What is self-love?

I am a hypocrite. In last week’s post I said the following:

Exercising compassion and love and grace for yourself is far more effective in achieving the body-love you want.

I meant what I said and still advocate for my point. However, the next day I sat in my therapy session in tears struggling to articulate how I could show grace and compassion to myself. How can I possibly invite you to engage grace and compassion (both elements of self-love) for yourself if I don’t do it in my own life. *sigh*

I’m sorry.

We’ve got to do this together, okay? I am going wrestle with it in this space and you can ponder for yourself as I’m breaking it all down.

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First I have to figure out what these words truly mean; I often use them instinctively and purposely without connecting to my understanding of what they mean. In other words, I know what the words mean, but do I truly understand them and their differences when put into action? I don’t think so.

Grace: both a regard and act of undeserved favor; kindness, courtesy, clemency, protection, provision even though undeserved.

Compassion: “suffering with”; feeling the emotions of another (as in empathy) but with a desire to help.

Mercy: withholding harm or punishment (even though you have power or merit to cause harm or punishment). I threw in mercy because I need to understand how grace is the same or different than mercy.

I’ve had no mercy with my body–starving it, insulting it, punishing it, depriving it, abusing it, controlling it.  I’ve thrown ungracious insults at myself, labeling me as lame, ugly, fat, impatient, lazy, stupid, nerdy, dorky, slow, uncreative, undependable, unworthy, a bad friend, a bad mom, a bad wife… In all of this there is no room for compassion–the desire to actively show love to myself.

Are you with me still? Have you ever labeled yourself any of these things?

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When I view from the outside how I’ve treated myself … as if I were to see someone treat another person the same way I treat myself, I would consider it abhorrent. I would also be (and have been) devastated seeing someone treating themselves in the same manner.

Ugh. Now the understanding is sinking in. And it’s really uncomfortable.

Okay, just like I’d want to step in and help someone who’s hurting because I feel their pain as I try to imagine how they might be feeling, then I need to feel the same for myself. Weird, but true.

I don’t have the power to do this on my own. So often the world–everything from subtle (and repeated) messages in the media, to underlying implications or expectations in Christian culture, to body language from acquaintances, to direct words or actions from colleagues, family and friends (often unknowingly), feeds the abhorrent lies and subsequent behaviors I place upon myself.

However, I remember that I am in this world, but not of the world. I belong to God. Never does He view me as the world or the people in this world view me, or how I view myself for that matter.  When I am a mess, God shows me grace, compassion, mercy and Love–usually through seemingly random happenings that leave me going “Whoa. That was a God thing.” So how do I show myself the same Love God shows me?

    1. I stay connected to Him. He reminds me that I am not “a bad” anything. Imperfect? Absolutely and beautifully, yes. But not bad.
    2. I acknowledge my emotions rather than judge them. If I am mad, sad, joyful, scared, goofy… then okay. No need to avoid, hide, chastise, justify or be ashamed of how I feel. I can just be in the feels.
    3. I rest. For me, resting involves clearing the calendar (maybe for the day, maybe for the month) and avoiding social media so I can eliminate both real and perceived expectations of what, who, and how I am “supposed” to be to the outside world.
    4. I figure out what I want or need and do it. Sometimes I just want to lie down; paint my nails with my daughter; experiment with new recipes in the kitchen; watch cat videos online; write a blog post; sit on the couch holding my husband’s hand; cry; pray; eat a cupcake; read my book; play Wii; have coffee with a friend… whatever it is. I connect with myself and oblige what I need with zero judgement, justification, or expectation to either “deserve” it or punish myself later for having done it (also known as “making up for it later”).

Self-love is fluid movement of grace, compassion, and mercy working together that derives and thrives from a deep understanding of yourself–of who you are are what you need–with zero judgement. Body-love is rooted in self-love. So my message last week still stands only this week it stands firmer!

How do you or could you show self-love in your own life, friends? I’d love to know in your comments.

2 thoughts on “What is self-love?

  1. Marian Dolan

    One word that I truly felt the power after speaking with my pastor. Forgiveness.
    More specifically Self Forgiveness. I love your honesty and ability to articulate feelings and experience to words. Thank you for sharing . I love you!!

    Reply

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