When I see themes repeating in my life, I’ve realized I better pay attention. I’m not kidding, sometimes I’ll notice that certain concepts or ideas won’t go away. They come up over and over. Such is the case with self-love. I thought I was dialing into it, but perhaps no.
Last week I went to a monthly Soul Gathering at the studio of my nutritional coach’s teacher. I think I’ve written about these gatherings before, but a group of women (and a couple token men) gather listen to insight into certain topics and then engage in supporting activities. This month was on self-love. When I saw the topic, I thought – game on, I’m in. I went with a friend who I met at the first gathering I went to and who I just love. You see, we both see the same nutritional coach, Lauren, and Lauren’s approach is to look at the why, the inner stuff, behind why we eat, why we struggle with body image and, of course, partnering with that is self-love. Fun topics, right? My friend and I are similarly situated in that regard. We struggle with maintaining positive body image, and we agreed on the ride over it would be an interesting, helpful evening.
We did three activities that night – we sent love to another, we brought in love from God to ourselves and then sent it out to others in the room, and we had to go around the room and say 3 things we love about ourselves. Whoa, whoa, whoa…internally trying to do that was hard enough and now you want me to say it out loud? Come on now, big ask…big, BIG, ask.
But the first person began, and my turn was rapidly approaching. One person said they loved their body. I looked at my friend and nearly without words we agreed those would not be the words coming out of our mouths. Closer…ok, my turn. Deep breath. I said my three things, and even got a little vulnerable, talking about how my love of my children and who they are as young men has caused me to love them even more strongly and to have a stronger heart for truly seeing and loving other people. That was an important one for me.
In hindsight, I can see that I talked more about outward facing parts of myself than internal ones. That’s still a journey. I left the gathering that night feeling settled though. Confident and strong in loving parts of me, and really thinking about God’s love.
I was describing the group to a friend and her comment was, “have you ever thought that not loving yourself is an insult to God? That he made you just as you are and by not loving yourself you’re saying that’s not good enough?” Well snap. That’s an in your face way to drive it home. The second greatest commandment in the Bible is to Love your neighbor as yourself. If you don’t love yourself, and to clarify – it’s not in an arrogant, “I’m all that and a bag of chips”, way, it’s loving and accepting yourself, valuing and using the gifts you’ve been given way – how can you truly love others well.
The next morning, I tried self-affirmations, “I love you,” even adding my name because I was feeling confident. Get real, Lisa. It fell a little short. But I tried, I sat in the discomfort of saying it, alone, in my room. We must sit in it, the discomfort. Life isn’t necessarily comfortable. Loving yourself, loving others, not always comfortable. Learning to stay in it – despite the discomfort, that’s where love can grow. We often look to change others or our circumstances to lessen our discomfort instead of recognizing it and dealing with our own inner stuff (ok, deal with our own crap) that causes it.
Being authentic, loving ourselves, it’s loving all the parts, even those that cause discomfort. It’s not looking externally to either affirm who we are and why we should be loved, or to change the conditions causing discomfort. It comes back to looking at life, at you, at me, through the lens of love. That’s brave.
You may already be rockin’ the self-love thing, and that’s awesome. If you’re like me and still taking it day by day, moment by moment, try this. Today, just for one minute, 60 seconds, close your eyes, put your hand on your heart and say out loud (or in your head…honestly doesn’t that count? I say YES), “I love you.” Put it on your repeat play list for those 60 seconds. And then, think of someone in your life and send it out to them. You can say, “God bless____,” or simply think of sending love to that person. It may feel uncomfortable to you but do it, be brave. It’s part of growth and its part of the journey we’re all taking together.