onion induced, I actually felt real sadness. Chopping the onion helped me connect to the sadness I hadn’t allowed myself to feel, by inducing the tears. I recommend it, if you’re not releasing the tears you know are there, chop some onions!

The other thing I noticed yesterday is that it’s really easy to do this self loving thing when I’m on my own. And I do enjoy spending time on my own. However, when I’m with someone else, my focus is there, not on the “I love myself” mantra. And maybe that’s ok too.

Also see this post on the Love Warrior Community Blog Challenge Site

Day Two: Unconditional and Vulnerable

After my luxurious bath last night I was so keen to get a blog post done that by the end of writing it i was aware of how dry my skin was. I went to put on some moisturiser, especially on my feet.foot-reflexology-massage Practised the “I love you” mantra and found that resistance I was expecting. It felt a bit contrived, and got a bit of ‘yeah whatev’ going on. I didn’t let my inner cynic deter me. I moisturised my skin and even gave my sore limbs an extra rub, amplifying the self love.

As I write, I’m very present to how much of a wank this feels like. That part of myself that subscribes to the default self loathing mentality is really strong right now, it’s not interested in how I noticed that I was scrimping a bit with the lotion and overcame the scarcity crap, using more where I’d normally finish up with ‘good enough’ and not really honour myself. It really doesn’t give a shit about realising how much I gloss over taking really good care of myself, how much I cut corners and find other priorities, other than loving myself. So make sure you don’t read any more so that part of myself can feel powerful and have some control over how much I divulge and how much light I cast on this shadow.

The other thing that occurs to me is to love that part of myself too. Hmm. How do I love a part of myself that is presenting me with barriers to self love or at least to sharing it here? Of course there’s a message, something to learn, a gift from this part of myself to become known. It’s there for a reason. Probably wants to protect me from some pain or prevent risky behaviour. Of course! That’s it. Doesn’t want me to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is risky. Risks exposure, being seen as weak, wants to protect me from showing that part of myself that ain’t so capable and composed. There is a lot of my identity that is caught up in being seen as competent.  Over-compensation for something, I’m sure.

Today I woke up with a positive regard toward myself and this challenge. I wondered what I’d do if I loved myself, I might be more diligent with self care stuff, like washing my face, using cleanser, I even found myself combing my hair. Not something I usually do when the only thing on the morning’s agenda is walking the dogs. I usually just put on a hat. It felt natural to do these nice things for myself. I was pleased that I was doing all the good things, felt really present doing yoga and in my meditation did what the book suggested, breathing in “I love myself” and breathing out anything else. At first it felt fine, simple, light. Then some cynicism poked through. Boring and pointless, yup. Thought again about loving that part of myself and then got distracted.

As I went through my day, I noticed more “If I loved myself” stuff. To the point where it became conditional. I could love myself if I did the right things, that massive list of things I could do if I had/made time or if I loved myself enough. Then a new challenge emerged. Love myself unconditionally! Love the part of me that is a bit of a task master, the perfectionist. That old chestnut. This one might take a bit. It might take some diligence and commitment. I guess that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?!!?

One resolution: Self Love

It’s January first, day one of 2014. My Facebook feed is full of well wishes, reflections and intentions for the new year. The one that really struck me was from Louise Hay; “What if the only resolution you made was to love yourself more?” What a novel idea! Because what it all comes back to is love and loving myself has been a bit of a theme lately. Plus it’s something that came up strongly in the coaching group I did last year. In the end, most of the goals set by the participants came back to self love. And in applying some of this stuff to myself I was shocked to discover that I’d been taking myself for granted and assumed my relationship with myself was pretty good when in fact there was some work to do! heart lights blue

The contrast that emerged from the practice of simply regarding myself with kindness and fondness was a bit disturbing. The discomfort I felt in being loving toward myself was almost embarrassing. I thought I’d dealt with this stuff, I’ve done SO much personal development, surely I didn’t need to work on this too! Clearly some blind spots here to explore.

The post about the single self love resolution struck a chord and several people adopted the idea and shared the post. A friend posted a link to a book in the comments. “Love yourself like you life depends on it” The cover image had a silhouette of a person with a gun to their own head and a red heart in the chest. Not an image i felt drawn to but the concept appealed and I looked it up. It’s a fairly short book and less than $5 on amazon.com so I started reading it. The concept is very simple but powerful, as most powerful ideas are! So I’m taking it on. Loving myself as a practise.

I started to explore a few things and also found this 31 Day Self Love writing challenge, so I’m taking that up too. (This is day one.) I have already started to incorporate the “I love myself” mantra and doing things that are self loving. So far I haven’t experienced the resistance I anticipated.

I had a bath tonight, as an act of self love, luxuriated with some honeysuckle bath gel. It was nice, simple. Might not always be so simple as the year gets busier. I don’t expect this Self Love journey to be an easy one but it feels important, worthwhile and compelling. Buckle up babes, we’re going for a ride!