Hi M—Hey, can you just tell me, what does “loving yourself” mean? What does that look like? What does it FEEL like? Why do people say it like I’m already supposed to know how to do it??? If I’m bring truthful, it sounds impossible. I have no idea what “loving myself” would be like. HELP.
Hi friend! You know how sometimes big things can seem scary, just because they’re BIG?
Like a humpback whale, say. It’s enormous. It looks like it could swallow you whole. At first glance, you might find yourself thinking something like, “Hi, giant sea monster whale—please don’t eat me, I’m sure I’d be very stringy,” even though you’re not even in the same ocean, you’re just watching it swim through a nature documentary that your kids turned on.
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But when you investigate, it turns out that it the humpback whale doesn’t even want to eat you. It wants to eat a half ton of fish a day, but it really isn’t very interested in non-fish dinners. (At least according to the documentary.)
It’s still big. It’s still powerful. It’s just not as threatening as it seemed at first glance, you know?
This question is like that, I promise.
I mean, I get it. “LOVING YOURSELF” sounds wild and unreachable, like a cake floating on a cloud. Sure, it’s neat, but how do I even GET THERE? Right?
Okay, so here’s how.
What does LOVING YOU look like?
Love looks different depending on who you’re showing the love TO, yes? You love your dog differently than you love your nephew differently than you love your coworker differently than you love your partner.
This person feels loved when you tell her what you love about her. That person feels loved when you take the car to the carwash. This person feels loved if you give them a hug, that one feels loved if you give them their space. Everyone receives love differently.
So: what makes YOU feel loved? Do you need to hear loving words? Do you feel loved when someone does something special for you? Do gifts make you feel loved? Does love look like spending time with you? Or like physical affection?
(If you’re not sure, let me go super old-school on you and suggest The Five Love Languages—probably something somewhere in there will feel like love. It’s a start.)
Pick something that would feel like love to you, and then DO THAT THING FOR YOURSELF.
(I loved hearing Liz Gilbert’s thoughts on this on the Robcast, by the way—check it out for a similar take on this idea.)
This does two things. ONE, you feel loved because of the thing you did. And TWO, your amazing brain is so tricky that when you start DOING the loving action, you start FEELING more loving. Go brain!
Now, make it a habit
Maybe the thing you thought of was big and bold and out of the ordinary. (Taking a solo trip! Making yourself a gourmet meal! Booking that massage!) Cool. If you can do that, go for it!
And at the same time, I want you to think of a little tiny way that you can show yourself love every day.
Because I bet you show love to people in your life REGULARLY, all the time.
Maybe you hug and kiss your people when they leave? Say “I love you” at the end of a phone conversation? Bring them their coffee in the morning, or tell them about books you think they’d enjoy, or buy them new socks? Send text messages just to say, “Hey, I’m thinking about you. Love you. *kissy emoji*”?
That’s what we want to create for YOU, too. We want to add a habit of showing YOURSELF love into your day. What little everyday thing would make you feel loved? And how can you remember to do it every day? Start there.
(Keep planning the big fancy things too, if that works for you! But you can start with a little thing RIGHT NOW TODAY. Because you don’t need to wait or plan or save before you start loving yourself.)
So why aren’t you loving yourself ALREADY?
This is the question, right? If it’s so easy to show ourselves love and then to feel love for ourselves, why aren’t we all already DOING IT?
Well, maybe we haven’t thought of it, maybe we’re busy, etc., etc. Sure. MAYBE. But most of the time I think the real answer is this: we’re afraid we don’t really deserve it.
Maybe, somewhere along the way, you picked up the message that desire is bad, or that you weren’t supposed to trust yourself, or that listening to yourself is selfish. (It’s not selfish. Still not sure? Still not selfish.)
If that’s you—if those are the messages you’ve absorbed, and the truth you’ve been living with—quick question: do you really believe that?
Because I don’t. I believe you can trust yourself. I believe the still, small voice inside you is trying to call you back to the truth of who you are, not trying to lead you astray.
If you don’t believe those old messages, you don’t have to keep living with them.
Instead, try this:
Act AS IF you already believe you deserve it
Act as if you already believe you’re worthy of it, and then DO THE THING.
Do whatever it is that would make you feel loved. If you feel kinda weird about this at first, let yourself feel the feelings, and then DO IT ANYWAY.
Ask yourself what you would do if you ALREADY loved yourself well, and then DO THAT.
Because anything can become a habit—even loving yourself. And as you get into the habit of showing yourself love, guess what happens? You learn to be comfortable GIVING that love, and then you get comfortable GETTING that love, and then you start to FEEL more loving toward yourself.
That’s what we’re after. Because loving yourself IS big, and it absolutely IS powerful. But it’s not nearly as scary to figure out as a humpback whale. (And they turned out not to be very scary at all.)