Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

What does it mean to love yourself?

Love yourself I’ve struggled with the concept of self-love in the past. It seemed to me to be self-indulgent and even narcissistic. And, I thought, surely if you just decide to love yourself,  you’ll lose any motivation to develop or grow?

But lately, I’ve had some great conversations with people who have helped me to see the advice “love yourself” completely differently. I also signed up for a one month trial of EkhartYoga online classes (the best one euro I’ve spent this month – if you haven’t tried it, sign up now. It’s brilliant. Seriously.) and watched some thought-provoking talks about loving yourself.

What I’ve realised is that my discomfort around loving myself came from my misconceptions about what it meant.  My new understanding is that self-love means shifting your attitude towards yourself, dropping the negative self-talk and embracing all aspects of yourself – the light and the dark.

Here’s what self-love isn’t:

  1. It’s not self indulgence.

I associated loving myself with spending hours having luxurious baths, painting my toenails, and buying expensive face creams. Which was fine, but seemed kind of superficial. No matter how nice these things are, I was unconvinced that they could be the key to lasting happiness. But I’ve come to think of these activities as self-care, rather than self-love. Self-care is an important aspect of loving yourself, but it’s not the whole story. Self-love requires a more profound mindset shift.

  1. It’s not narcissism.

I thought loving yourself implied believing that you’re awesome – and far more awesome than anyone else. But that’s not the case. Loving yourself and embracing all that you are does not mean thinking that you are better than anyone else. If anything it’s the opposite. It means seeing all of your “flaws”, and annoying behaviours  and choosing to love yourself anyway. When you develop that compassion for yourself, you expand your capacity to be compassionate towards others. Practising self-love trains you in how to see every aspect of another person, the good and the bad, and loving them anyway.

  1. It’s not complacency.

This was the scariest aspect of self-love for me. I worried that if I loved myself as I was, I would lose all motivation to develop and grow. Because there’s still so much I want to work on, and learn and progress with. I didn’t want to lose my drive. But actually, self-love and acceptance doesn’t have to mean thinking that you have nowhere else to go in the future. It means recognising and deeply accepting where you are right now. And that place of deep acceptance and love for yourself is the perfect foundation from which to evolve. The criticism that we inflict upon ourselves is more likely to promote self-punishment and destructive behaviour than growth.

The hardest thing about self-love?

When you realise that self-love is not about indulgence, narcissism or complacency, it becomes a much less scary prospect. And the hardest thing then is that like any shift in mindset, it requires effort to retrain your brain. Until it becomes habitual, you need to consciously choose more loving thoughts towards yourself.

But how do you actually do this?

I like being practical about things, and having tangible strategies to try out. So I’m sharing Esther Ekhart’s advice, which I’ve personally found really useful. She says that when you do something “wrong” and you’re feeling frustrated, annoyed or upset with yourself, stop. Recognise that if you had known or had the ability in that moment to do it better, you would have done. See yourself from the outside, acknowledge and accept all the good and the bad, and meet it with compassion. Repeat the phrase,“I see you, and I love you,” to yourself.

It’s likely to feel strange, and maybe uncomfortable at first, but give it it a go. Even if it’s just for this week, see what difference it makes to love yourself.

Let me know how you get on!

Lots of love, Jade xxx

Whatever you are doing, love yourself for doing it. Whatever you are feeling, love yourself for feeling it – Thaddeus Golas

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5 Comments

  1. Great post Jade!

    I strongly agree about the need to learn how to love ourselves. I was also under the trap of thinking that if I love myself too much, if I feel too content, then I would lose the spring to do stuff. Nothing could be more wrong than that!

    As you said, getting doing things moved by the motivation of low self-love might bring one towards doing stuff one does not like at all. In a way self-love could be considered as an ability to develop.

    Have you ever read the book The Art of Loving, by Erich Fromm? I think you would find it a nice read!
    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14142.The_Art_of_Loving

    • Jade Lizzie

      Thanks Niccolo! I like that way of looking at it – self-love giving you an ability to develop. I think that in my experience, when I’ve been motivated instead by low self worth, even the actions that I perceive as “constructive” have really been to punish myself. They’ve therefore had an overall negative impact on my mental health and wellbeing. I’m all about the self-love now instead 🙂 I haven’t read the book, but I’ll definitely look it up now – thank you!

      • I definitely understand what you are speaking about. It sounds very familiar as I have seen it in myself too so many times. As sort of deeply embedded behaviour given by a wrong sense of rewards, discipline and need to fulfil other people’s views. I am grateful that this wrong perception is now fading away. I have another question for you, if you don’t mind. In Buddhism people speak about a sense of neutrality. Cultivating neutrality to gain a sense of detachment from the wheel of cause and effect that leads to suffering. Seeing things as either positive or negative will likely lead to craving that in turn will lead to attachment and suffering. When I look at this neutrality I have similar feelings to the ones you describe above (i.e. if I develop a neutral view I would not have the drive to improve, have an impact or create). What are your views on this? Is this a point covered in yoga as well? Thanks!

        • Jade Lizzie

          It’s a great question, and one I continue to grapple with. There is a lot of crossover with yogic philosophy I think in what you describe. I have recently been trying to cultivate an attitude of equanimity, rather than necessarily neutrality. So whatever happens, your intention (easier said than done of course) is to meet it with the same attitude of acceptance. This does mean overcoming your brain’s tendency to label it as “good” or “bad”. In yogic texts, they talk about doing “the work” – so for me that might be writing an article, or working on a specific yoga posture I find difficult – but without attachment to the outcome. So the value is in the work that you do, regardless of its result. That way you can commit to something, serve, or actively develop yourself, while accepting whatever comes, or doesn’t come, as a result. I know what you mean about cultivating a neutrality towards everything, and I agree, to take it to that level has precisely the problems you describe. I found this article which talks about the idea of “liberated judging” – I found it really interesting and I’d love to know what you think: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/jul/20/buddhist-dalai-lama-masterchef

          • Very Nice article Jade. Thank you for sharing it with me. I agree with most of it.

            “Seeing from a high place to take in the whole view”, that is, I think, the key.

            As a friend of mine once told me, “we are not neutral beings”. We are not of the circle of making choices. The same applies to judgments. What we can do is to try and see the bigger picture. That, of course, means facing ourselves.

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