All about Self Love
When you look in the mirror, do you focus on the things you don't like about yourself? When you make a mistake do you strongly criticise yourself? Do you feel that loving yourself is difficult because, You are not "good enough"?
Self Love is not a commonly discussed topic, we are not taught about it in childhood and its not a part of school curriculum either. Self love is perceived as selfish and often misunderstood as feeling good about yourself when you "achieve" something or liking yourself when you "look good" (based on our individual definition of what good means to us in our heads). Over the years of studying and sharing Yoga in Singapore, Europe and India, I have met many people who struggle with loving themselves as much as they love their near and dear ones for various reasons. Just as you can't give something that you do not have, how can you love someone without loving yourself? Many men and women, keep doing things for people around them over and over again without even checking with themselves 'How am I feeling today' ?
While self love isn't about being narcissistic (I, me and myself) its about being loving, kind and accepting towards ourself.
Loving ourselves is one of the most difficult things to do for various reasons, may be because we do not schedule an appointment with ourself to understand our own needs and requirements, also because we hear the self critical voices in our heads, we know what makes us impatient , what triggers anger and at times not liking our own self. Sometimes its the external duties and appointments that keep us busy and at times the perceptions of reservations hold us back from accepting and loving ourself.
Self love begins with accepting yourself and leads you to a place of empowering fulfilment which stays with you like that favourite memory of yours. You also gradually stop seeking for approval and acceptance, externally. For many many years I have struggled with being ok the way I am, accepting myself and working on my progress points from a place of compassion. It was during my first Yoga Teacher's Training that I realised that being socially ok does not necessarily equate to personally being ok with yourself.
From Self criticism to Self compassion
Criticism is the expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes. It is a form of violence done using the weapon of words. To criticise there often has to be an idea of something or someone better out there. It can be an idea of what that better or perfect could be or someone whom we perceive as best. Criticism is also often thought as a "tool" to motivate, meaning if you criticise yourself or those near and dear ones whom you want to progress/improve, then there is an underlying thinking that criticising them can act as an motivator. Generally moms do these when it comes to their kids. While it's absolutely understandable to have individual progress points in our journey, its also important to be aware that criticism isn't the best motivator.
Instead of criticism, what if compassion is put to practice? Criticism, mainly towards the self and loved ones, leads to feeling bad , "i am not good enough" and it takes one to a state of feeling disempowered. If we are mindful then compassion can help us to take action from a place where we don't feel disempowered but have enough strength to collect ourself and take action in an empowered way. Take action from where we are less judgemental and more accepting of ourself. Fortunately, self-compassion can be learned. It is a practice that can help us become less self-critical and, by preventing the stress and turmoil thereof, allow us to work on our goals/ progress points in a balanced fulfilled manner.
Below is the Yogic tool kit guide that can come handy when you feel low or observe that you are being your best towards yourself.
Some of the Yama Niyama (moral observance and disclipline)
Ahimsa: Non Violence
Non Violence towards ourself can be practised by being mindful of our thoughts , our words and our actions towards ourself. It can be practised by observing the quality of our self talk and by being mindful of the quality of our emotions. Psychological discomfort often gets translated to emotional eating. Emotional eating is using food as a means to make yourself feel better. It's eating to satisfy emotional needs rather than to satisfy physical hunger.
Being completely honest with yourself about your thoughts and feelings. Every morning checking with yourself how am i feeling today? and trying to practice complete acceptance to the response received.
Asteya : Non Stealing
Here stealing does not mean stealing something physically. The idea of wanting to have something that the other has creates a feeling of lack within us. This subtle comparison leads to jealousy creating a divide between me and the other. As the adage goes, comparison is the killer of joy.
Kristin Neff, associate professor of Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas and pioneer of research on self-compassion, has shown that when our self-worth depends on out-competing others, we actually become more insecure and anxious: if we fail, we become highly self-critical, adding to our misery. Faced with criticism, we become defensive and feel crushed. We give up in the face of challenge. Moreover, competition fosters disconnection: rather than building social connection which research shows is essential to well-being, we view others as obstacles to overcome and we ultimately feel more separate from others. The primary goal of our desire for success is to be successful, to belong, and to be loved yet ironically self-criticism and competition end up having the reverse effect.
From yogic philosophy standpoint, Adi Shankara, 8th century philosopher and theologian whose Advaita (non-duality) philosophy recognises the unity in multiplicity, states the in essence we all have same consciousness and based on this he mentions that there is no duality, there is no other, we all are essence-tially same. So the next time if you catch yourself comparing yourself to the other, why not plant a seed of asteya and find comfort in our own self?
Santosha : Contentment
A person who lacks contentment will often be engaged in the "when i have ________ this , then i will be happy". Finding contentment in times of adversity can act as a stop loss mechanism preventing you from further deepening your anxiety. Its also a profound way to cultivate positive attitude. When you feel positive will you criticise yourself then?
Just as love is not about sculpting the other person based on our own ideas of perfection, you don't have to be perfect to start loving yourself. Authentically operating from a place of compassion will elevate and uplift your energies positively impacting you and your loved ones around you. Want to try?
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