"I love you" - 3 glorious words that we offer up to our partner, our family, friends, and maybe even to the drycleaners when he finally manages to remove that stain from our favourite piece of clothing... Some may even say that they are used way too much nowadays, maybe even to the point where they lose their meaning. One question for you though - how often do you say "I love you" to yourself?
Ah yes, self-love, that tricky bugger... We find it easier loving and appreciating others than we do ourselves.
In July of this year, while on holiday in Ibiza with a friend, I decided to write "I love you" in the sand for my husband. As I sat there looking at them, I couldn't help but smile. I began to look back on the past year and my own personal journey with self-love. It has been a long one, but I have felt a big shift recently. I have never felt as whole as I feel now, and so I wanted to write a little about it.
My journey began when I started waking up to my own life. Bringing in awareness to our behaviours, and exploring what it is that triggers us - when we find ourselves feeling sad, upset, angry or anxious - and most importantly asking ourselves why; is where I believe it all starts. This takes a lot of courage, the courage to stand up and take a hard look at ourselves. And this means not going back to that place we all love to go to, and you know which one I'm talking about right? The one where we start to blame everyone else for our problems.
What does this have to do with self-love you might ask? When we walk through life asleep, stuck in a treadmill life with each day passing, and we don't take the time to pause and take a look around; we are disconnected from everything and everyone, including ourselves. The process of waking up enables us to find a connection with ourselves that was lost many years ago. It is in my opinion the first (and pretty huge) step to self-love.
On this journey of self-awakening (for lack of a better word!), I have also found that exploring what makes me blissfully happy has been just as important as understanding what makes me feel sad or upset.
"Stop looking for happiness. Do what you love and do it often, then you will find it" Unknown
Nature makes me happy, my husband makes me happy, cooking good food that family and friends enjoy makes me happy... and of course, yoga makes me happy.
Yoga has been at the centre of my journey of loving myself. My practice now is very different to my practice a few years ago, or even just a few months ago. I am not talking about my ability to do "advanced poses" such as arm balances or inversions; I am talking about my ability to listen to my body and mind, and be kinder to myself.
Forrest Yoga was a huge game-changer for me. I discovered the practice a year ago and have never looked back since. The practice is strong, which gives me the physical challenge that I need, and at the same time is incredibly healing. There is no other physical practice, in my own experience, that is more mindful than Forrest Yoga.
The practice of being kinder to yourself is not just on a physical level (backing off in a pose, or taking a break), it is on a mental one as well. Start to listen to your internal dialogue. You'd be surprised at how you talk to yourself.
How often have you gone to the gym or a class to punish yourself for eating too much, for that extra weight you put on recently? You know you will struggle, you might enjoy some of it but definitely not all of it, but you'll feel good afterwards for doing it right? I've been there, done that and yet it is so wrong on many levels. Through Forrest Yoga, I have learnt to enjoy every second of my practice. I have learnt how to feed and nourish myself through my movements and breath, and as soon as I notice myself getting into that place of struggle, I breathe even deeper, soften areas in my body that I am unnecessarily tensing and find the sweetness in the pose, rather than the struggle. And if that doesn't work, I simply back out of it or perhaps even come out of it completely! I no longer have to push myself to go to class, or to go for a run, because I don't allow myself to struggle or suffer anymore. There is a huge misconception that in order to work hard and challenge ourselves physically, there will be some degree of struggle or suffering. I know that now to be false.
When we learn to be kind to ourselves and love ourselves:
1. Other people's words don't affect you and set you back. Why? Because you know that their words and behaviour are not reflective of you, they are reflective of them. How many times have you reflected your shit onto someone else? Well believe it or not, they've got a buck load of shit they're dealing with too (poor choice of words but you know what I mean :))
2. Your love for others grows. I feel more love for my husband than I ever had before. Many of us seek relationships in order to feel whole, we believe that someone else can help us feel more secure and happier. The truth is, noone can. These relationships that are based on expecting something from the other person (emotionally I mean), are doomed from the start. For the longest time, I remember getting into fights with my husband because he didn't say the "right thing", he didn't say what I wanted him to say to make me feel whole. That is way too much responsibility to put on someone. I needed to do that work for myself, no matter how much I wanted him to; he could never fill that hole inside of me. His strong love for me was there as support, but my insecurities were my own to deal with.
3. And lastly, life is so much sweeter
Learn to love yourself, it is by far the most fulfilling relationship you will ever have in your lifetime.
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