How to Access the Power of Self-Love
Do one easy thing a day in the quest to love yourself better
We often speak of love as a feeling — expressed as currency or a transactional energy between ourselves and another. Like something given and received.
Love shared in a relationship is one of the most important aspects of our human experience. We need each other. But with love comes risk. Love with another may or may not last. Anything that is transactional comes with a host of conditions. And the potential for disappointment and heartbreak is ever-present.
In the yearning to receive and hold onto a love that may be fleeting, we often forget that what we seek on the outside, also exists within. The longest — and, arguably, most important — relationship we’ll ever have is the one we have with ourselves.
As my teacher says, “If you want to meet your soulmate, take a look in the mirror.”
So how do we find the same love inside ourselves that we crave from others? It’ll take practice, every day.
Start by Reframing Self-Loathing
Sure, we can take bubble baths, go on a retreat, or have a spa day. These are great self-care practices, and we need these too. But they require time and resources. They feel good while they are happening, but they are short-term. And a short-term reward does not lend itself to long-term, unconditional love.
Devoting energy and time to access and nurture the pure, unconditional love that lives inside is not easy. The duties of life get in the way. Past hurt gets in the way. Fear of future loss gets in the way. Self-protection gets in the way. Self-loathing really gets in the way.
There’s a saying, The opposite of love is not hate… it’s indifference.
Let’s look at self-love and self-loathing as two sides of the same coin. Both require an intense amount of our energy and emotional attention. Both keep us “hooked” to whatever it is we are loving… or hating.
So during those inevitable moments of self-hatred, try to look at the feeling as love gone upside down. Flipped, from heads to tails.
To flip the coin back over to self-love, perhaps all we need is to not be indifferent. Maybe we just need to give a little more effort and attention to our needs.
Focus On Forming Good Habits
Habits — good and bad — are formed by repetition. Nerves that fire together, wire together. They form neural pathways that can either be beneficial routines, or detrimental ruts. These grooves get deeply ingrained in our internal systems. To form a new groove, a self-love groove, we can replace one harmful habit with a helpful one, repeated over time.
The yogis say it takes 40 days to create a new habit or to shake an old one. Modern neuroscience suggests 66 days. Addiction specialists use a 21-day model. But it all starts the same way — with one actionable item a day.
One action a day to both de- and re-pattern not only a habit, but who we are.
Small, daily habits repeated over time.
Practice Self-Love Actions — Daily
I find it most useful to use some part of my daily life habit and turn it into a self-loving action. I practice only one at a time, every day, for a month.
Try these out — or create your own!
- Make a mirror mantra. Write words of affirmation on the bathroom mirror in your home. Read and repeat several times while you wash your face, put on makeup, or brush your teeth. My favorite is the Hawaiian prayer Ho’oponopono: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”
- Mindfully fold laundry. When you fold your laundry, do it fully present. Remember a time you wore that particular article of clothing. Recall who you were with, what the weather was, or what you were doing. Or find something to love about it (its texture, color, function, etc.). As you fold, infuse it with the memory of love or appreciation or gratitude. The next time you wear it, you’ll be embracing that love.
- Moisturize your hardworking hands and feet. Touch — from anyone, even yourself — releases oxytocin, the love hormone. The brain does not know if touch is coming from you, or someone else. So, as you moisturize your tired hands and feet, do so with a soft, loving touch. Remember all the beautiful things your hands have held that day, and all the places your feet have stepped.
- Give yourself two minutes of comfort time. Set an alarm for two minutes at a “low” point of your day. Spend that time in a place that gives you comfort: petting the cat, on the couch sipping coffee, watering a plant, stretching on the floor. For two minutes, be focused on that one calming task, and breathe.
- Give yourself a gift — literally. Spend time with things you already own and love (a gift received in the past from someone you love, something passed down from a relative, or things you haven’t worn or used in a while) and re-gift to yourself. Wrap up each item and add a note. Reminding yourself what you love about it can give you that same happiness as the very first time you received it. Also, when you shop online, always have it gift-wrapped — even if it’s toilet paper.
This essay is a written adaptation of a more explorative and collaborative Self-Love As Action workshop that Sherry Sidoti teaches globally. Find Sherry on Instagram @sherrysidoti