What I know about self-love (no spa days or fluffy slippers required)

My thoughts and understanding around self-love are continuously evolving which is why I would never advocate my way being the best way. I’m not that cocky!

I’ll simply share my reflection and journey with the hope it might help you discover where you’re at. Before I get into my journey, here are two key points:

a) There are no perfect paths to self-love because we have a unique biography and personality that brought us to this point.

b) Self-love matters, how you love or show compassion to yourself determines how you’ll show it to others. When others around you are struggling, you might freeze or avoid them because you feel numb to emotions. If you’ve spent a lifetime suppressing or ignoring how you think or feel then you’re essentially in survival mode. You’re getting through moments, never fully connected with key people in your life. You’re not living in the here and now because the ONLY moment we have is the present one.

I’ve been interested in the notion of self-love since I was sixteen years old. I used to watch Oprah and nearly every other show “self-love” was mentioned. My interest would peak when a woman would say “I kicked him out because I realised I love myself” or “I’m suing my employer because I know I deserve more”.  At the time, I had zero bandwidth or tolerance for my emotions but something within me was interested in the concept of self-love.

As I watched, I found tears streaming down my face and would wonder what on earth was wrong with me before swiftly suppressing whatever the hell had just come over me. Months later I accepted the fact my tears were a signal worthy of (some) attention.  Over time, I admitted to myself I was deeply unhappy, but I still hadn’t connected why seeing these women announce their self love or self worth would move me to tears.

During college I met my best friend who was the kindest, funniest and most unconditionally loving person I had ever known up to that point. She was sassy and didn’t tolerate any nonsense from anyone. I was in awe of her. I would study how she behaved and the way she spoke.  Over time, I connected the dots and realised the reason why I was so affected by the women on Oprah and my bestie was because they were standing in their power and demonstrated compassion for themselves.

My tears reflected a medley of envy, anger and self-loathing. Watching the show and being around my bestie sparked more curiosity. They had something I didn’t. They had power and a view of themselves that was brand new (to me anyway), and I was fascinated.

How on earth do I even begin to like myself, let alone love myself? How do I conjure up compassion for myself? Where do I learn this? This question along with an openness to absorb learning in whatever form that took led my journey.

They say proximity is power.  By sheer luck, I unintentionally surrounded myself with people who liked themselves. They trusted their opinions and had confidence. I got a part time job in a care home (whilst at College and Uni) working with elderly people who had a lifetime of wisdom they were only too eager to pass on. I learned so much about values and the meaning of life. These folks were near the end of their life and they recalled the best days of their lives as small everyday moments of deep connection with another. Month after month of working with elderly people, serving them and building meaningful relationships began to pay off in unlikely ways.

One weekend I wasn’t going to be able to work due to a wedding I was attending.  Tom was around 85yrs old and one of the residents (at the care home), he was beside himself. He told me how he looks forward to the weekend because he gets to see me and my smile. Time stood still as I felt an enormous surge of emotions (similar to a panic attack) in my whole body followed by Sukoon, an urdu word meaning serene and peaceful feeling.

It was the first time in my life someone had shown me what I mean to them and how I impact their life. Tom showed me a form of love I hadn’t experienced ever before in my life. After this, other people in the care home including colleagues would say kind things not just about what I do but also about who I am. I’ll never know if I was finally open to receiving kindness or if I started to become more noticeable to people. What I do know is the emotional numbness began to lift. I wanted to let more of this good tonic in.

By this point I was 19 yrs old. I became acutely aware of the people in my life whose negativity I couldn’t stomach. I felt massively sensitive to their presence and the way they spoke to me and others. Everything they said alluded to the idea that I would never amount to much and I would never meet a man who would be my “knight in shining armour”. Bearing in mind, I couldn’t give a hoot about men and for this person to think they knew anything about who I am or what my aspirations are made me disconnect from them even more.

What shifted was the people that had made me numb to my emotions started to lose their power over me. I started to feel more (positive) emotions, and this strengthened me. Over time I started to defend myself. Their power over me diminished, simultaneously my own sense of who I am at my core (kind, smart, funny, warm, helpful, generous) grew and was noticed weekly by lecturers, classmates at Uni and by those in my workplace.

The feelings that caused self-loathing became circumstantial. I realised I was triggered when I was in close or regular contact with those who made me feel like crap. So, I spent more time out of the house, working, studying and hanging out with friends and I became happier and happier. And just like that somehow, I came to recognise that I am worthy, I really liked myself and I might have even been a little proud of who I am.

It was many many years later before ‘like’ evolved into ‘love’ for me. I didn’t aspire to love myself. Who does? I hadn’t one day decide to love myself and then reverse engineer that process. It hadn’t even occurred that it was a possibility for me. I stumbled upon it accidentally much to my surprise.

A few facts about me, I was the first person to go to Uni in my whole family. I passed my driving test for the first time. I was promoted at work. I got a brilliant graduate job. I lost body fat. I had a few amazing friends. Things were beginning to stack up in my life and that’s when I made a new discovery.

Discipline and focus were two proactive behaviours that catapulted a sense of love for myself. My love for myself wasn’t just going to appear if I sat on my backside and wished for it. It grew out of taking small actions consistently. It grew out of keeping promises to work out and submit assignments on time. I could write an entire book on the impact of keeping promises to yourself and the way it rewires your brain to develop self-trust. It grew out of turning up to my weekend job come what may. Intentionally surrounding myself with compassionate, wise and loving people. Everyday tasks and actions done intentionally took me in a direction where there was internal and external validation.

Today, when I have clients who struggle with the notion of liking themselves let alone loving themselves, I’m curious about their focus and discipline in life. I believe focus and discipline creates the evidence that we’re making progress. Progress feels great and makes us happy. Progress gives us external recognition too. Progress also comes when we learn how not to do things; our failures and learning from mistakes. We grow compassion for ourselves especially if most of the time we’re doing good by others and ourselves. Somewhere on that timeline of progressing you begin to align with the values that matter to you.

This was my journey to self-love; born out of curiosity and kindness. Enabled by discipline and focus.

What would I say to my younger self?

Be patient with yourself. Your thoughts and feelings can’t always be trusted but your values will guide you in the right direction. Self-love will blossom when you create the conditions. It’ll creep up on you and get under your skin.

Self-Love is a vital pillar in the journey of our evolution. Should you feel you’d like to address this. Self Love coaching is included in the services I offer as a Life coach for Women.

Hi! I’m Roksana, a life coach for women in St Albans, Hertfordshire. I run face to face and online sessions via Zoom. I’m always happy to answer your questions around any of my methods or approaches. Long term changes begin with a guide who has walked a similar path, has a blueprint, will give you support and accountability every step of the way. If you’re interested to know more then please book a FREE call with me.

Stay curious. Stay open. Stay intentional.

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