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feels like something worth acting on at the moment, considering this is my first blog this year and I have a lot of unpublished work that has been victim to my doona dive.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.

Day 31!!!! Self love challenge complete!

It’s the final day of the blog component of the self love challenge. The practices will continue for who knows how long! For as long as it seems useful. Although I am noticing subtle shifts, it feels like a long way to go to significantly improve my relationship with myself, impact my self worth and alter my day to day existence.

I have really enjoyed this challenge, especially writing every day. Although this is my heart-mesecond blog challenge, this is the first one that was self initiated and one I felt I fully owned. I certainly have experienced a shift in how I relate to my blog, including more personal experiences and events. I’ve been reluctant to bring that into a public space but from the feedback I’ve had, it’s mostly people I know reading this anyway. I’m not yet at the stage where people not known to me are reading my blog and keeping my distance isn’t going to change that.

Today I got my hair cut. A few hours later after accomplishing a big task I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and felt very appreciative and delighted! Interesting that I find it easier to be self loving in the mirror when I have short hair. I was saying to the hairdresser that when it gets too long I stop recognising myself as an expression of how I feel. I get a lot of people saying they like my hair when it gets longer, I really don’t like it at all! It just doesn’t feel like me.

So on this last day it feels appropriate to share some of the key things I have learned.

  • Some meditation is better than no meditation.
  • I know I’m doing well when I do several of my practices. Yoga is a given, plus meditation, plus writing or mirror work, reading etc. The more of these I do, the higher the indication that I’m in a good space.
  • Conversations with others help me see things I can’t see on my own, put things into perspective and illuminate progress.
  • Repeating the “I love myself” mantra is a practice that is worth sticking with, and staying present for. The longer I do it, the closer I get to actually experiencing self generated self love.
  • When the self love practice becomes reality in the moment, it feels sweet, nurturing and like I’m getting a really nice hug. This is something to cultivate.
  • I’ve come a long way and I have a long way to go!

Thanks for all your support. Your comments really make a difference, even on past posts. Feel free to read the others if you haven’t and let me know what you think, what difference it makes to you. With deep gratitude for your attention and support!

Day 30: Standing tall

I’ve been watching videos of when I was a baby. I’ve seen them before but not for at least 10 years. My mom sent them to me on DVD from Canada. Lots of me learning to walk. I look a bit like a zombie with my arms out.

A metaphor emerged from watching the film. As I fell down and got back up, there was always someone to help, my parents, my aunt, my cousin.  Sometimes I’d get back up on my own, sometimes I’d wait and look around for someone to help me up. When I was all bundled up in snow gear, I would make a bit of a game out of falling back down after being propped up. I even did a faceplant in the snow and didn’t seem to be too fussed.Jacket_Picture

It had me thinking about my life now, especially my entrepreneurial ventures. It’s all about standing up and falling down and getting back up again. What I learned from watching myself as a toddler was that help is never far away. I can use it or not, and when it’s not as easy to get back up, it’s a really good idea to let someone help me. I am getting better at this and I think it will be a theme this year, collaborating with people and being more open to the contributions of those around me. And even seeking out the support that will get me standing tall.

In conversation with a client today, I asked about what she could do to transition out of being disempowered. I loved her answer, “Straighten my back.” Just yesterday I was reaping the benefit of that, how a simple posture shift can alter one’s experience. What a remarkable gift our body is. Feeling grateful and self-loved up!

Day 29: Back at it

Back on track, yoga with “I love myself” mantra, meditation, mirror work (ok a loving glimpse!) and the mantra much more present in my mind in the last 24 hours. I was a bit surprised to go a whole day without it yesterday! I’ve been in service mode, with a friend staying with me because she’s unwell. I actually quite enjoy being of service, it feels purposeful, tho at times I lose myself and my practices!

After some co-working via skype I was wiped and went down for a rest. Could have stayed but after what felt like a couple of hours, I got up and started cleaning the kitchen and prepared some food for my guest. As soon as I started into it my tiredness loosened it’s grip, and a sense of purpose felt quite strong. self-love2

In my meditation I noticed a lot of oscillation from warm fuzzy self love to neutral numbness, almost mindlessly repeating the mantra, and then more sweetness and self nurturing feelings. I think the resistance was just under the surface of the neutrality and greater focus could have brought more of the warm fuzzy. Being present was also an issue. My mind is SO all over the place, it starts writing this blog post, thinking about today’s conversations, what’s on for tomorrow, what else I could be doing….. and then reminding myself to be present and adding “& I’m present” to the mantra!

I noticed as I became present to my body that I was hunched over. I straightened up and was brought back to the experience of improving my posture in the early part of the meditation when I was filling my body with light. And the same experience came to mind, erect posture brings light filled body. Yes, more of that please!

I have two days left of this blog challenge. I’m really quite pleased with myself and anticipate continuing the practices for a while yet, tho I may not write about them daily. You’re welcome to check in with me and ask how it’s going, that would be a great way to support me to keep it up! Thanks in advance for being on this journey with me. Your comments and likes have made a huge difference to me!

Day 24: Worth it?

I’m impressed that I’ve made it to day 24! Woo hoooo! Celebration! I even meditated for the second day in a row this morning. Not a great quality meditation but gives me more incentive to keep going and do another one tomorrow. I’ll do it after a dog walk, today it was raining so the girls were itching for a walk but sat with me while I meditated, not so subtly dropping hints for attention.

Just before I went to sleep I saw that I’d been tagged in a facebook post, it was a discussion about questioning the anti-wealth sentiment in our society. One of the things I’ve noticed and uncovered in myself is tied up in my fear of becoming wealthy (that sits beside my desire to earn a lot of money, and grief about not earning as much working for myself as working for ‘tha man’) is about my relationship with myself especially worthiness. Brene Brown talks a lot about this in The Gifts of Imperfection.self-worth-matters-300x220

It’s one of the motivators for me to do this self love challenge, to improve my relationship with myself, which you’d think would have a positive effect on my self worth. When my self worth has improved, ideally that will help me shift out of the rut I’ve been in about earning money. The transition from employee to entrepreneur has been a rocky one for me.

I have an infinite amount of motivators to earn more money, yet it feels like there’s a glass wall that I keep hurling myself at. With this challenge, I’m stepping back to see if there’s another way to remove the wall, to enable me do things like get a new hot water system and fix a growing list of things around my house. Not to mention paying the mortgage and not having to worry about what happens when my old dogs need more vet care. And on a grander scale, I envision being a philanthropist, supporting some of the great initiatives that are making a difference and advancing our society toward a more enlightened existence.

As I begin to love myself more, will I free myself up and value myself more so that I attract what I’m worth? I don’t know. I can only guess and do what I think will hit the mark. I’ve done all sorts of things that seem like a good idea, that might dismantle the wall and provide some new tools or clearer direction for getting me where I’m going. I know I’m capable of greatness, I help my clients uncover theirs all the time, just can’t do it for myself. I’ve had some great coaches too and still it feels like something is missing. I’d much rather write about what I’ve accomplished and how well I’m doing but it feels important to be real as well. Watch this space, I know I’m on the precipice of something big!

Day 23: Unconditioning

It’s baby day. We have had the pleasure of spending time with two different friends that both have kids under two. Both are very environmentally conscious moms using cloth nappies and parenting according to what they believe is right in combination with the research they’ve done, not just what they learned by default from their own parents. I really appreciate that. How else are we going to progress our conditioning from bad to slightly less bad?

One of the moms was saying ‘yes’ to her child a fair bit. She explained that she was aware of how much kids hear the word ‘no’ and for many it’s one of the first words they learn. Sure, they’re differentiating themselves, learning boundaries and asserting their power. All of that is really important but perhaps there’s a balance to be struck. Learning to love ourselves includes saying no and having clear boundaries AND it’s also about saying yes, yes to ourselves, yes to receiving love and contribution from others and saying yes to life.

We learn to limit ourselves so quickly. We are conditioned to respond to limitation and curtail our expression from a very young age. Our parents thought they were teaching us how to safely and respectfully be in the world, to fit in, to behave appropriately. We also learned that we can’t have what we want, can’t express our desires and of course many of babyTus interpret it ever further to believe we can’t be who we are. So how the hell are we supposed to be authentic. What does that even mean? We are conditioned to move so far away from the essence of who we are that we spend the rest of our lives trying to find out who we are at our core, the long process of rediscovering ourselves, letting go of conditioning, baggage and false notions of who we think the world wants us to be.

Perhaps this is the human journey, perhaps it is what we are here to learn. To forget who we are and rediscover ourselves. What would it be like if we didn’t forget? Who would we be if we didn’t have to spend so much time rediscovering ourselves? Imagine what we could achieve if all (or even some) of that was out of the way and we were encouraged from birth to fully step into our authentic selves, valued for the unique, wild, wonderful and exquisite beings that we are! Would it be chaos? Would it be a harmonious existence that enabled the development of new ways of being on earth that was starkly different from the existence we have now? What would the planet look like?

I wonder if we would grow up loving ourselves and not have to spend time learning how to do that as an adult. Can you imagine?

Day 22: All of the things!

I’ve just read back through most of the blog posts I’ve written since I started this Self Love Challenge. Lots of intention, allowing it to emerge and flow, wishing I were more diligent as well as accepting what is and letting the learning take me in all the different directions that this journey offers. The darkness, the light, the supportive subconscious waking prompts, the self sabotage. All of the things!splicing_tree_illustrator_03_vector_181907

Perhaps the next exploration to open to is about what the parts of me that aren’t so keen have to offer. What is the message, the gift in the snarky self sabotaging aspect of myself? What modesty can be gained by heeding the call of the discomfort of looking in the mirror with admiration? What will come of practicing the mirror work more often, will I befriend my modest self or cast her aside and become arrogant and conceited?

Today I have been feeling tired. I thought if I put some music on and got a bit active it would help. It did for a bit, it warmed me up at least and the other thing that came of it was including the “I love myself” mantra as part of the exercise. I’m liking these spontaneously emerging practices to integrate self loving activity and the mantra. Yay me!

What practices do you have in your toolbox that started as a spontaneous happenings?

Day 21 : What I’ve learned after 3 weeks

It’s been three weeks since I started this Self Love Challenge. Every day is a new day of learning. Here are some of the things I’m present to at the moment:

  • The different parts of me are becoming more apparent as I continue to embark on this journey, some want to sabotage my efforts and others connect me to the essence of who I am.
  • Working with these parts is a continual journey and there is always something to learn from them each time they surface.
  • Even when it feels like I could always do more, the fact that I’ve stuck with it this far is worth celebrating!
  • Making the practices my own, such as connecting the mantra to the steps I take on my walks, is an important way to personalise and sustain the process.
  • Being honest about when things are hard is self loving.
  • There is a lot of space to take this process deeper and there is plenty of time to do that, it doesn’t end when January ends.
  • Mastering self love is a life long learning.

Day 20: Self Aspects and Mirror Work

I’ve noticed some things about what happens when I use the “I love myself” mantra. Sometimes a voice in my head gets really snarky. Or when I do something self loving and make a mental note of it, the inner critic can have a response that is not very nice at all! If I keep going, which I usually do, if I don’t get distracted of course, another voice emerges.

Eventually, if I stick with it long enough, and sometimes that’s only 30 seconds or so, the
Kitten Mirror Lion
part of me that believes I love myself responds with sweetness. It feels loving and nurturing, agreeing with the mantra, and helping me connect to the self loving aspect of myself. It feels like the essence of who I am shining through all the crap the other aspects of myself tend to hide or keep me from accessing without some real focused intention.

I also did a bit of mirror work today. After imagining doing it a few times over the last few days, actually doing it was far easier. Didn’t feel confronted at all this time. It was more like, “yeah I really do, it’s not just a contrived thing.” It’d be pretty easy to ride this one into complacency, I know that keeping that going is important.

In many ways it’s not so much about what I see in the mirror but how I regard what I see and how I relate to the person looking back at me. I have had a few instances in my life where I had a striking experience of recognising the person I see in the mirror. It’s only happened a handful of times but each time it felt incredible. It was like I had an amplified awareness of who I am, self recognition in a way that defies who we think we are.

Day 16: Day Three of 40+ heatwave and self love

It’s the third day in a row of temperatures above 40 degree heat. It makes everything feel more intense. heatwave

I’ve been dealing with the heat, plus a few things that inspire some upset. I resort to keeping busy to keep my feelings at bay. When I noticed sadness coming to the surface I shared it with my business partner who gave me the space to honour the feelings. How I appreciated that!

I remember seeing on Tom Lescher’s weekly Pele Report that this week would be a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Yup! The heat seems to amplify it, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. Perhaps I would have kept myself busier to deal with this grief.

I’m thinking about self love, selfishness, selflessness and being self-serving. Imagining them on different points along a spectrum, or perhaps as a constellation or in a venn diagram. I’m imagining self love being in the middle and selflessness being on one end with things like martyrdom and selfishness being on another end. Being self serving could be with selfishness or an offshoot of it. There seems to be a bit of a gray area between being self serving and being self loving. Another spectrum on creating a constellation or bubble in the venn diagram.

I remember a documentary called The Fix about drug addiction in Vancouver, the girlfriend of the main subject was portrayed as a bit of a martyr. It helped me see my own behaviour in the environmental and social justice activism I was dedicating my life to in a different light. I began to see that selflessness and selfishness can be two sides to the same coin. Sure, I cared about the Earth and all it’s inhabitants, but underneath I wanted to be right and for people to do what I thought they should do in line with my beliefs. Almost evangelical when I look at it now.

In my selfless and tireless work I burnt myself out, three times before I was 30. Not very self loving. My workaholism was martyrdom. Thankfully, my body delivered a different kind of wisdom by contracting pneumonia to get me to take care of myself and shake up my world. What was I serving? My desire to live by my principles or my self righteousness? I can see now that it was both. It doesn’t need to be one or the other.

As I explore this territory of self love the main feature that stands out is if I am nurtured by how I am being. Does it nurture me to water my fruit trees and care for my heat stressed animals? Of course, they are important to me. As long as I’m also taking care of myself, which I believe I am. It’s a nice change to be able to say that. Normally I look for what’s missing, what else I could do. Today I am happy with how well I have taken care of myself. Another thing the heat amplifies!