I believe in the power of self-love, but I also believe that self-love is quite different from how many people think of it.
People often think that self-love is going on shopping trips, getting manis and pedis, and treating one’s self to chocolate and other delectable delights. And certainly these things can play a role in self-love.
But I believe the essence of self-love is something much more than these potential individual expressions of it. True self-love is the desire to and the practice of giving ourselves the best and noblest gifts so that we can thrive as human beings. You can read more about this here.
These gifts might be tangible items such as buying ourselves important possessions that nurture us. But quite often, the best and most noblest gifts are intangible. They are ways of viewing our self or the world that increase feelings of peace, stability, joy, optimism, and courage. These new views often lead to new ways of being in the world.
As I look back on the last decade of my life, I recognize three such gifts I have given myself:
One: The Gift of Nature
I have always loved nature, but for many years, I spent almost all of my time inside and kind of lost touch with the Earth for a while.
I secretly felt ashamed of this, but I felt really overwhelmed with life for a while and coped by staying indoors.
And then one day I suddenly realized I was nature starved. I started going outside all the time and hanging out in forests and by lots of trees and water–even if it was just a little creek–as much as I could. It was incredibly healing and nurturing and joyful and magical and playful. You can read more about this here.
I realized I needed nature all along but just had to take my own time to get there. Now I spend time outside every day, not because I have to but because the Earth is my dear and faithful friend.
I took these photos on a walk the other morning.
Two: The Gift of an Intrinsic Worth Mindset
A second gift I have given myself is the gift of recognizing my intrinsic worth. I spent so many years trying to be good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough, cooperative enough so that I could finally feel like I was enough. I felt like I had to achieve external standards to be worthy.
To be honest, that pursuit eventually drove me to a major emotional crisis that left me pretty depressed for three years. You can read more about this here.
And then one day, I suddenly realized that I was enough already. Nature, among other things, helped me realize this. We already know that trees and flowers are enough the way they are. They don’t have to be something else to be worthy. They just need to focus on becoming themselves and unfolding the beautiful potential inside of them. Good soil, sunlight and water is the magic that helps them do this. You can read more about this here.
You and I are like that, too. We don’t have to be someone or something else to be worthy. We just need to focus on becoming ourselves by unfolding the beautiful potential inside of us. Kindness, compassion, and respect is the magic that helps us do that.
I have intrinsic worth. You have intrinsic worth. That realization was a game-changer for me.
Three: The Gift of Play
The third gift I have given myself in the last decade is the gift of play. I am a recovering perfectionist. Because I used to think that my worth as a person was based on my ability to meet various extrinsic standards (see last point), I was constantly trying to be perfect in all areas of my life.
One of the things that helped me stop being a perfectionist was remembering how to play again. When children play, they don’t worry about being good enough or about meeting external standards.
Rather, they get lost in the activity they are doing, and they work on expressing all their inner strengths and capacities to meet the challenge of play they are experiencing, whether it is playing hide- and-go-seek, hula hooping, building extravagant mud pies or climbing a tree. There is no “perfect” when we are playing. There is just curiosity, wonder, openness, and the desire to keep on playing.
In last decade, I have started playing again. I taught myself to juggle; I hula hoop; I climb trees; I walk in the forest; I paint with watercolors. And I am not worried about getting these activities perfect. Rather, I am interested in staying curious, open, and full of wonder. I am interested in continuing to play.
As I do so, I notice myself becoming stronger, more resilient, and more confident. That’s an amazing gift.
Dear Friend: What good and noble gifts are you in need of? What good and noble gifts can you give yourself today?
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