A couple months back, I sent out a questionnaire asking for your biggest “trouble spots” in this wild and bumpy road called Life, and the areas in which you most want support. An astounding 57% of you said, “Relationship with my very own precious self – self-love and kindness.” So today, I share this template for a new day as part of a series of three bite-sized messages for ye seekers of self-love and kindness, with a related offer at the end.
The journey toward self-love begins with noticing the ways and the habits by which we have left ourselves. Left being our own allies, our own best friends, and instead, succumbed to the lure of the disapproving judge.
In any given moment, it’s helpful to ask: “Is it possible I am being – a bit or a ton – harsh with myself?”
Because we do it all the time – judge ourselves when we’re already struggling. Criticize ourselves for the way we responded in a difficult moment where we were caught off guard. Get down on ourselves for freezing and not having the perfect, graceful, connecting words on a moment’s notice. Harshing upon ourselves for not having the perfect career and spouse and polyamorous love life and 2.6 children and spiritual enlightenment with homemade guacamole in the fridge by, like, yesterday.
Oh yes, the self-harshing tirade is alluring.
On the one hand, our harshness is the cause of our deepest suffering. But on the other, it often serves as a brilliant way to protect ourselves.
Harsh on myself first – and no one else can get me.
Criticize myself endlessly – and no one can take me by surprise.
I’m already down, on my knees, certain as to what this feels like. No one can bring me down when I’m not looking.
Harshness, then, appears to be our friend. A friend that convinces us: “You *have* to be hard on yourself. This is what’s best for you. See yourself a bad, punishable, unworthy of kindness, and I will keep you safe.”
Inevitably, we look to our relationships and the world around us to verify this belief, and oh boy, does the universe provide.
An acquaintance's downward glance becomes proof that we are inadequate.
Our partners' brusk tone is proof that we are being chastised. A father's long silence comprises proof that, decades later, we are once again being sent to our rooms.
For this belief in our own badness and punishability lies at the root of so much of our suffering, keeping us from the gem of our own open-hearted curiosity, from the treasure of our own capacity to rest unconditionally, and not take things so dang personally.
Sometimes, noticing this belief is enough. We naturally are moved question it, and then to replace it with an alternative like: “This universe loves and supports me and wants me to treat myself kindly.”
And if that works for you, write that phrase in lipstick on your mirror, sing it to yourself in operatic tones, and dance it through your waking hours of the day.
Other times, however, a long-forgotten part of us needs a little internal bolstering.
The young one, the one who did get punished -- she needs holding, gentleness, soothing.
Self-love is finding her, and bringing her to our lap. Holding her, soothing her, singing lullabies to her and caressing her hair.
Self-love is breathing with her. Seeing her held. Letting her feel what it’s like inside.
Deep, long breaths. Inhales and exhales, feeling her precious body held and cherished and soothed.
Self-love is letting her, when she’s ready (and no rush!), hop up from our lap, and take a stroll through her magical version of a world without harshness, blame, or judgment. We let her little body squeal with delight at the softness and receptivity, the utter lack of harm.
We let this become her world, the one which she comes to know and trust, the one in which her body is freed again to become soft and squishy and open.
This is how love awakens inside of us. Bringing the young one back into this present moment. Feeling, in our big bodies, the felt belief in our love-and-support-ability, and the memory in our body of what it’s like to live from that place.
When we don these new glasses, a new world appears. Instead of the many enemies “out to get us,” we might see:
A friend struggling.
A partner beating themselves up.
A loved one hurting, pointing the finger outward, without the words to say, “Help me, I’m hurting.”
A beloved without the words to say, “I don’t want to threaten you. I want you nearby.”
Through the lens of self-mercy, we see others more clearly, for what they are – hurting people hurting people, fumbling about in this life, trying and failing and trying again to find the words that connect.
What if you don’t have to be hard on yourself?
What if this world loves and supports you and wants you to treat yourself kindly?
What if there’s no punishment awaiting you?
What if, rather, there are endlessly opening arms?
This the world I invite you (and all your younger iterations) to step into and to co-create with the rest of us fumbling humans. This is the world waiting to love you today.
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